Nicholas Thompson Briny Baird lead after first round

By Associated PressApril 3, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 Shell Houston OpenHUMBLE, Texas ' Nicholas Thompson and Briny Baird took advantage of calm, clear conditions Friday to shoot 7-under 65s and lead after the weather-delayed first round of the Shell Houston Open.
 
John Senden joined the leaders with a 65 later in the day and Paul Casey, James Nitties and Tommy Armour III were among the group one shot back when the opening round ended late Friday afternoon. The first round resumed under blue skies and mild breezes after high winds forced the suspension of play Thursday.
 
Fred Couples and Justin Leonard posted early 68s Friday.
 
The 26-year-old Nitties had the best score among the 72 players who had their rounds stopped on Thursday. Phil Mickelson didnt deal with the interruption nearly as well, stumbling to a 77.
 
The players who wrapped up their first rounds on Friday morning were not teeing off again until Saturday morning. The rest of the field played their first rounds on Friday and then hardly got a break before starting their second 18.
 
Thompson had eight birdies and a bogey on Friday, his best round in 11 starts this year. He walked off No. 18, stopped for a quick interview, then raced to a a waiting cart to head to No. 10 and start his second round.
 
Baird, playing in the group behind Thompson, didnt even stop for reporters, grabbing a sandwich from a cooler before another cart whisked him off to the 10th tee. Baird moved to 9-under early in the second round as players raced the sun.
 
The 26-year-old Thompson felt fortunate to avoid the wind gusts that reached 50 mph on Thursday. But he said any advantage that group gained would even out because the other players got to rest most of Friday.
 
You never know whats going to go on, Thompson said. Luckily, the guys that did tee off yesterday (Thursday), didnt have to play too many holes (Friday). Its not like they sent them back out. Some guys only had to play three holes.
 
Most of the worlds top players ' 15 of the top 20 ' flocked to The Tournament Course at Redstone to tune up for next weeks Masters. Nitties needs a victory here to join them after only earning his tour card last year, his fourth try at qualifying school. He already has two top-10 finishes, but has set modest goals for this week and 2009.
 
In other words, dont count him among the group ready to challenge Tiger Woods.
 
Im not the type of guy saying, Im going to be No. 1 in the world, because Im realistic, said the Australian. My goal is to get to Top-10 in the world. If I can do that, then Ill reassess my goals. As long as Tiger is around, Im never going to get to No. 1.
 
It annoys me when people come out and they just say theyre going to be No. 1, when they just clearly know that its impossible to beat the best of all time.
 
Woods bypassed Houston, sticking to his usual routine of skipping the run-up event to a major.
 
But the comfortable weather drew big crowds Friday and they got an early morning treat when fan favorite Couples birdied four of his first seven holes. He three-putted No. 6, but still wound up with his fourth straight sub-70 round at Redstone.
 
I like the course, said Couples, who played for the University of Houston. A lot of it is shaping it, and the way your eye looks at it.
 
Divots: Defending champion Johnson Wagner, whos missed six cuts in 10 starts this year, shot a 2-under 70 in the first round. Theres nothing about this place I dont like, Wagner said. There are a lot of birdies out there, and I know where they are. Chris Couch withdrew after three holes on Friday with a shoulder injury. Greg Norman, making a rare appearance on the regular tour to prepare for the Masters, had two birdies on Friday to finish a 71. Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, rode around the course on a cart, waving to fans and watching the tournament. The Bushes live in Houston.
 
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    J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Make way for Jin Young Ko.

    The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

    Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

    Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.


    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


    Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

    Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

    “I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

    Ko finished at 14 under overall.

    It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

    Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

    Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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    Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

    It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

    Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

    ''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

    ''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.


    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


    ''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

    Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

    Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

    ''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

    Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

    Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

    The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.

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    J.Y. Ko wins Women's Australian Open by three

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:10 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - South Korea's Jin Young Ko shot a 3-under par 69 Sunday to clinch a 3-shot, start-to-finish win the Women's Australian Open.

    Playing in her first tournament as a full LPGA member, Ko shot 65, 69, 71, 69 to lead after all four rounds and to finish with a total of 274, 14-under par at the Kooyonga Golf Club. She is the first player to win her first tournament as an LPGA member in the tour's 67-year history.

    Ko started the day four shots clear of 21-year-old Hannah Green, who was bidding to become the first Australian to win her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014.

    Green played solidly in the final group with Ko, shooting 69 and missing a birdie on the 18th which cost her a share of second place.

    The stiffest challenge Sunday came from Ko's compatriot Hyejin Choi who closed within a shot at the turn, carding four birdies on her first nine holes. Ko began with birdies at the first and second holes, then stumbled with bogeys on the par-3 third and seventh holes.

    But just as her lead came under threat, she found another gear, birdying the ninth hole to regain a two-shot lead. She then pulled away with birdies at the 13th and 17th in what seemed a nerveless finish, showing the experience gained as a 10-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour.


    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


    She ended with a regulation par on the 18th to claim her second LPGA title after previously winning the co-sanctioned KEB-Hana Bank Championship.

    Ko said she felt ''lots'' of nerves over the final round. Asked her reaction when she holed out on 18, she said ''relief.''

    ''I thought I could do it but I felt I had to play my game and enjoy the game,'' Ko said. ''My goal this week was firstly to make the cut and second to enjoy the game.

    ''But I won this week so I don't know what that might mean. My goal is Rookie of the Year.'' Asked by a reporter whether Player of the Year was a realistic option, Ko replied: ''No, not yet.''

    Ko started the tournament ranked 20 but could be close to the top-10 by the start of the next LPGA tour stop in Thailand next weekend.

    Choi was relentless in pursuit, the only player other than Ko to beat par in all four rounds. She shot 69, 71, 70, 67 on the par-72 layout, finishing at 277, 11 under par.

    Green, in her rookie season, had rounds of 69, 74, 66, 69 to finish third at 10-under, one shot ahead of compatriot Katherine Kirk, who finished with a 7-under 65, the day's best round.

    ''I started off really well,'' Green said. ''My goal was to get into every major and I know that's quite hard being a rookie this year. So hopefully I've made enough money and keep making money to ensure I'm definitely in.''

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    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.