C. Choi leads Pressel, Shin at Wegmans LPGA

By Associated PressJune 7, 2013, 8:55 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Not a late band of rain, a soggy course, nor those pesky orange flags could deter Chella Choi. Not with her father on the bag.

The 22-year-old South Korean, who has never won on the LPGA Tour, shot a 5-under 67 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Morgan Pressel and Jiyai Shin after the first round of the rain-delayed LPGA Championship.

Brittany Lincicome was fourth at 69, while Jessica Korda and Se Ri Pak were tied for fifth, another stroke back. Defending champion Shanshan Feng of China had a 2-over 74 as only 14 players broke par in the second major of the year.

Playing in the afternoon long after Pressel had shot 68 to gain the early lead, Choi surged up the leaderboard with a flawless performance on the front nine at rain-soaked Locust Hill Country Club. She made five birdies and no bogeys on her opening nine, averting most of the trouble that lurked at every hole of the waterlogged layout by hitting all 14 fairways and reaching 15 greens in regulation.

Highlights: Pressel contending at Locust Hill

Wegmans LPGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

''I had a really good driver today,'' said Choi, whose 54-year-old father, Ji Yeon, has vowed to serve as her caddie until she gets that first victory. ''My goal was to hit the fairways.''

Playing in light drizzle, Choi reached 6 under with another birdie at the deceptively difficult par-4 10th hole, which yielded only 12 birdies to go with 58 bogeys and seven double bogeys.

The first steady rain of the day put a damper on Choi's final seven holes, but she remained steady, making her only bogey at the par-4 13th hole and parring out.

Choi's best finish in four-plus years on the tour is a tie for second in the Manulife tournament in Canada a year ago. She had three top-five finishes last year and held the third-round lead at the Mobile Bay Classic last month before fading on the final day and finishing in a tie for fourth.

''I want my first win with my father,'' she said.

More than nine inches of rain had fallen on the course in the previous nine days, half of that coming on Thursday when the opening round was pushed back one day. Casual water remained in various spots around the soggy 6,615-yard layout, and players were permitted to lift, clean and place their golf balls.

With the rough waiting to gobble up errant shots, ''Portland'' John Powell, caddie for Sandra Changkija, had five words of warning after she finished with a 2-over 74 in the morning.

''Don't be in the rough,'' Powell said with a pained smile.

A year ago, Pressel tied for 45th at the LPGA Championship, injuring her left wrist in the process when her erratic play often took her game off course.

That wrist isn't hurting so much anymore and it showed as she broke 70 for only the second time this year.

''The ball was rolling right where I wanted it to,'' Pressel said. ''I made four really good putts on the last four holes. Out here, putting is what wins major championships. I feel good about it.''

Pressel had seven birdies and three bogeys and hit 10 of 14 fairways, mostly avoiding the high grass that wreaked so much havoc. Marshals occasionally had to use orange flags to mark balls that sailed off line because the rough was so deep and balls were difficult to spot.

''If we didn't have the marshals, you wouldn't find your golf ball,'' Lincicome said. ''Actually, the further you missed the fairway, the better your lie. But if you missed the fairway by a foot or two, it was going all the way down to the bottom and you were going to have to hit some sort of lob wedge to get it back in play.''

Pressel closed with four straight birdies to vault into the lead.

''I didn't put myself in any trouble, which you can certainly find on this golf course,'' said Pressel, who missed the cut last week for the fifth time this year. ''I kept the ball in front of me, but I hit a couple of shots in the rough.''

At least it was game-on. After Thursday's deluge, everybody was wondering what would transpire since showers were in the forecast. Low-hanging clouds and a light mist greeted the players in the morning and a light drizzle began falling in mid-afternoon, then picked up as Choi made her way around.

''I thought that we would probably tee off about noon, having seen photos of what the golf course looked like. It really didn't stop raining all night,'' said Pressel, who had expected an announcement that the round wouldn't start on time. ''They did an incredible job getting the golf course ready. I don't think the greens could be any more perfect.

''There's casual water out there, but that's to be expected with that much rain. We were just happy we were able to get out on the course.''

There was added pressure with Meg Mallon, captain of the U.S. Solheim Cup team, patrolling the course. The matches against Europe at Colorado Golf Club are in August and for just the second time this season U.S.-born LPGA Tour players will earn double points this week.

The top eight U.S. players in the Solheim Cup standings at the conclusion of the Women's British Open will automatically qualify for the team. Two more will qualify based on their position in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, and Mallon will select the final two team members.

Lincicome was firmly entrenched in the top five, but Pressel was 15th and in need of a good week.

''I'm just trying to go out and play my game and not worry so much,'' Pressel said.

The schedule for the weekend called for the second round to be played on Saturday and 36 holes on Sunday.

The first round couldn't have ended soon enough for Korda, who was exasperated more than once as she trudged around the course.

''I was just trying to hit the green, hit the fairway and get out of there,'' she said. ''It's playing really tough. With the added rain, it's mean. It's mean.''

DIVOTS: Yani Tseng, a two-time winner of the LPGA Championship, aced the par-3 15th hole, her ball landing 3 feet beyond the pin and spinning back into the cup. She finished with an even-par 72. ... Top-ranked Inbee Park also shot 72, while Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 American, struggled to a 74. Karrie Webb, last week's Shoprite Classic winner, and Michelle Wie each shot 76.

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.