Dufner stays hot, trails leader Johnson by 1 at Colonial

By Associated PressMay 24, 2012, 8:55 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – Zach Johnson stood behind the fourth green looking at his club and then the ball that rolled within 4 feet of the hole.

''I got lucky,'' Johnson said about his second shot on the 244-yard par 3 – his 13th hole Thursday – after his tee shot went through the green and stopped in a clump of grass.

Three holes later, Johnson was so deep in a greenside bunker that he couldn't even be seen from the other side of the green until he popped up to watch his blast over the ridge to 2 1/2 feet from the cup.

Those par-savers were part of a bogey-free 6-under 64 that gave him a one-stroke lead after the first round in the Colonial, where 20- 30-mph wind with higher gusts whipped through the big oak trees lining the fairways.

''Today was great. I got off to a good start, just hit some quality shots. I didn't put myself ever in a position that was too worrisome,'' Johnson said. ''I kept the golf course in front me. I attacked when I could attack. I had a couple of nice saves when I needed it. ... I've got zero complaints.''

Jason Dufner, rookie Harris English, Tom Gillis and Kyle Reifers were tied for second.

Dufner won the Byron Nelson Championship last week, and both of his PGA Tour victories have come in the last four weeks. He started at Colonial with three consecutive birdies, was 5 under after a 10-foot birdie putt at the 174-yard eighth hole, then overcame two bogeys in a three-hole stretch.

Johnson opened with a 40-foot birdie putt at the 396-yard 10th hole on way to his 13th consecutive under-par round at Hogan's Alley. He set the Colonial tournament scoring record with his 21-under 259 in 2010, when he had a pair of 64s in his last PGA Tour victory.

After hitting into a greenside bunker at the 435-yard 12th, he blasted to 9 feet to save par.

''The big putt that got me going,'' he said. He then had four consecutive birdies, a span that included two par 3s and all the putts between 14 and 21 feet.

Sergio Garcia, the 2001 Colonial champ in the same group as Johnson, shot a 66 to match Chris DiMarco, Tommy Gainey and Andres Romero.

English, 22, had never played a full round at Colonial until Thursday. That came three days after he shot rounds of 60 and 63 during a British Open qualifier at Gleneagles. That is a much more wide-open layout just outside of Dallas about an hour from Colonial.

''Three bogey-free rounds I have had in a row, which I've never done,'' English said. ''I'm playing solid golf and not really getting out of position. I'm getting my putter going. I'm hitting it to 15 or 20 feet a lot and seemed to be making a good many of those. It's just been good.''

English, a winner last year on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur, has made 11 of 14 cuts in his first season on the PGA Tour.

Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, hasn't won since slipping on that winner's plaid jacket at Colonial two years ago. But he has made all 12 cuts this year, with a runner-up finish at Hilton Head and a tie for second at The Players Championship in his three previous events.

Garcia had an eagle-3 at the 558-yard No. 1, getting him to 5 under through 10 holes. His only bogey came after he hit his tee shot at the dogleg-left third hole into a greenside bunker, and he saved par out of bunkers his last two holes. He hasn't won on the PGA Tour in four years.

Defending Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial champion David Toms, in the group with Johnson and Garcia, had only one birdie in an opening 74. Last year, the 45-year-old Toms started with consecutive rounds of 62 to match the PGA Tour scoring record for the first 36 holes of a tournament.

Duner's approach at No. 9 was just off the back fringe, and he chipped to 6 feet before his par putt circled the cup without falling. A 25-foot birdie attempt at No. 10 rolled over the right edge of the cup, then he bogeyed the 635-yard 11th hole when his third shot went in a greenside bunker and he then two-putted from 9 feet.

Dufner was playing with Matt Kuchar, who two weeks ago won The Players Championship, and Rickie Fowler, The Players runner-up who the week before that got his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow.

Kuchar's only birdie in a round of 72 came on the par-5 No. 1. Fowler birdied two of the last three holes for a 68.

''Decent. Not good, not bad,'' Fowler said. ''It's nice to make two birdies in the last three holes and get back under par and give me some momentum.''

Divots: Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen shot 71, ending his round with an eagle by holing his approach from 117 yards at the par-4 18th. ... Ben Crane's round of 70 included six birdies, six bogeys and six pars. ... Hunter Mahan, the only other two-time winner this season besides Dufner, shot a 69 with three bogeys. ... Sean O'Hair withdrew because of a neck issue.

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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.