Lexi leads Pettersen, Park, Wie through 54 at ANA

By Associated PressApril 2, 2017, 3:34 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - One day after Lexi Thompson couldn't even tee off until shortly before sunset, she had to get back to the Dinah Shore Course before dawn to start a 28-hole day.

Thompson is excelling under unusual conditions at the ANA Inspiration, and it has put her in prime position to play for her second major title.

Thompson claimed the tournament lead while completing her wind-delayed second round Saturday before moving two shots ahead of Norway's Suzann Pettersen with a third-round 67 . After an extra-long day of play in wind and sun, Thompson is at 13-under 203 heading into Sunday's final round.

''I struggled a little bit off the tee and had a few more rough shots than I wanted, but you can't ever complain about a 5-under round,'' Thompson said.

The 22-year-old Thompson's victory here in 2014 is her only previous major victory, but the U.S. Olympian simply excels at Mission Hills Country Club. She smashed her drives and got great results from her inconsistent putter on the way to six birdies in the third round, keeping a competitive field squarely behind her.

''I just love this golf course,'' Thompson said. ''I get to hit a lot of drivers, and it just sets up nicely for me all over.''


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Thompson and Pettersen stayed ahead of a field posting unusually low scores, with the 2-over 146 cut matching the lowest cut score in tournament history.

They did it despite intermittent returns of the desert wind that called an early halt to Thursday's play and forced two days of catch-up, forcing 56 golfers to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning. The field got all caught up on a postcard-perfect desert Saturday, and warm weather is expected Sunday.

''It's definitely not a usual week, what we're used to, but it's a major week,'' Thompson said. ''We have to deal with the wind conditions and whatever weather we get.''

Pettersen shot a third-round 68 to reach 11 under, while Australia's Minjee Lee joined a South Korean trio - Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Mi Jung Hur - at 10-under 206. Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and France's Karine Icher are five shots behind Thompson at 8 under.

''I think I've always said since the first time I saw this place, it really fits my eye,'' said Pettersen, a two-time major champion.

''I'm driving the ball well, and that's a major key on this golf course. I've got a big job to do (Sunday). The leaderboard is packed behind me as well. You've got to expect to go out there and shoot low. There's a lot at stake, but I'm all in for it.''

Thompson debuted at the Dinah Shore Course as a 14-year-old amateur in 2009, and she won in 2014, the tournament's final year as the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has finished seventh and fifth in the two years since the major's name change.

Thompson immediately took charge Saturday morning with back-to-back birdies, claiming the outright lead and surging to a second-round 67. After following two birdies with a bogey early in her third round, she settled in and finished the final 14 holes at 4 under.

Wie battled to a third-round 71 while struggling with a nagging back injury during her own 28-hole day. She repeatedly saved par to stay in contention.

''I just hit one shot that was a little bit out of sync and kind of threw my hips out of place,'' Wie said. ''I think it was just a lot of golf. The two full warmups (and then) 28 holes. Just not a young stallion anymore, I guess.''

DIVOTS: World No. 1 and defending ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko shot a 71 to move to a steady 5-under 211. ... Jutanugarn appeared to play herself out of contention with three bogeys in five holes early in the third round, but the Thai star rallied back with three birdies and a spectacular eagle in the final eight holes on the course where she blew a two-shot lead with three holes to play last year. ... Lucy Li, the 14-year-old prodigy who qualified last week, was the only amateur to make the cut with a 1-over 145. She played her first two rounds alongside Wie. Li is 7 over after a third-round 78.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.