Notes From Russia with Love

By Associated PressJune 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Maria Kostina walked 100 yards away from the scoring tent to have a moment alone with her sister, distraught after making her U.S. Women's Open debut with an 89 at Pine Needles.
 
It was a momentous occasion Thursday, and it had nothing to do with her score.
 
Kostina, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Monday, became the first Russian to play in the U.S. Women's Open.
 
'To be honest, I felt very nervous,' Kostina said. 'I didn't feel very comfortable at all the first three holes, and then I was trying to limit the mistakes in my swing. I wanted to play better than this.'
 
Her 22-year-old sister, Anastasia, became the first Russian in the U.S. Women's Amateur two years ago, although she failed to advance to the match play portion of the tournament.
 
Both attended Washington State, and both now play on the Futures Tour.
 
How they got both places is amazing, especially considering they were born before Moscow even had a golf course.
 
The first 18-hole course in their country was built about 10 minutes from their home, in the Moscow suburb of Nakhabino. Although there was a program that allowed juniors to play for free, Kostina said there weren't many takers.
 
'I always liked to try new sports,' she said.
 
She started by hitting balls on the range, not realizing there was more to golf than that. But when she played her first round, from tee to green, she was hooked.
 
'We fell in love with it,' Anastasia Kostina said. 'We wanted to play every day. We stopped going on our summer vacations, because the summer is not very long, and we didn't want to miss a chance to play golf.'
 
Playing on a national team led Maria Kostina to Washington State, where she was an honorable mention on the All-Pac 10 team and an Academic All-American for two years. Anastasia followed her to Pullman, Wash., and both earned degrees in psychology.
 
On the Futures Tour, they get financial support from Russian friends who live in the United States, chasing their dreams. Even though it was a bad start at Pine Needles -- Maria took a 10 on the 17th by hitting two balls out-of-bounds -- she already has learned from her first trip to the Women's Open.
 
For one thing, she has never seen so many fans on a golf course.
 
'I like it when people watch me,' she said.
 
TRILINGUAL
She is one of six players with the surname Park at Pine Needles, but Angela Park has a history that sets her apart. Although her heritage is South Korean, she was born in Brazil, and she grew up in California, where she learned to play golf.
 
'I have citizenship in Brazil right now,' she said. 'When people ask me, 'Are you Brazilian, Korean, American,' I think I'm three of them all mixed up together. I'm not fully Korean. I speak English very well. I'm very accustomed to your American culture. But I was also born in Brazil. I speak the language, and I have family in Brazil. So I kind of mix and match everything.'
 
Park, 18, contemplated college after her sophomore year of high school but decided that summer she wanted to turn pro.
 
She's a rookie on the LPGA Tour this year, having finished fifth at Q-school. Already she has led after the first round at two tournaments, including the LPGA Championship. Perhaps more amazing for a rookie, she has yet to miss a cut and is 13th on the money list.
 
'That was one of my goals coming into this year, not missing any cuts at all,' she said.
 
SPIDERWOMAN
It was an itsy-bitsy spider, but it caused Morgan Pressel plenty of concern.
 
She saw what looked to be a small black ant on her ankle, but it turned out to be a spider. The bite caused her ankle to swell so much that the LPGA Tour's youngest major champion in history walked with a limp Wednesday and had to cut her practice round to nine holes.
 
Much to her relief, the swelling subsided.
 
'It's still a little swollen, but it's gone down a lot, and I had no pain when I was swinging,' Pressel said. 'So that's good.'
 
Pressel opened with a 71 on Thursday, six shots better than the score she posted in her first U.S. Women's Open six years ago when she was 13, at the time the youngest qualifier.
 
STORE BOUGHT
Cristie Kerr is starting to putt better, even though it took money out of her pocket.
 
Kerr was in South Korea six weeks ago when she got so frustrated with her putting that she visited a pro shop, tried four or five putters and bought the one that felt the best. She shot a 3 under the next day, then returned to the LPGA Tour and finished third at the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina.
 
'I went to the Ping representative and said, 'Does it look like it sets up for me? Because it feels pretty good,'' Kerr said after opening with an even-par 71. 'I'll buy every putter if I putt that well with it.'
 
FAMILY TIME
Lorena Ochoa always gets plenty of support whenever she plays, but this week she can recognize faces in the crowd.
 
'My family is here watching me play, and I think it was very special for my mom to be there, too,' Ochoa said.
 
She said her mother, two aunts and three close friends from Mexico are at Pine Needles, and her brother, Alejandro, was due to arrive Thursday afternoon. Her mother attends about 10 tournaments a year.
 
Maybe it's a good omen.
 
Karrie Webb's mother made the trip from Australia in 1999 and was at the du Maurier Classic when Webb won her first major.
 
Related Links:
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    Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

    Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

    “While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

    It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

    “What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

    The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

    “I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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    Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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    Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

    Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

    Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

    1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

    2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

    3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

    4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

    5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

    6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

    7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

    8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

    9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

    10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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    Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

    It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

    Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

    "The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

    Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

    That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

    "You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

    "But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."