DiMarco Shines at Presidents Cup

By Associated PressNovember 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
GEORGE, South Africa -- With so much focus on the Tiger Woods-Ernie Els playoff in the Presidents Cup, and the bizarre tie that came out of it, some remarkable play and a few unlikely failures were overlooked.
Chris DiMarco had a week to remember.
He was left off the Ryder Cup team after finishing 11th in the standings. This was his first team competition, and it followed a season in which he failed to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1999.
DiMarco thrived.
Midway through the Sunday singles, it was clear he had to win his match against Stuart Appleby for the United States to have any chance of winning.
Appleby twice had short birdie putts, only to halve the hole when DiMarco made birdies from across the green. Coming to the 15th, DiMarco was 1 down.
'We were going to 15 and I said to my caddie, 'They need our match. Let's go,'' he said.
DiMarco hit his approach into 15 feet, and Appleby hit into the hazard. Both hit great chips on the par-5 16th to halve with birdies, then headed to the 17th, the scariest par-3 on the Links Course at Fancourt.
'I'd spit if I could,' DiMarco told caddie Pat O'Brien.
He could swing just fine, drilling a 7-iron to 8 feet. DiMarco holed the putt for a 1-up lead, then closed out his roller-coaster match - each player had the lead three times - with a par on the final hole.
Everyone knew Kenny Perry was playing the best during the practice rounds. Some of his drives traveled close to 400 yards, and his irons were like lasers.
Perry won four out of his five matches, the best record on the U.S. team. With his legs weary and the pressure on, he hit a perfect drive and a clutch 3-iron into 12 feet for a birdie to beat Nick Price, another pivotal point.
Tiger Woods might have found a partner in Charles Howell III, who played exceptionally well all five matches and helped the U.S. comeback Sunday by blitzing Adam Scott in a battle of young stars.
The failures?
Phil Mickelson played hard - all of his matches went to at least the 17th hole - but missed enough fairways and was overly aggressive on enough chips to put him or his team in trouble. Lefty went 0-5, the first American to get shut out in five matches.
Then there was Davis Love III, the emotional leader of the U.S. team. He accompanied Jeff Sluman to the first day of pairings, said all the right things about the Presidents Cup and was poised to be the star when he took a 1-up lead on Robert Allenby.
Love, however, muffed a chip from a difficult lie short of the 18th green when a birdie would have given the U.S. team 17 1/2 points and eliminated the need for a playoff.
NEXT UP:@ The Presidents Cup returns to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia in 2005, and all signs point to Canada for the next international stop.
The tour is close to announcing Royal Montreal as the 2007 site, although there are a few loose ends to tie.
Another issue is the Canadian Open, which traditionally is played in early September. That would be about two weeks before the Presidents Cup.
'We have to take the Open into the consideration,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'When it's played is a matter of discussion.'
Where the Canadian Open is played could be another factor.
One reason for the Presidents Cup going to Royal Montreal is that the '07 Canadian Open is scheduled for Angus Glen in the Toronto area.
After that? The tour still wants to take the Presidents Cup to the West Coast so it can be on prime-time television.
JACK'S FUTURE:@ Jack Nicklaus isn't completely retired from competitive golf, but this year was an eye-opener.
His best tournament was the Tradition, a major on the Champions Tour. Nicklaus was never a factor and tied for 10th.
'When I play my best tournament and tie for 10th, it's time to hang up my spikes,' Nicklaus said.
He said he'll probably play a few Champions Tour events early in the year, and the Golden Bear also plans to return to the Masters and his Memorial tournament. He also wants to play a PGA Tour event in Florida before the Masters, possibly the Honda Classic.
PRICE WAS RIGHT:@ Mike Weir wanted to play with Nick Price in the Presidents Cup, and he got his wish. Weir hit spectacular shots and clutch putts as they rallied to win their alternate-shot match in the opening round.
A decade ago, Weir never would have dreamed that possible.
He was just starting out on the Canadian Tour and received an invitation to the Canadian Open. Hitting balls on the range, he heard the crisp connection of iron and ball coming from Price's direction, and realized it wasn't anything like his.
'That's when I knew I had to make changes to my swing,' Weir said. 'He was hitting lasers. I was hitting it all over the range.'
Price was at the peak of his game in the early '90s, on the verge of winning three out of eight majors in one stretch.
'I thought, 'If we played 100 times, this guy would beat me 100 times,' Weir said. 'Not 99 times, but 100.'
DIVOTS:@ Ty Tryon took the fast track to his career by earning his PGA Tour card two years ago at age 17. Now comes the hard part. He failed to get through the second stage of Q-school and will have only conditional status on the Nationwide Tour next year. ... Don't get the idea the gallery was all warm and fuzzy at the Presidents Cup. One man muttered, 'Miss' as Phil Mickelson knocked in a 4-foot birdie putt. Another said, 'Release' when Charles Howell III hit an approach 25 feet beyond the flag. And there was a smattering of applause when Tiger Woods' second shot to the 18th came up short of the green. Still, it wasn't a group effort, and there always are a few bad eggs at every team event.
STAT OF THE WEEK:@ Chris DiMarco played 88 holes at the Presidents Cup, the most of any other player. Four of his matches were decided on the final hole; the other ended on the 16th.
FINAL WORD:@ 'I'm not new to the format. I'm new to the age.' - Colin Montgomerie, playing in the UBS Cup for the first time. The minimum age is 40.
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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.