View From the Couch

By April 6, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipWatching the drama unfold Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, it was almost as if I was out there with the final group. I was thousands of miles away in Orlando, but I could relate to what Kristy McPherson, Brittany Lincicome and Cristie Kerr were feeling, especially over those final few holes at Mission Hills, because I know how tough they can play. And when you have so many players bunched together like that, anything can happen. It makes for great television.
 
The 18th at Mission Hills is one of the best finishing holes in golf. Its a great risk-reward hole. The last two years theyve had the tee up, which definitely favors long hitters like Brittany, provided they hit a good tee shot. She did that on Sunday, drawing her ball to the left-center of the fairway and giving herself a manageable 210 yards to the back-right pin location. She then hit a tremendous approach shot into the middle of the green which caught the ridge in the back and drifted down near the hole, 4 feet away. She hit it exactly where she needed to give herself a chance at eagle and an opportunity to win the tournament.
 
Brittany is one of the few players on the LPGA who can hit that green in two ' and stop it ' because shes so long and she can flight the ball really high. I was not a high-ball hitter, so I preferred it when they had the tee back because it removed any temptation I might have to go for the green in two; plus, the strength of my game was always 100 yards and in, so Id rather come in with a higher, softer club like a wedge than, say, a 7-wood. If I had an 80- or 90-yard wedge in for my third shot, I still had a great chance to make birdie.
 
I remember one year several of the players in my group tried to hit the green in two only to see our shots roll off the back into the water. Because its an island green, you have to carry the water and theres no room on the front of the green to land the ball. You need to give yourself a little margin for error, so you try to land your approach shot about 10 yards onto the surface, but when you come in with a longer club the ball is going to release another 20 yards and you could send it over the back. Even if you do manage to hit the green in two its no gimmie birdie by any stretch. You could be chipping from the back fringe with the green running away from you or you might have a 50-footer. It is easier to go for the green in two when the pin is on the right, as it was Sunday, because theres more room to borrow on that side. But it takes a great shot, especially on Sunday with a major championship on the line.
 
The last five holes at Mission Hills are very difficult, not just the 18th. The 14th is a tough par-3 which requires an accurate iron shot over water; No. 15 is a tricky driving hole, as we saw on Sunday when Cristie hit her tee shot left, out of bounds; the 16th plays to an elevated green; and 17 is the longest par 3 on the course and again plays uphill. All three players hit great shots into there on Sunday and had excellent birdie opportunities, but all three left with pars. Had any one of them made birdie it might have been a different outcome.
 
In the end, it was Lincicome who got to take the famous plunge into Poppies Pond just off the 18th green. Its a great tradition, the Poppie Leap, and something very unique to the LPGA. I remember the first time I had the privilege of jumping in (2001) and the pond wasnt as clear as it is now, to put it nicely. Someone told me not to put my head under water, but I was so excited at the time that I wasnt thinking about the color of the water. I dove in head-first because thats how I always did it growing up. The following year, I was a little more cautious and escorted the daughter of my caddie, Terry McNamara, into the pond. On my third and final jump in 2005, I won by eight shots so I had a lot of time to think about what Id do. We all think about different scenarios and ways of doing it, and how we can make it fun. On the last one, I thought itd be nice to have my sister, Charlotta, join me. However, this time, we both went in feet-first.
 
Annika Sorenstam will be writing a column for GolfChannel.com following all four LPGA majors and the Solheim Cup this season. Sorenstam played in 55 majors during her career, winning 10 and finishing in the top-10 31 times. Sorenstam now spends her time focusing on her ANNIKA brand of businesses, which include her Academy, Foundation, Course Design, Financial Group, fashion line with Cutter & Buck as well as her wine and fragrance lines.
 
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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.