Aussie in Drivers Seat at John Deere

By Associated PressJuly 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 John Deere ClassicSILVIS, Ill. -- Zach Johnson watched the ball sail over the 14th green and into the woods, then flipped his club in disgust.
 
The swing that carried him to the Masters championship was nowhere to be found at the John Deere Classic. Instead of jumping into contention on Friday, he missed the cut.
 
Johnson shot an even-par 71 for a 36-hole total of 141, 11 behind leader Nathan Green and one off the cut, leaving the event without its main attraction.
 
'I don't have the feel,' Johnson said. 'That's frustrating. My fundamentals are fine. I've just got to get the feel down.'
 
Green had it.
 
He grabbed the lead with a second-round 63 that had him one stroke in front of Jason Dufner (66) and Carl Pettersson (64). First-round leader Neal Lancaster (68) was two strokes back.
 
Green, an Australian seeking his first tour victory, grabbed the lead on 17 when he knocked in a 4-foot putt for birdie -- his eighth of the day -- to go 12 under.
 
He spent three weeks relaxing at home in New South Wales after missing the cut at the U.S. Open. He played some 'social golf' but didn't practice. He got in a few soccer games, too, but mostly took it easy.
 
The time off helped.
 
'I was just happy to be playing golf again,' Green said. 'Before I went home, the U.S. Open was my last event and I was frustrated and stressed out and not really enjoying playing. That was the reason for the break.'
 
The 63 was his lowest round in a PGA Tour event and it made him a second-round leader for the first time. Now, he's trying to become the 19th player to earn his first tour victory at the Deere.
 
With many of the top golfers overseas preparing for next week's British Open, the Deere Classic attracts unknowns and faded stars. One exception was Johnson, a two-time winner this year and the man with the green jacket.
 
Also missing the cut were Lee Janzen (even), John Daly (6 over) and defending champion John Senden of Australia (7 over).
 
Johnson ended the round with a flourish, sending a 153-yard approach within a few feet of the cup to set up a birdie on the par-4 18th. But overall, this was not a good week.
 
He'll try to shake it off in time for the British Open.
 
'I've just got to get back to where I was mid, early spring and trust in that and see where that takes me,' he said. 'I don't feel like it's that far off.'
 
Although he grew up just over an hour away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and considers this his home event, Johnson has never finished higher than 20th. And the form that carried him to a shocking victory at Augusta was nowhere in sight.
 
He took two weeks off and, unlike Green, the break did not pay immediate dividends on the course.
 
'I'm just very rusty,' he said. 'I took a lot of time off, which I needed. I don't regret that, and I certainly would do it again. But it's very evident that my game is rusty all around.'
 
After shooting a 70 in the first round, Johnson got off to a good start Friday when he made a 7-footer for birdie on the first hole, drawing a roar from the gallery. The momentum stalled with a bogey on No. 2, and things really crumbled on the back nine, when he bogeyed 11, 12 and 14.
 
His tee shot on 14 landed in a bunker, and things were about to get worse. Johnson flipped his club in frustration after he knocked the ball over the green and into the woods, and his third shot went only a few feet.
 
'Obviously disappointing,' Johnson said. 'This is one of those jobs, if you will, that you've got to get over pretty quick. I'm accustomed to that. I never like missing cuts, especially by a shot, especially being close to home.'
 
For Dufner, the Deere Classic has been a good turnaround after 2 1/2 months he described as 'pretty awful.'
 
He missed the cut in five straight tournaments before finishing 62nd and 25 over par at the U.S. Open. He was worn out, kept repeating the same mistakes, but was reluctant to take a break. He finally did last week after missing the cut at the Buick Open.
 
'For some reason, I had gotten to where my arm swing was a lot higher in my backswing, which really caused me problems because the way I rotate, I don't really have a lot of drop in my hand and arms,' Dufner said. 'It's always steep to the plane, steep to the plane. It's pretty tough to play steep at this level. You've got to watch your club face, and I couldn't hit the shots I wanted to do.'
 
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    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.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    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.