Bjorn Wipes Away British Debacle

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Thomas Bjorn insists there have been no bad dreams, not even a second thought. The British Open was his to win last year before he imploded in a greenside bunker at Royal St. George's to allow Ben Curtis to get his name on the claret jug.
Bjorn knows he will have to deal with the moment a long time. He knows he can't run away from the two shots he left in the bunker that cost him his first major championship.
Still, he refuses to let himself be defined by the big one that got away.
'I can't live in 2003,' Bjorn said. 'If I want to win a major championship I have to live now and I have to live in the future. And that's what I'm trying to do.'
Curtis was a remarkable story in his own right: No. 396 in the world ranking, a 500-1 long shot and the first player in 90 years to win a major championship in his first try.
But there is no escaping the image of Bjorn, hands on hip in utter disgust after watching not one, but two bunker shots barely reach the green and slowly roll back into the deep, sandy pit.
'It happens. It's a double bogey at the wrong time,' Bjorn said. 'And no matter how much I sit here and try to explain that, it could happen on the fourth hole in the first round and nobody could remember. That's just the way golf is.'
Unfortunately for Bjorn, it is just that. He had the field beaten through 69 holes, but they play 72, and trying to get it close on 16 instead of putting it 15 feet past the cup and taking his chances cost Bjorn a chance to win.
'When it happens to the guy that leads the golf tournament, then it becomes a big issue and it becomes a guy that's out there choking,' he said. 'It becomes the guy that can't handle anything or it becomes a big disaster.'
Despite his attempts at a positive attitude, Bjorn has had trouble moving on.
He hasn't won since, and despite two top five finishes to start the year, he is now 34th on the European Tour Order of Merit money list.
Bjorn is capable at Royal Troon, but his expectations are minimal.
Two weeks ago, his confidence was so shattered by a game in disarray that he walked off the course after six holes in the first round of the European tour event and withdrew, losing a battle with the demons in his head.
Bjorn stood on the tee and saw a fairway the size of a cart path, the hole the size of a thimble. He would have taken time off except for Loch Lomond, where he once won the Scottish Open, and the British Open, the most important major of the year, were next up.
Deciding to rely on the close circle of friends around him, and to return to coach Pete Cowen, he came back last week with a fresh perspective and contended through the front nine Sunday, finishing in a tie for 16th.
'I think obviously I would have liked to have been with better results coming in,' the Danish player said. 'I have no expectations for this week. I know that two weeks ago I was in a state where golf wasn't the greatest thing for me. So I can't go out with high expectations.'
Bjorn was playing behind Tiger Woods, who was four shots behind and seemingly had no chance as he finished the final four holes. Only when it was over - a double bogey-bogey-par finish for Bjorn - did it look like a close call.
If Woods only knew.
'We didn't think Thomas was going to do what he did,' Woods said. 'He was kind of running away with it.'
Unlike Bjorn, Woods is still a favorite this week, though he tees off Thursday in the unfamiliar position of not being the odds-on choice. That role goes to Ernie Els, who is listed by British oddsmakers at 7-1 to Woods' 8-1.
And then there's Colin Montgomerie, who is the big favorite - among the crowd, not the bookmakers.
This tournament means much more to the ruddy-faced Scot whose major championship failings haven't diminished the love his countrymen will no doubt show him when he tees off in his 15th British Open.
Montgomerie will begin each day walking to the course from his father's house a half-mile away, passing familiar sights on his way to a most familiar place.
He'll stick his tee into the ground he knows so well and hit shots on the same lines he mastered when he played Troon day after day after finally being allowed on the course at age 16.
Unlike 1997, when the crushing expectations were too much to bear and he shot 76 in the opening round, this time he's just happy to be here. British bookmakers make him an 80-1 pick to win, and even that may be generous.
'I thought back in June that I wasn't going to be playing at all, so it's a delight to be here in the first place,' Montgomerie said. 'And I will do my utmost to do as well as I can.'
Montgomerie is still dealing with his much-publicized divorce. Often criticized for being dour and glum, Monty had reasons this time to walk around with the familiar pout on his face.
But things took a turn for the better when he survived a 12-man playoff in Sunningdale, England, to earn a trip back to his home course for the Open. He didn't make it by much, but he avoided being out of the Open for the first time since 1989, when he failed to qualify for the Open at Troon.
'I wouldn't say I'm at a peak, but at the same time I'm a lot better than I was,' Montgomerie said. 'I think time is a healer and you get on with things and that's what I've got to do.'
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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.