Champions rookie Bryant leads Dick's Sporting Goods Open

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2013, 12:03 am

ENDICOTT, N.Y. – Brad Bryant sat in an old familiar place, bright lights shining all around as he recounted a round he'll most certainly remember for a long time.

The Champions Tour rookie, a tight wrap covering his left wrist and a constant reminder of his difficult recent past, shot a 10-under 62 on Saturday to take a four-shot lead over Corey Pavin after two rounds at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

It didn't match his career low of 60 set in 2004 when Bryant was a consistent threat on the PGA Tour. It was oh-so-satisfying, nonetheless. He's trying to recapture a lot of what he lost at the end of his career on the big circuit, when two wrist surgeries kept him away from the game for three years.

''My wrist is hanging in there. I feel I've been gathering momentum all year, to be honest with you,'' Bryant said. ''I didn't have a lot of game at the beginning of the year. I was able to kind of piece together some rounds, but I knew there wasn't much game there.''

There is now, even though he doesn't even practice during the week of a tournament.

Bryant took advantage of another serene day at En-Joie Golf Club, making six birdies in his first seven holes to surge past first-round leader Kenny Perry and finished the day at 16-under 128, a 36-hole record for the tournament.

Duffy Waldorf was 11 under after a 65, and Rick Fehr (67) and Russ Cochran (67) were 10 under. Perry was eight strokes back at 8 under after a 71.

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Bryant's round matched the Champions Tour course record set by R.W. Eaks in 2007, the tournament's first year. Hal Sutton, Robert Gamez and Fred Funk each shot 61 when En-Joie hosted the old B.C. Open on the PGA Tour.

More than half the field broke par under nearly ideal scoring conditions on the first day, and the assault at the narrow, tree-lined layout continued Saturday as 47 players finished the day under par.

Perry, the hottest player on the Champions Tour after victories this summer in the Senior Players and U.S. Senior Open, began the day with a one-shot lead after opening with a 7-under 65. Playing in the final threesome with Bryant and Joel Edwards, Perry watched his slim margin slip away quickly.

The formula for going low at the narrow, tree-lined course is to keep the ball in the fairway, and nobody was more consistent than Bryant over the first two rounds. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation each day.

Bryant should have birdied the first seven holes. He rolled in a perfectly paced 20-foot putt that broke right to left at the par-4 second hole, hit his tee shot to 8 feet at No. 4, then made a superlative save at the par-5 fifth hole, blasting out of a greenside bunker to 3 feet from the flag.

He followed that with consecutive 30-foot birdie putts on the next two holes, his only early miscue coming at No. 3, one of three par-5s on the front nine. He stuck his third shot within 5 feet, then watched in dismay as his birdie try barely skimmed the lip and stayed out.

''I played really solid today,'' Bryant said. ''But probably the club of the day for me was the putter. That's kind of been the club that's been holding me back. I just made a lot of putts.''

Bryant continued his assault with an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 11 and another birdie at No. 12 to reach 14 under, just missing an eagle try on the latter. Perry also had a chance for eagle at the par-5 and scowled in dismay when his putt barely missed and he had to settle for a birdie.

Pavin, on a roll with finishes among the top three in each of his last three outings, gained sole possession of second at 11 under after making a 6-foot birdie putt at the difficult 15th hole, a 432-yard par-4 that's guarded by a massive water hazard. It was one of only nine birdies there on the day.

''I was playing well before this,'' Pavin said. ''My putter just wasn't behaving as well as I would have liked. I was hitting a lot of good putts and I wasn't making them.''

Pavin hit 11 of 14 fairways and reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation on the day and needed only 26 putts as he repeatedly hit it close. He had three putts inside 6 feet, made a 25-footer from the fringe at No. 12, and sank a 15-footer at No. 16 for his final birdie.

Bryant matched that moments later with a birdie at No. 14 after hitting a 4-iron to 5 feet at the 212-yard par-3 and closed his round with a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

Now, it's on to Sunday and the pressure that always brings.

''I know I am going to have to go out and play really well tomorrow to win this,'' Bryant said. ''Someone's going to go low. I can't go out and play real safe. But if I can drive it well, play solid, and if my putter continues to perform as it has, I think it could be a real good day.''

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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.