Lee Leads Annika Ochoa Close

By Associated PressJune 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- Lorena Ochoa chopped into the mangled grass and was stunned to see her ball hop only a few inches, sending her to a double bogey as her hopes for a third straight major championship slipped away from her.
 
By the time she recovered, she found some perspective in the McDonalds LPGA Championship, along with a familiar name.
 
Ochoa was only two shots out the lead, trailing two players who have never seriously contended in a major.
 
And she was tied with Annika Sorenstam, out to make history of her own in her final season on the LPGA Tour.
 
Im just glad I have a chance tomorrow, Ochoa said.
 
Stifling heat that turned Bulle Rock into an oven cooked up quite a treat on Saturday.
 
Jee Young Lee played her final four holes in 4-under par and surged into the lead with a 7-under 65, putting her one shot ahead of Maria Hjorth, who also had a 65. They are among the longest hitters in womens golf.
 
Joining them in the final group will be Sorenstam, trying to join the great Mickey Wright as a four-time winner of this major. Sorenstam has gone 30 holes without a bogey, and she rarely found trouble on her way to a 68 that put her two shots behind.
 
The key in majors is not how its done; youve got to get it done, Sorenstam said. Thats what Ive got to do tomorrow.
 
The only disappointment was that Ochoa and Sorenstam, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, wont get a chance to play together. LPGA officials, fearful of more fog that delayed the start of the third round, opted for threesomes on Sunday.
 
Sorenstam will play with Lee, whose 25-foot birdie on the last hole gave her the lead at 12-under 204, and Hjorth, a fellow Swede.
 
Ochoa birdied two of her last three holes to salvage an even-par 72, tied for third with Sorenstam.
 
I would have probably liked to have played with Annika, Ochoa said. I think it would have been fun for us and for all of you. But its OK. Its better when they know what I have done. That will be important, to get a good start and to put my name up there. And they can stay with the pressure in the last group.
 
Ten players were within five shots of Lee, who won an LPGA Tour event in her native South Korea three years ago when she was 19.
 
Ive been waiting to win the tournament ever since I came to the United States, she said through a translator. And to win the major tournament here would be really exciting for me. And Im really looking forward to winning this tournament.
 
Hjorth ran off four birdies at the turn, took the outright lead on No. 12 and saved par after a tee shot on the 18th hole hit a cart path and bounded into the mounds of thick rough.
 
Its still a golf ball youre going to hit. Its still a golf course youre going to play, Hjorth said. As long as I dont occupy my mind with thinking, Oh, this is the last group in a major, hopefully I can handle it well. And Im looking forward to it.
 
The toughest part of Saturday was handling the heat.
 
Temperatures climbed past 100, and most players carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. It felt even hotter with no breeze, with the tops of 60-foot oak trees not moving an inch.
 
Add to that the pressure of a final round at a major, especially with Ochoa and Sorenstam right in the mix.
 
Everybody is looking forward to tomorrow and everybody wants it badly, Sorenstam said. The one that wins is the one that stays cool, stays patient and makes less mistakes. So thats going to be my plan.
 
Ochoa had gone 30 holes without a bogey at Bulle Rock until a three-putt on the opening hole.
 
The big blow came at the par-3 seventh. She pulled her tee shot left of the green into a mangled lie. She tried a flop shot over the bunker, but it was more like a foul tip. The ball squirted a few inches, Ochoa made double bogey and suddenly was three shots behind.
 
A half-dozen players had at least a share of the lead at one point, with Sorenstam generating as much excitement as the gallery could muster. With temperatures climbing past 100, it felt like a sauna with no help from wind. Even the tops of 60-foot oak trees didnt move.
 
But it was loud enough, especially as Ochoa was walking up the fifth fairway and heard a cheer through the trees on the sixth green, where Sorenstam had stuck another close for birdie.
 
That gave her a share of the lead, but only briefly, for Hjorth soon pulled ahead with an 8-iron to 8 feet for birdie at the 12th.
 
Sorenstam slowed with pars. Brittany Lang, tied for the lead at 10 under, fell back on the 13th when she went from one nasty lie in the rough to another and took double bogey.
 
Lang finished with a 71 and was in the group at 8-under 208 that included Laura Diaz (69) and Yani Tseng of Taiwan (65). Also in that group was Lindsey Wright, the first play to reach 11 under with a birdie at No. 8, who faulted on the back and shot 73.
 
The third round was played in threesomes because of fog so thick it delayed the start by three hours. Most players probably wished the fog had stayed, for the blistering sunshine that broke through the haze led nearly everyone to carry an umbrella to shield the rays.
 
Just as long as you try to drink and not think about it too much, it worked for me, Hjorth said.
 
More high temperatures are expected for the final round, and Sorenstam already was thinking ahead.
 
Im not going to wear a brown top tomorrow, she said.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
     
    Golf for Women
    Editor's Note: Don't miss the live LPGA Championship blog, as well as other championship coverage, from partner Golf for Women magazine at golfforwomen.com.
  • Getty Images

    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

    Getty Images

    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”