Leaders Seeking Breakthrough Victory

By Associated PressMay 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 SemGroup ChampionshipBROKEN ARROW, Okla. -- Lorena Ochoa's charge fizzled Saturday in the second round of the SemGroup Championship.
 
Ochoa got off to an eagle-birdie start, but a double bogey at No. 15 spoiled her round and left the top-ranked Mexican star three strokes behind leaders Stephanie Louden, Nicole Castrale, Karin Sjodin and Reilley Rankin.
 
The four leaders, tied at 4-under 138, are all seeking their first LPGA Tour win.
 
'No matter who is up there, I know that I have played just as well as they have, and I want to win just as much as they do,' said Sjodin, a former Oklahoma State star who leads the tour in driving distance.
 
Rankin shot a 3-under 68, Louden had a 69, Sjodin a 70 and Castrale a 71.
 
'Of course it's better to have those names up there than Annika (Sorenstam) and Lorena,' Sjodin said. 'But I still think if I had played just as well as them so far, I can do it tomorrow as well.'
 
Rankin's 68 matched Mi Hyun Kim and Young Kim for the low round of the day on a windy, but much drier course at Cedar Ridge Country Club. Mi Hyun Kim and Angela Stanford (71) were one stroke behind the leaders. Se Ri Pak (71), Katherine Hull (69) and Virada Nirapathpongporn (70) were tied for seventh, two strokes off the lead.
 
Pak, who has 23 career wins, is the only player among the top nine that has more than one career victory. Stanford is the only other with even one win, and it came at the 2003 ShopRite LPGA Classic.
 
Seven players were three strokes back, including Juli Inkster (70) and Ochoa (71), who took over the No. 1 ranking from Sorenstam last week.
 
Ochoa had birdie putts at the fourth and fifth holes slide just past the right edge of the cup, and her round soon took a turn for the worse. The wind caught her tee shot at No. 6 and dropped it on the far side of the green. She three-putted for bogey to fall to 2 under.
 
Ochoa ripped a drive well beyond 300 yards to straighten out a dogleg right and set up a birdie at the 399-yard par-4 seventh. She had another birdie at No. 10, and bogeys at the eighth and 13th holes before misjudging the wind at the 185-yard 15th.
 
'I hit it the way I wanted to hit it. I hit it so low that the wind didn't even touch the ball. I ended up on the back of the green,' the Mexican star said.
 
'Sometimes it's just a learning experience. It would be different if you miss a shot and end up in the water or hit a tree or something. I hit the perfect shot, but just ended up in a bad spot. I will learn from that and not do it again.'
 
A day earlier, Ochoa said she hoped to perhaps play a low round on Cinco de Mayo 'for my Mexicans.' She wore a light green polo shirt and sweater and white shorts, and she appeared poised to take over the tournament after she reached the green on the 520-yard, par-5 opening hole in two shots. She then knocked down a 30-footer for eagle with her putter featuring a green, white and red grip.
 
She drilled her tee shot within 5 feet on the next hole, then curved in her birdie putt. That ended up being the high point of her day.
 
'Obviously, I'm not very happy with that double bogey on the par 3. It doesn't feel good. The good thing is that I'm only three shots behind the leaders, and I'm feeling good with my game,' Ochoa said. 'I think I hit the ball very solid today, gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities.'
 
To earn her first win as the world No. 1, she'll have to make up ground.
 
Castrale, the first-round leader, holed out a 6-iron for eagle at No. 4 for her second chip-in of the tournament. She pitched in on the third hole Friday.
 
'There are a lot of great players on the leaderboard, whether they've won or not,' said Castrale, who played in college at Southern California.
 
Louden, who birdied the first two holes, held the lead for a time after two more birdies at the ninth and 11th holes got her to 6 under. She had bogeys at Nos. 13 and 16.
 
Rankin was the last of the leaders on the course and had a chance to take the outright lead, but had a long birdie putt skate just right of the hole. Her knees buckled after watching the putt roll past the hole.
 
Still, being atop the leaderboard capped a yearlong struggle to regain her form.
 
'I call it Reilley's world. It doesn't matter how I do it. I just do it,' said Rankin, who's never finished higher than fourth at a tour event. 'And I don't have to know or be able to explain it to somebody.
 
'That's what makes me good is to just play like that. I have to play my way.'
 
Defending champion Cristie Kerr, who set the course record with a 61 in the second round last year, missed the cut after shooting a 77.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.