Alex Cejka goes low leads Verizon Heritage

By Associated PressApril 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' Alex Cejka wants to stay healthy this season. Playing his best golf wouldnt hurt, either.
 
Cejka, who missed more than three months last year because of neck surgery, shot his best round in nearly two years, a 7-under 64, to take a one-stroke lead at the Verizon Heritage on Thursday.
 
His bogey-free performance was capped by a 47-foot putt for birdie on the difficult, wind-swept 17th hole. That left Cejka with his first first-round lead since 2006, a shot ahead of two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and two in front of last years Masters winner, Trevor Immelman.
 
Just hopefully, everything stays well and I get healthy and practice hard, he said.
 
Cejka felt pain at the British Open last summer. Over the next month, he lost most of his strength on his left side. The diagnosis was a pinched nerve that required surgery last September to fuse vertebrae in his neck.
 
He only played sparingly until this season and his early results were not great, missing the cut three times in his first seven events.
 
Things perked up in March with a pair of 13th-place finishes at The Honda Classic and the Puerto Rico Open. The recovery took its biggest step yet at Harbour Town Golf Links.
 
He says hes about 85 percent healthy, but was pleased to manage Harbour Towns tiny, quick greens and narrow, tree-lined fairways.
 
Youve got to be a little bit lucky on the small greens and stuff to hit them all, Cejka said. But I hit good shots today.
 
Cejkas round took off on the back nine with four birdies on his last seven holes. He made a 37-footer for birdie on No. 12, then punched from under a tree to 15 feet on the 13th hole for another birdie. Another 15-foot birdie putt came on the par-5 15th before Cejkas shot two holes later.
 
He was thinking lag up for a par. Then I hit a good putt a little bit firm and just hit the hole right in the middle, Cejka said with a smile.
 
Janzen, who won the U.S. Open in 1993 and 1998, posted his lowest opening round of the season. He had a chip for birdie on his final hole, the ninth, that stopped a foot short of the cup.
 
It looked like it was going in the hole, but never got there, he said.
 
Immelman wrapped up a rewarding, pressure-packed year that followed his 2008 Masters win.
 
He talked about his emotions playing his final few holes at Augusta National the bittersweet realization hed no longer carry the distinction as the latest to wear the green jacket.
 
Immelman loved the respect and accolades that come from winning a major. Yet, he struggled at times after the victory trying to live up to his new profile.
 
The way I look at it now, I can close the chapter on 2008, Immelman said. It obviously was a breakthrough year for me. Now, I can take all that experience and put it to the test from now on.
 
Immelman came to his final hole, the ninth, a shot behind Cejka. However, he put his approach shot over the green in a bunker and could not make par.
 
Many of the top players passed on Harbour Town, including Immelmans successor as Masters champion, Angel Cabrera.
 
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not tee it up, either. Only six of the worlds top 20 took part.
 
Boo Weekleys only two PGA Tour wins have been at Harbour Town the past two years and he dusted off the form he showed in 2007 and 2008.
 
Weekley, who chipped in on the 71st and 72nd holes to win here two years ago, did it again, this time from a bunker next to the par-5 second hole for an eagle to move four shots behind Cejka.
 
However, Weekley couldnt keep the momentum going and finished with a 69. Still, it was Weekleys eighth score in the 60s in nine career rounds here.
 
I guess I got some kind of karma, Weekley said.
 
DIVOTS
Former PGA Tour winner Johnson Wagner withdrew before the first round after a call that wife, Katie, was going into labor. At 5:07 a.m., the couples first child, Graham Clifton Wagner, was born. He is 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Joe Ogilvie withdrew, citing injury, after shooting 7 over for his first nine holes. Five-time champion Davis Love III opened with 1-under 70, just the third time in his past 13 Harbour Town appearances he hadnt started with a round in the 60s.
 
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  • Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

    You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

    Race to the CME Globe

    Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

    Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

    The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

    Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

    Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

    So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

    Rolex Player of the Year

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    Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

    Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

    Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

    It’s simple math.

    The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

    1st - 30 points

    2nd – 12 points

    3rd – 9 points

    4th – 7 points

    5th – 6 points

    6th – 5 points

    7rd – 4 points

    8th – 3 points

    9th – 2 points

    10th – 1 point

    Vare Trophy

    Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

    Money-winning title

    Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking

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    Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

    By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

    Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

    ''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

    Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

    ''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

    Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

    ''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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    J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

    ''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

    ''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

    He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

    ''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

    Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

    ''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''