Munoz, Ernst share lead at Kingsmill

By Associated PressMay 15, 2014, 11:58 pm

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Azahara Munoz and Austin Ernst had strong finishes Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Kingsmill Championship at 6-under 65.

The former NCAA individual champions completed their morning rounds on the front nine at Kingsmill's River Course, with Munoz birdieing four of her last seven holes, and Ernst closing with birdies on No. 7 and 9.

''I don't think it's easy,'' Munoz said. ''The wind is pretty tricky, but the pins were somewhat accessible. Obviously, the course is playing is much shorter than normal because it's warmer and drier. Holes I had been having 4-irons in, I was having 9-irons in today.''

Munoz had a bogey-free round, saving par with a 10-foot putt on the par-3 second - her 11th hole - after hitting into a greenside bunker. The Spaniard lost a playoff to Paula Creamer in Singapore in March when Creamer made a 75-foot eagle putt on the second extra hole.

''I've been having a much better attitude,'' said Munoz, the 2008 NCAA winner at Arizona State who won the 2012 Match Play Championship for her lone tour title. ''When I miss a shot, I don't let it get to me so much like I used to. I used to get pretty upset, and that really hurt me.''



Ernst, the 2011 NCAA winner at LSU, rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 first with an eagle on the par-5 third, hitting a 6-iron from 182 yards to 10 feet on the downwind hole.

''Really just solid,'' Ernst said. ''Gave myself a lot of looks, hit a lot of greens and made it really easy on myself out there on a day when it was pretty windy and it could kind of get away from you a little bit.''

Heavy rain was expected overnight and Friday morning, likely delaying second-round play.

''We'll just kind of see,'' Ernst said. ''I'm kind of glad I'm in the afternoon tomorrow. That way I don't have to kind of hang out. If it does get delayed, you're not waiting on the update every 30 minutes.''

South Korea's Hee Young Park shot 66.

''Everything is pretty good,'' Park said. ''I made a lot more putts.''

Defending champion Cristie Kerr opened with a 67 after missing the pro-am Wednesday because of an illness. She also won the Michelob Ultra at the course in 2005 and 2009.

''It was weird. I started feeling really bad Tuesday night,'' Kerr said. ''I woke up and just didn't want to get out of bed. Just kind of knew something was wrong. I just was going to stay in bed and try to recover, but my husband was like, 'You got to go see a doctor.' So I went, and he was like, 'You have heat exhaustion and maybe something else going on.' So they took me to the hospital and gave my IV fluids and ran some tests and I had an infection.''

Lexi Thompson, the Kraft Nabisco winner, also was in the group at 67 along with Lizette Salas, Brittany Lang, Kathleen Ekey, Danielle Kang and Thidapa Suwannnapura.

''Overall, I'll definitely take 4 under,'' Thompson said. ''I feel really good about my game right now. I've worked extremely hard in my offseason, especially on my short game. I put a lot of hours and hard work into it. To see it paying off definitely helps my confidence out.''

Jessica Korda, Yani Tseng and Ai Miyazato topped the group at 68.

Second-ranked Stacy Lewis and No. 3 Lydia Ko, both in position to take the top spot in the world ranking from Inbee Park, each shot 70. Lewis would jump to No. 1 with a victory or a solo second-place finish, as long as Ko doesn't win. Ko needs a victory to move to No. 1. Park is skipping the tournament.

Lewis won the North Texas LPGA Shootout two weeks ago.

The 17-year-old Ko is coming off a victory three weeks ago in the Swinging Skirts event in California.

''I think I'm hitting the ball really well, which is a really good sign,'' Ko said. ''So, hopefully, I can hit like this the next couple days and get some putts going in.''

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.