Notes Leonard Lifts Heavy Burden

By Associated PressNovember 21, 2003, 5:00 pm
GEORGE, South Africa -- Justin Leonard won the first Presidents Cup match he ever played in 1996. He had to wait seven years for the next one.
His record in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup was 1-9-5 coming into these matches, and it began to weigh on him when he and Jim Furyk went from a 2-up lead to a shocking loss over the final three holes in the first round at Fancourt.
He finally got his redemption Friday.
'That was a huge burden,'' Leonard said after teaming with Chris DiMarco in the morning (better-ball) and Furyk in the afternoon (alternate shot) for two victories.
'I was pretty down yesterday,'' he said. 'To finally win a match, that freed me up for the afternoon.''
It wasn't easy.
Leonard and DiMarco were 3-up with four holes to play when Vijay Singh and Nick Price won two of the next three, setting the stage for more disappointment on the 18th.
DiMarco came through with a second shot of 60 feet on the par-5 closing hole, and a lag to within inches for birdie. When Singh failed to chip in for eagle, Leonard had his victory.
The afternoon match was far less stressful.
Leonard and Furyk won three straight holes on the front nine and picked up another point without having to play the final four holes against Singh and Mike Weir.
Phil Mickelson, coming off his worst season since he started playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour, has been making his share of putts this week, but continues to his struggle off the tee.
U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus still sent him out in the alternate-shot match Friday which is best-suited for guys who keep the ball in play.
Nicklaus was asked he had seen much of Mickelson this week.
'He's been hard to find,'' Nicklaus said as the room erupted in laughter.
'He'll do fine,'' Nicklaus added. 'He's so anxious to play, and play well. I've had Phil on teams before, and I've never seen him so enthused to want to play well.''
Mickelson certainly tried, holing a key birdie putt on the 17th to stay in the match. He and Chris DiMarco lost, 1-up, when Ernie Els holed an eagle chip off the green.
Mickelson is the only American who has not won a point.
The International team has five Australians, all of whom will be playing in the alternate-shot matches Saturday.
That means they will miss the Australia-England final in the World Cup Rugby, which starts at 11 AM locally, about 30 minutes before the matches begin.
South Africa was eliminated two weeks ago, but has an intense rivalry with Australia.
'With rugby and golf, I'm hugging them one day and booting them the next,'' captain Gary Player said.
Adam Scott jokingly said his future was on the line Saturday.
'They had better win or I'll not be going back to Europe,'' the young Aussie said. 'I can barely show my face in London. I'll be in the States.''
The two oldest players for the United States - 49-year-old Jay Haas and 47-year-old Fred Funk - have each sat out a session.
Nicklaus said Haas asked for the break Friday afternoon, the only day of two matches.
Also asking for a break was Davis Love III, who suffered a migraine earlier in the week and also has nagging back and neck problems.
'I told Jack that I'd prefer to sit out, but not if he wanted to keep me out there. I mean, it's only really half of a match,'' Love said, referring to the alternate-shot format.
Nicklaus decided to sit him. Love also sat out during one of the four team sessions at the Ryder Cup last year.
'As you know, Davis had a little probem with his neck earlier in the week and he just said, 'If you can rest me, I'd like to. If not, I'll play,''' Nicklaus said. 'And we just felt Davis wanted to rest, so let him rest.''
DIVOTS: Five International team members have played all three matches with different partners - Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark and K.J. Choi. No American has had more than two partners so far, while Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III are the only team to play three matches together. ... Ernie Els said he had intended to invite the Americans to his beach house for a barbecue Friday night, but that his house was too small. ``Maybe Sunday,'' he said with a grin. ... Nicklaus and International captain Gary Player skipped their press conference Friday night so they wouldn't be late to the gala dinner, attended by former President Bush and South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Related Links:
  • Presidents Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
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    Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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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.”