Ji leads LPGA field by 1; Creamer 3 back

By Associated PressJune 9, 2012, 10:03 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Karrie Webb is in territory she used to take for granted – in contention for a win at a major on the LPGA Tour. She relishes the feeling like never before.

''I still get really excited for the majors and the importance they have on everyone's career,'' Webb said Saturday after a 4-under 68 moved her within one shot of the lead after the third round of the LPGA Championship. ''I probably want it more than I ever have in my career.''

Webb, who counts seven majors among her 37 career wins, hasn't won one since beating Lorena Ochoa in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff in 2006 for her second Kraft Nabisco Championship title. Here, she's chasing Eun-Hee Ji heading to Sunday's final round.

Webb had four bogeys en route to a 2-over 74 on the opening round. The Australian has come back into contention with two straight rounds under par, though Friday's 71 was punctuated by five birdies and four bogeys. She had five more birdies on Saturday and only one bogey - at the first hole - to match Ji for the lowest round over the first three days.

''I think my patience level has really been quite good – for me,'' said Webb, whose best finish in 10 tournaments this year was a tie for fourth at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in late April. ''On Thursday, I started feeling sorry for myself. The fact that I overcame that early trouble really reinforced that. The stakes will be a lot higher (Sunday), but I've done a good job so far.''

Webb rallied with birdies on three of her final five holes, capping the rush with a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe at No. 17.

''I want to have a chance to win,'' Webb said. ''It feels great to have a chance tomorrow.''

Ji, coming off her first top-10 in more than two years, was solid again off the tee on the unforgiving Locust Hill Country Club course, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and reaching 11 of 14 greens in regulation. That gave her an impressive total of 39 GIRs in 54 holes.

''I always trying hard,'' said Ji, who captured the 2009 U.S. Women's Open with a birdie putt on the final hole. ''My confidence is going lower last year. I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm trying to be hopeful and just playing my game.''

Giulia Sergas, who shared the first-round lead but had a 76 on Friday in the wind-swept second round, moved back near the top with four birdies on the front nine and also finished with a 69. Sergas was tied at 2 under with Stacy LewisSuzann Pettersen and Inbee Park. Lewis, a two-time winner in her last three events, had a 70, Pettersen shot a 71, and Park had a 72.

Paula Creamer was at or near the top most of the day, but faltered at the end and finished with a 73. She was in a seven-way tie at 1 under.

Defending champion Yani Tseng had her best round of the three days, finishing with at 74 after a 76 and a 75.

There were 24 players within four shots of the lead at the start of play. When the day ended, there were 13, including 2010 champion Cristie Kerr, within four shots of the top heading to the final round.

Jennifer Johnson was one of them after a 71. She hit her first six fairways and sank a pair of birdies on the front nine, eagled the par-5 17th hole to reach 3 under, then gave it back with a double bogey at the closing hole.

Still, Johnson was among five Americans – Sydnee Michaels was the other – in the hunt for the second major of the year.

Over the first two days, only 28 players broke par and only six scored below 70. Webb added her name to the latter list as the course played easier than it had the first two days.

The start of play on Saturday was delayed 2 1/2 hours by rain, adding tension to the moment, but the predicted storms held off. That allowed the players, who went in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees, to finish without another delay.

Ji, who won here at the Wegmans LPGA in 2008, was in a six-way tie two shots off the lead to start the day. She made four birdies and a bogey on the front nine and made the turn tied for the lead at 3 under. She took sole possession of the top spot with a birdie at the par-5 11th hole.

Creamer hit 10 of 14 fairways and reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation, but aside from a strong birdie to start the round, her putter deserted her all too often. She tied Ji at 4 under with a birdie at No. 12, but bogeyed the next hole and two of her final three to fall back.

Creamer's long birdie putt attempt at the par-5 eighth hole broke nicely toward the cup but didn't have enough behind it, leaving her shaking her head in frustration at a missed opportunity. She also missed another short birdie at No. 10 despite perfect pace on the ball as it came to a stop an inch or two to the left of the cup and slid another just past the hole at the par-5 11th hole.

''I've been working so hard with my golf swing, when things go wrong I kind of overanalyze,'' Creamer said. ''I made a great birdie putt on 12, and from there I didn't hit any good putts. I tried to stay positive, but. I was bummed. It's pretty disappointing. I kind of got in my way with my putter.''

Lewis missed a short birdie putt at No. 10 and did so again at the 12th hole, her 5-footer curling left of the hole as she, too, shook her head in dismay. A bogey at 13 dropped her back to 1 under, but a birdie at 17 put her in a position she relishes.

