Notes Baird Gets Wedding Gift
Thanks to a wedding in Hawaii, he's in the $7 million tournament.
Kirk Triplett has decided not to play at La Costa because his best friend is getting married, his agent said Tuesday.
If no one else withdraws, Baird would draw Tiger Woods in the first round.
Triplett has never made it past the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, although his agent said he never considered showing up to get guaranteed money.
''That wouldn't be fair to the rest of the field,'' Ron Graham said.
El Paso vs. Hazeltine
The relationship between Rich Beem and Hazeltine National Golf Club did not end when he held off Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship.
Hazeltine gave Beem an honorary membership -- and got a friendly rival in return.
The PGA champion was simply beaming after his El Paso Country Club hammered Hazeltine two weeks ago in what has become a grudge match.
''The bragging rights are only going to get bigger,'' Beem said.
It started last summer, when Hazeltine wanted to give Beem an honorary membership at the club outside Minneapolis. Beem brought a group of members from his home club, and they wound up playing a friendly match. Hazeltine won big, although Beem chose not to get into details.
''The weather was horrible,'' he said.
''We had a good time, if you can have a good time getting your (behind) kicked,'' added El Paso member Greg Johns.
El Paso wanted a rematch, and it went to great lengths to secure homefield advantage.
Hazeltine is under 2 feet of snow this time of the year, and its members are in the middle of golf hibernation. El Paso invited the 11-man squad to west Texas the first weekend in February.
''We picked a time that would be advantageous to us -- their winter, when they haven't picked up a club,'' Johns said. ''We don't miss many days because of the weather. I think we engineered it very well.''
It wasn't just the dates.
Johns said one Hazeltine member had to pull out three days before the rematch with a wrist injury. His spot was taken by El Paso's general manager, who used to belong at Hazeltine.
''He plays only twice a year, so we immediately thought he should fill in,'' Johns said.
Playing a points-based Nassau -- one point for the front nine, one for the back and one for the 18 holes -- El Paso squeaked by with a 30-6 victory.
''These guys were fun,'' Johns said. ''They were gracious winners and sore losers. And that's the way it should be.''
Throwing in the Towel
Laura Davies beat only one player in the ANZ Championship, and while she said that was probably her last time competing against the men, she had no regrets.
''I'd rather have had a go and not made the cut and finished poorly than just sit back and turn the invitation down, because I would always have been wondering,'' she said. ''Now I know.''
When she was at the top of her game, Davies played a four-day exhibition in Asia against eight men and finished last, 39 strokes behind Vijay Singh. She played the Korean Open last fall and missed the cut by four shots.
Next in Line
Another 14-year-old girl will be teeing it up against the men, this time in South Africa.
Ashleigh Simon, the top female amateur in South Africa, has been invited to play this week in the Tour Championship at Leopard Creek.
Simon, a member of Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, started playing when she was 6 and played in her first tournament at 11. She already has won six titles, including the KwaZulu Natal Championships.
Some used to joke that the Presidents Cup was between the United States and an International team that lives in Orlando, Fla.
The flip side of that is the Tavistock Cup, competition between two Orlando clubs whose rosters are loaded with players from all over the world.
The Tavistock Cup is an exhibition March 29-30 between Lake Nona Golf and Country Club and Isleworth County Club, where several professionals live.
Ernie Els is captain of an eight-member team at Lake Nona with no Americans. It includes three South Africans (Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman), three Englishmen (Nick Faldo, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose), a Spaniard (Sergio Garcia) and a Swede (Annika Sorenstam).
Mark O'Meara leads the Isleworth team, minus Tiger Woods, who would rather get ready for The Masters that week. It also includes Americans in Scott Hoch, Lee Janzen and Charles Howell III, along with Aussies Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby and Darren Clarke, a newcomer from Northern Ireland.
Each player on the winning team gets $100,000, while a meager $50,000 goes to the losing team players. There also will be $100,000 for the lowest score of the second day.
Annika Sorenstam keeps saying she won't play on the PGA Tour again, although that hasn't kept the Chrysler Classic of Tucson from trying. Tournament officials have called her agent three times offering her a spot in the field. ... For the first time since the World Ranking began in 1986, no European is among the top 10. ... Among early trends on the PGA Tour, three of the first six tournaments have been decided in playoffs. Also, Ernie Els, at the Sony Open, is the only winner this year who did not have at least a share of the lead going into the final round.
Stat of the Week
Phil Mickelson has started the season with four straight finishes in the top 10, the first time he has done that in his 12-year PGA Tour career.
'I think I can play that good again.''
-- Tiger Woods, who won 23 of 59 times during a three-year stretch on the PGA Tour.
Final Word, part II
'You better. I'm building two race cars.''
-- Steve Williams, who races cars in New Zealand when he's not on the bag for Woods.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
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.”
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.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
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.
“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.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
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).
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.
Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF
PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”
She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.
That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.
With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.
Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.
Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.
Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?
“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”
Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.
“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”
Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.
“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”
About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.
“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.
Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.
While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.
“You never know,” she said.