Allenby leads Compton contending at Honda

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. ' Erik Comptons first goal this week at the Honda Classic was playing well enough to be around on Sunday.
 
So far, so good.
 
Golfs comeback kid closed a comeback of a first round Friday morning at PGA National, finishing off a 1-under 69 and tied for 12th, three shots behind leader Robert Allenby.
 
No, its not perfect position for Compton. But for a guy who doesnt mind pointing out that hes died twice, its nothing to complain about.
 
Ive been fighting my game and fighting life for so long, Compton said. Its time.
 
This is Comptons second PGA Tour event since undergoing heart-transplant surgery for the second time last year. Diagnosed with heart disease at 9 and needing his first transplant three years later, Compton never thought hed be able to go to college. Nearly two decades later, Compton is married with a newborn daughter, and says its time to get his golf career rolling.
 
Everyone in the Honda field will try to beat him. In some way, theyre all probably rooting for Compton as well.
 
You can only wish him well after what hes had to go through to get to where he is right now, Allenby said. I mean, no ones fought for their life really on this tour as much as he has.
 
Compton was among nine players who couldnt complete the round Thursday night because of darkness. The pace of play was brutally slow, with some groups needing 3 hours to play nine holes.
 
He only needed 21 minutes to finish up Friday morning. He started the day with a 30-yard pitch that he left on the course the night before and rolled in a 10-footer for par, then finished with another par, two-putting from 12 feet.
 
I did what I needed to do, Compton said. Got up and down.
 
As the sun started to go down Thursday night, Allenby moved up to take the top spot on the leaderboard.
 
He endured a day when the wind blew flags straight and the only solace for players were receptive greens. He had a tap-in on the par-4 ninth ' his final hole ' to break away from what was an eight-way tie for the lead.
 
Allenby missed a 2 1/2 -footer on the previous hole, so he left nothing to chance on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 inches.
 
I just sort of played within myself, took one or two clubs more when it was into the wind, tried not to force it and just tried to feel my way around the golf course, said Allenby, who lives nearby and has two top-five finishes at PGA National since the Honda moved there in 2007.
 
A group of six players ' Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Charlie Wi, Jeff Overton, Angel Cabrera and Will Mackenzie ' entered the second round one shot behind Allenbys pace. Another four players, including Chris Riley, were another shot back.
 
Looming not far behind was Compton, the South Florida native who got into the Honda on a sponsors exemption. The PGA Tour would let him use a cart if he needed it; the only Compton who got a ride in the first round was Petra, his daughter who was born about two weeks ago.
 
He made a triple-bogey on his second hole, which would have deflated some.
 
Compton, however, said it was the kickstart he needed.
 
I said, Im not going to fight it anymore. Im going to let it go, Compton said. It was good.
 
Real good, actually: Compton birdied three straight holes after making the turn, no small feat in conditions like the ones players faced Thursday.
 
I played really well despite having a triple, Compton said.
 
Mathias Gronberg endured a horrendous back nine. Gronberg was 1 over through six holes, a fairly nondescript beginning. The last 12 holes, well, they were ones that hell likely never forget.
 
Put it this way: He didnt even manage to play bogey golf.
 
Gronberg had three triple-bogeys in a four-hole span on the back side, became the first player to shoot 50 over nine holes since Phil Tataurangi at Greensboro nine years ago ' excluding Billy Casper, whose 106 in the first round at the 2005 Masters officially went into the books as a WD because he didnt turn in the card.
 
Gronberg saved par at the 18th to shoot a staggering 89, 19 over par.
 
Thats a record for me, Gronberg said.
 
Defending champion Ernie Els shot 73, as did Camilo Villegas, Davis Love III and Rocco Mediate, among others.
 

 
Notes: Compton said he had trouble sleeping Thursday night, but not because he was near the lead. Ate too much, he said. 2000 Honda winner Dudley Hart withdrew during the first round with a back injury. Glen Day withdrew Friday morning because of a sore neck. He opened with a 78....Play was called at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday with nine players still on the course. Former PGA champion Shaun Micheel, who has a therapeutic-use exemption through the 2010 season for transdermal testosterone gel ' he was diagnosed with low testosterone four years ago ' shot even-par 70 in his first round of the year. Hes coming off shoulder surgery. Replete with rain gear just in case, Woody Austin took two swings to free his ball from the waterside muck at the par-3 17th. No reprise of the 2007 Aquaman scene at the Presidents Cup when he fell into the water, though: Austin stayed dry and saved double bogey.
 
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  • Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.