''It's a lot easier coming from behind,'' said Lewis, the top-ranked American. ''It's so hard to keep your focus. I almost like being at the back and kind of coming up and surprising someone.''

Se Ri Pak, still not fully recovered from a left shoulder injury suffered in April, had been the picture of consistency the first two rounds, shooting 70 and 71, and began the day with a one-shot lead.

The magic was gone, though, on this day, and it was evident after her first swing.

Pak drove the right rough at the opening hole and was unable to get up and down, making bogey to fall out of the lead. She followed that by making three more bogeys before the turn and added another at No. 10 to fall to 2 over, six shots behind Ji. Pak finished with a 76 and was five shots back.

Just how difficult were the conditions at Locust Hill over the first two rounds? For Tseng, they were insurmountable.

In winning the LPGA Championship by 10 shots a year ago, Tseng set a tournament record for most birdies with 26 and came back to defend her title leading the tour in birdie average (4.64). She managed only five over the first 42 holes to go with a whopping 14 bogeys as the narrow course proved the toughest of challenges with its extra-thick rough and swirling winds.

Divots: Jodi Ewart aced the 15th hole Saturday. It's the fifth time a hole-in-one has been made at the par 3 - Suzann Pettersen was the last to do it in 2004 – and the 15th ace in LPGA tournaments held at Locust Hill.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''

Park's stumble creates wide-open finale

By Randall MellNovember 18, 2017, 11:46 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park didn’t turn the CME Group Tour Championship into a runaway Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

She left with bloody fingernails after a brutal day failing to hold on to her spot atop the leaderboard.

OK, they weren’t really bloody, but even the unflappable Park wasn’t immune to mounting pressure, with the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the money-winning title among the prizes she knew were within reach when she teed it up.

“It’s honestly some of the worst pressure,” Stacy Lewis said of CME week. “It’s so much pressure.  It’s just really hard to free yourself up and play golf.”

Lewis isn’t in the mix for all those prizes this year, but the two-time Rolex Player of the Year and two-time Vare Trophy winner knows what the full weight of this week’s possibilities bring.

“It’s almost nice to come here without all that pressure, but you want to be in that situation,” Lewis said. “It’s just really tough.”

Park is no longer in charge at Tiburon.

This championship is wide, wide open with a four-way tie for first place and 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Park is one shot back after stumbling to a 3-over-par 75.

Count Michelle Wie among the four tied for the lead after charging with a 66.

Former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn (67), Suzann Pettersen (69) and Kim Kaufman (64) are also atop the leaderboard.

Kaufman was the story of the day, getting herself in contention with a sizzling round just two weeks after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Park is in a seven-way tie for fifth place just one shot back.


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Lexi Thompson (69) is in that mix a shot back, as is Lewis (67), who is seeking to add a second title this year to her emotional win for Houston hurricane relief.

For Wie, winning the tournament will be reward enough, given how her strong rebound this year seemed derailed in September by an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie fought her way back from two of the most disappointing years of her career, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” Wie said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun. That’s when I play my best.”

All the subplots make Sunday so much more complicated for Park and Thompson, who are best positioned for a giant haul of hardware.

They have the most to gain in the final round.

Park has already clinched the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, but she can add the Rolex Player of the Year title, joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both those awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978.

A fifth place finish or better could give Park the Player of the Year Award outright, depending what others do.

“There are a lot of top players right now at the top of the leaderboard,” Park said. “Keeping my focus will be key.”

Thompson can still take home the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the CME Globe jackpot. She needs to win the tournament Sunday to win Player of the Year.

Like Park, Thompson is trying not to think about it all of that.

“I treat every tournament the same,” Thompson said. “I go into it wanting to win. I’m not really thinking about anything else.”

The Vare Trophy for low scoring average is Thompson’s to lose.

Park has to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson on Sunday to have a shot at the trophy, and they are tied at 9-under overall.

The money-winning title is Park’s to lose. So Yeon Ryu has to win the tournament Sunday to have a chance to wrestle the title from Park, but Ryu has to pass 31 players to do so.

The CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot remains more up for grabs, with Thompson and Park best positioned to win it, though Jutanugarn is poised to pounce if both stumble. A lot is still possible in the race for the jackpot.

The pressure will be turned way up on the first tee Sunday.

“There is always that little bit of adrenaline,” Thompson said. “You just have to tame it and control it.”

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


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Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”


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Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”