Lee (65) takes first-round lead at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 27, 2015, 1:44 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Mirim Lee birdied all four par-5 holes and finished with a bogey-free 7-under 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Kia Classic.

Lee took the outright lead with an 8-foot putt on the par-5 fifth - her 14th hole in her afternoon round at Aviara - and hit a wedge to 3 feet to set up her final birdie on the par-5 eighth. The 24-year-old South Korean player won LPGA Tour events last year in Michigan and China.

''Today was putting,'' Lee said.

She struggled last week in Phoenix, finishing 77th in the Founders Cup.

''I practiced a lot this week,'' Lee said. ''I changed the grip.''

Yani Tseng, winless in 70 starts since her victory in the 2012 event at nearby La Costa, had a 66. She finished with a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th after hitting a 150-yard shot from near a fairway bunker with the ball well above her feet - and water to the right of the green.


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''I never thought it was going to be that close,'' Tseng said. ''I was a little like unbalanced, so I kind of tied my shoes a little bit. Actually, there was one second in my mind I was like, 'How about if I hit it in the water.' I was like, 'Oh, if I hit it in the water, I just go drop another ball. I got like a few birdies in my pocket and should be OK.' So I was like, 'If I make bogey, it's no big deal.'''

The Taiwanese player birdied Nos. 7-9 and made a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 10th. She dropped a stroke on the par-4 14th when she missed a 3-foot par putt and rebounded with a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko was two strokes back at 67 in the final event before the first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage. The 17-year-old New Zealander has 10 straight top-10 finishes and has broken par in her last 25 LPGA Tour rounds and 28 worldwide.

''It's not easy,'' Ko said. ''I'm trying to take one round at a time, one shot at a time, and that kind of breaks it up. a little bit. It's tough. Playing weeks back to back and all courses just being different, I think that's the hard thing, but I'm just trying to keep focused. I know that I've played well the last couple of events. It's always good to know that you're playing well. You can be confident.''

Ko has two worldwide victories this year, winning the tour's Women's Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour's New Zealand Women's Open in consecutive weeks. She has six career LPGA Tour victories and 10 worldwide wins in professional events.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr and Lin Xiyu also shot 67.

''I think it's a course you got to be pretty patient on,'' Webb said. ''I think the greens actually are putting the nicest they have out of the three years that we've been here, which is helpful. They're pretty slopey greens, so you have to leave yourself better, easier putts if you're going to make a lot out here. Pin-high sometimes is not even a good option. There's lots of break on them.''

Second-ranked Inbee Park, No. 3 Stacy Lewis and No. 4 Hyo Joo Kim were at 68 along with Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Austin Ernst, Laura Diaz, In Gee Chun, Jackie Stoelting and Karine Icher.

The 19-year-old Kim won on Sunday in Phoenix for her second LPGA Tour victory in 13 career starts. Park took last week off after winning in Singapore and finishing second in a Ladies European Tour event in China.

Lewis, second in Phoenix, had seven birdies, a bogey and double bogey on the par-4 15th.

Thompson, preparing for her title defense in the ANA Inspiration, holed out from 98 yards for eagle on the par-4 seventh.

''Downhill, a little downwind, and I landed my 55 degree about 95,'' Thompson said. ''It one-bounced, past, went back and actually stayed on the lip for a little bit and then fell. So, pretty awesome.''

Michelle Wie opened with a 69. She has an endorsement deal with title sponsor Kia.

Defending champion Anna Nordqvist shot a 72.

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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.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.