Cink welcomes calm week after stressful Masters

By Associated PressApril 14, 2010, 11:22 pm

2007 Verizon Heritage

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Stewart Cink welcomes the calm sea breezes and easy island atmosphere of the Verizon Heritage, the “anti-Augusta.”

Gone for Cink are the glasstop greens, cagey fades and daunting carries of the Masters. Gone, too, at Harbour Town Golf Links is much of the hoopla over Tiger Woods.

“It’s like the anti-Augusta,” Cink said.

One look at the field shows that. Woods and Masters champion Phil Mickelson took the week off. Second and third place finishers Lee Westwood and Anthony Kim are also on break.

In fact, just six of last week’s top 23 at Augusta National – K.J. Choi, Ricky Barnes, Jerry Kelly, Trevor Immelman, Heath Slocum and Scott Verplank – plan to tee it up Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Cink, who won the Verizon Heritage in 2000 and 2004, acknowledged Woods’ return after five, scandal-plagued months was topic No. 1 for Masters’ competitors. Cink figured anxious crowds pressing to watch Woods might lead to distractions on the course.

Instead, Cink said the tournament was about what it always is: Augusta’s difficulty.

“I was expecting a raucous environment because everyone was going to be shuffling around,” he said. But “it didn’t feel any different to me. The crowds were very respectful and it seemed like the Masters as usual.”

That’s not always a good thing for Cink, who missed the cut at Augusta for the second straight year. The reigning British Open champ has had just two top 10 finishes in 13 appearances at the year’s first major.

Cink thinks that’s why he excels at Harbour Town. He’s earned more than $1.8 million – third all-time – since he took his Verizon Heritage debut 10 years ago.

“When you gear up and play a major like Augusta or any of the big tournaments, it makes it a bit more relaxing and easier the next week because your game is already prepared,” he said.

Matt Kuchar’s not so certain. Locked into the marquee group with Woods the Masters’ first two rounds, Kuchar felt drained by Augusta’s end. The fatigue continued on Wednesday’s pro-am when the smiling Kuchar said his main goal was an afternoon nap.

Playing with Woods “was not as crazy as I thought,” Kuchar said.

The biggest drawback, Kuchar said, was family members in town for his first Masters’ appearance in eight years were caught in Woods’ gallery.

“It was cool to be a part of. Maybe there were some extra highs,” Kuchar said. “After some extra highs come a few lows probably.”

Defending Verizon Heritage winner Brian Gay was also pleased to have Augusta National behind him. Gay struggled at his first Masters, shooting 74-77 to miss the cut.

“I think there’s a lot to learn there, a lot of experience and course knowledge, guys playing there year after year,” he said. “So that was a challenge.”

Gay has few such concerns about Harbour Town where he put on a dominating performance in 2009, winning by 10 strokes over Briny Baird and Luke Donald in what was the tour’s biggest margin of victory on tour in three years.

“Guys say stuff to me, ‘How did you do that? Won by ten, that’s unbelievable,”’ Gay said. “It’s cool to hear that stuff.”

About the only thing missing from last week’s Masters’ circus was the game’s clown prince, Boo Weekley. After playing at Augusta National the previous two years as Harbour Town’s champion, Weekley didn’t qualify for the major after dealing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder midway through last season.

Weekley hasn’t finished better than 24th in nine events this year.

“If your game is off or not, you still want to be there,” Weekley said. “It only takes one swing or one putt, and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Click,’ like a light bulb.”

Weekley hopes that light switch turns on at the Verizon Heritage, where he’s shot par or better in 11 of his 12 career rounds.

“I’ve got a little itch,” Weekley said. “I’m ready to get out there and get back.”

Cink understands that, too, eager for pressure-free golf.

The majors combine the game’s most challenging courses, it’s best competitors and a heightened mental regimen unseen most weeks on tour.

At Harbour Town, “the intensity just seems to melt away and enables you to really relax and be at your best,” Cink said. “That’s the way I see it.”

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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.