Lewis cruises to first win of year

By Associated PressMay 4, 2014, 10:19 pm

IRVING, Texas – There was no near-miss for Stacy Lewis this time.

This was a runaway for the highest-ranked American after six runner-up finishes in her previous 16 tournaments.

Lewis shot a 7-under 64 on Sunday in the North Texas LPGA Shootout, finishing at 16-under 268 and six strokes ahead of Meena Lee. It was the LPGA Tour's largest margin of victory since Jiyai Shin won the 2012 Women's British Open by nine.

''I've been wanting to do this for a long time. I kind of have these mini goals in the back of my mind,'' Lewis said. ''One of them was kind of taking a tournament and running away with it. ... So to be so close the last few weeks and then to come out and shoot 64, I mean I don't even know what to say.''

It was the ninth career LPGA Tour victory for Lewis, her first since August in the Women's British Open, and will boost the Texan from third to second in the world ranking.

Lewis made a putt from about 25 feet off the fringe at the 540-yard seventh for an eagle. She followed with consecutive birdies to make the turn at 14 under and up by three strokes.

''The eagle just really kind of got things going in the right direction, and then just I never let up,'' said Lewis, who punctuated her round with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18. ''I never let the hammer down.''

Lee, the South Korean who won the last her two LPGA Tour titles in 2006, shot 70 after going into the final round at Las Colinas Country Club tied with Lewis for the lead. Lee bogeyed the opening hole and needed a birdie at No. 18 to finish alone in second place.

Michelle Wie, who closed within two before faltering late, had a 67 to finish third at 9 under.

Na Yeon Choi (69) and Kim Kauffman (70) tied for fourth at 8 under. Kraft Nabisco winner Lexi Thompson (69), Cristie Kerr (71) and Suzann Pettersen (72) were among six players at 7 under.

Lewis, from The Woodlands near Houston, has finished outside the top six only once in nine tournaments this year. She was third at the Kraft Nabisco and had another runner-up finish just last week in San Francisco. She had three runner-up finishes in her last eight tournaments in 2013 after her victory at St. Andrews.

Lewis got a share of the lead in Texas after a frustrating 69 in the third round Saturday when she hit all 18 greens in regulation but missed several makeable birdie putts.

''Honestly, I didn't change anything. I didn't do anything different,'' she said. ''They just didn't go in (Saturday). ... But once you see putts in, it's kind of contagious.''

Defending champion Inbee Park closed with a 72 to tie for 14th at finish at 5 under. That will be good enough when the new world ranking comes out to stay No. 1 for the 56th consecutive week since the South Korean replaced Lewis at the top.

Lewis will supplant Lydia Ko in the second spot. Ko, who didn't play in North Texas, moved to No. 2 after her win last week in San Francisco only days after her 17th birthday.

Wie had her fourth consecutive top-10 finish, including her first win in nearly four wins at home in Hawaii after a runner-up finish in the season's first major.

Wie, playing five groups ahead of Lewis, was 6 under in a span of seven holes - Nos. 9-15. When she made a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 15, she was 11 under and only two strokes behind Lewis, who was finishing her only bogey of the day at the par-3 11th.

Lewis' tee shot at the 175-yard 11th half-buried in the sand just under the lip of the bunker. Lewis had sand in her face after hitting out, and couldn't save par. But she got that lost stroke right back with a long birdie putt at the par-4 12th.

While Wie was finishing with consecutive bogeys, Lewis had an incredible par-saver at the 390-yard 15th hole, where deciding against an iron she hit her drive into the water. After dropping from about 140 yards, she hit her approach to about 3 feet.

Wie's eagle at the 510-yard 10th hole was her third of the week there. But after missing the green at the 180-yard 17th for a bogey, she hooked her 8-iron approach at the closing par 5 into the trees and bogeyed.

''I thought I had it on 17, just nuked it over the green,'' Wie said. ''I just hit a wall on the last hole, which is disappointing for me. At the same time, 4-under par on the last day, I'll take it.''

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.