Jang leads Lewis by 4 at Coates Championship

By Associated PressJanuary 30, 2015, 1:04 am

OCALA, Fla. – Ha Na Jang went from qualifier to leader in just a few days at the LPGA season opener.

And it surprised no one.

The 22-year-old South Korean, ranked 21st in the world, shot a 7-under 65 in the second round of the Coates Golf Championship on Thursday and opened up a four-shot lead over Stacy Lewis heading into the third round.

Jang has full status on the LPGA Tour. But because the opener isn't a full-field event, she had to qualify last Saturday. Her extra time at Golden Golf & Ocala Equestrian Club certainly paid dividends. She made one bogey in two rounds, and responded to that miscue with birdies on two of the next three holes.

''I hope to play well these next two days so people get to know who I am,'' Jang said through an interpreter.

The start of the second round was delayed 90 minutes because of frost, and the interruption prevented 50 players from completing 18 holes. They will return Friday morning to finish.

Jang might not want to wait to get back on the course. She sank a curl-in, 25-footer on her final hole in near-dark conditions to get to 12-under 132.

Although Jang is technically a rookie, she has plenty of experience. Her best LPGA finish was third in the 2014 Evian Championship last year. She also won six tournaments in five seasons on the KLPGA Tour and finished tied for 42nd at the Korean Women's Open as a 12-year-old.

Coates Golf Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Lewis, one of three players to shoot 66 in the opening round, was 8 under heading into Friday's third round.

''I just didn't play quite as well today,'' said Lewis, the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to sweep the Rolex player of the year award, the Vare Trophy and the money list title last season.

World No. 2 Lydia Ko and Azahara Munoz were five back at 7 under. So were Angela Stanford and Austin Ernst, but they had holes to finish.

''I was super rusty,'' said Ko, who played with her left thumb taped. ''For a moment, I didn't even know if I would be able to play ... I had zero feel. It's kind of good that it's back to normal. I tried to work hard in the three weeks I had to prepare for this.''

Much of the attention - the opener drew big crowds in horse country - was focused on players off the leaderboard.

Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, likely made the cut. She birdied No. 18th to get to 4 over, which is expected to be safe. Woods is playing her first tournament with full-time status, although she got in on a sponsor's exemption because she didn't have enough priority to make the 120-player field.

''It's definitely important for me to play well this week and get started off good,'' Woods said.

Woods would be in much better shape if not for the par-4 13th, one of eight tribute holes at Golden Ocala. No. 13 resembles the 17th at St. Andrews, the Road Hole, and it's gotten the best of Woods in two rounds. She's 3 over on No. 13, including a double-bogey Thursday.

''That hole kicked my butt this week,'' she said. ''If I play it (Friday), I'm definitely going to get revenge on it.''

Paula Creamer had no trouble with the par-3 sixth, a replica of No. 16 at Augusta National. Using a 5-iron from 162 yards, Creamer notched her second ace in tour play.

It didn't come with any bonus gifts, though.

''I made my hole-in-one at Augusta,'' she said. ''I go, 'Where's my car?' But I guess having a hole-in-one at Augusta is better than a car. ... That's why you play. You play for that perfect moment.''

Reigning U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie rebounded from even par in the first round with a 2-under 70 on Thursday.

''A lot of stupid mistakes,'' Wie said. ''But at the same time, you know, I just felt like it's kind of good to get it out of the way. You make the mistakes and 'OK, I'm not going to do that next time.' ... Just stupid errors here and there, but I'm excited for the weekend.''

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.