Notes Seves birthday Mickelson stalls on Saturday

By Associated PressApril 10, 2011, 5:10 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Seve Ballesteros’ birthday is still a big deal, even if he’s not at the Masters.

The two-time champion, who is not here as he battles brain cancer, turned 54 on Saturday. Several European players tweeted birthday wishes to the Spaniard before they teed off, including third-round leader Rory McIlroy, and Jose Maria Olazabal called Ballesteros before he left for Augusta National.

“I called to say 'Happy Birthday,’ and to pass along all of the good wishes from the rest of the champions,” said Olazabal, a fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner.

Earlier this week, Phil Mickelson went with a Spanish-themed Champions Dinner in Ballesteros’ honor.

Ballesteros is undergoing chemotherapy, which Olazabal said “takes a toll” on him. But he has been following the Masters, where Ballesteros’ second victory in 1983 set off a wave of dominance by European golfers. A European won the green jacket eight of the next 11 years.

“Obviously he roots for the Europeans, without a doubt, so he’s happy in that sense,” Olazabal said. “He always believed this golf course suited the Europeans better than the U.S. Open, for example.”

LEFTY’S LAMENT: Defending champion Phil Mickelson figured Saturday would be the day to go low and get back into the mix.

He barely moved.

Mickelson made only three birdies in the third round for a 71, leaving him nine shots out of the lead and in need of an improbable comeback if he wants to win a fourth green jacket and rise to No. 1 in the world.

After making 18 birdies last weekend to win the Houston Open, Mickelson feels he can’t make anything at all.

“Yeah, it’s been a little frustrating on the greens,” he said. “I putted so well last week at Houston, I expected to come out this week and kind of light it up. And I have struggled getting the right reads, I struggled getting the right speed. I just have struggled to get it going this week.”

That doesn’t mean he has given up.

The biggest comeback in Masters history was eight shots by Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, the year Ken Venturi shot 80.

“I’m going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday a lot can happen,” Mickelson said. “I’m not going to count myself out. I’ve shot low scores here before, I believe I can do it again and I’m going to give myself every opportunity tomorrow to do that.”
MOVING DAY MOVES: Adam Scott will take a 67 any day at Augusta National.

Doing it on 'Moving Day' at the Masters made it that much better.

The Australian made up some serious ground on the Masters leaderboard Saturday after matching Angel Cabrera and Bubba Watson for low round of the day. Tied for sixth at 7 under, Scott is five shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.

“I felt like I played OK the first two days, just a little bit off,” Scott said. “But today, everything kind of fell into place. It was nice to get a bit of momentum going and keep it going for most of the round.”

Cabrera, Watson, Charl Schwartzel and Bo Van Pelt also made big moves. Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion, and Schwartzel are tied for second at 8 under with K.J. Choi and Jason Day, while Van Pelt is in eighth place behind Scott and Luke Donald.

Going low is one way to climb the leaderboard. But Scott and Co. got a big assist from the guys who’d been ahead of them, too. The last five groups Saturday were a cumulative 11 over, with only McIlroy and Choi shooting below par.

“I think there was a little bit less expectations because those (last groups) are always going to have a little bit more pressure than what we had,” Schwartzel said. “No disrespect to them, but playing out in front there, I don’t think you’re going to go very far a lot of times unless you really get something going.

“It was almost nice to tee off where I did and sort of sneak in from behind.”

Scott hasn’t finished in the top 10 at the Masters since 2002, his first trip to Augusta National. But he arrived here full of confidence after a tie for sixth at Doral.

Then he opened with a 72, and played the first nine Friday at even par.

“I was just trying to not get frustrated with myself, because I was feeling so good,” Scott said. “Going into the back nine yesterday, I know I’m right around the cut line, and it’s never a nice place to be. I played a really solid back nine yesterday, and I was happy with that. But still, the rhythm of my golf swing isn’t quite where I felt it in practice, and even in the practice rounds. Today it fell back into place.

“I think I did a good job of not getting frustrated seeing everyone go low, and just fighting the momentum out there.”

Beginning the day at 2 under, Scott got rolling with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hole. He picked up two more strokes before the turn, only to give one back on the 10th. But he holed a 30-footer on 11 for a birdie, and eagled the par-5 13th. After two-putting from “100 feet almost” on the par-5 15th, Scott was at 8 under, with three holes still to play.

But Scott played those holes at 1 over.

Still, he can at least see the leaders.

“They always say the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday. I’ve got to get myself there first,” Scott said. “I’ve got still at least another solid nine holes to play before I’ve got a real chance.”
Rickie Fowler has one good memory to take from an otherwise disappointing afternoon.

The 22-year-old was paired Saturday with former Masters champion Fred Couples, who seems to shave a dozen years or so off his age any time he drives up Magnolia Lane. The 51-year-old, who won at Augusta National in 1992, is in contention for a second straight year, going into the final round tied for ninth at 5 under.

“A couple times I had to sit back and remind myself we’re playing the Masters on Saturday and I’m getting to play with Freddie, someone who I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid,” Fowler said. “It was obviously not the round I wanted, but I was just out there a couple times reminding myself to try to calm me down a little bit and relax.”

Fowler began the day tied for seventh after playing “Can you top this?” in the first two rounds with fellow whiz kids Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. But while McIlroy and Day were holding their own on Saturday, Fowler backed up with a 4-over 76. He’s now 1 under, 11 shots behind McIlroy.

“The game feels really good,” Fowler said. “I got a couple bad breaks and then made a couple bad swings that cost me. Some of those things just happened at the wrong time.”
Ernie Els was the first to tee off Saturday, having made the cut on the number. It’s an unusual spot for the three-time major champion, so he was surprised to find that he would have company.

Els played with a non-competing marker, Augusta National member Jeff Knox. The Big Easy could have played by himself, but Knox was already waiting when Els got to the first tee.

“We went and played,” Els said. “I didn’t ask any questions.”

Knox is no slouch, once shooting a 61 from the member tees at Augusta. Els wasn’t sure what he shot, although Knox held his own and often had the honors on the tee as Els struggled to a 76.

“He shot about the same as I did,” Els said. “He played really well.”

Asked if he was aware that Knox had shot 61 at Augusta, Els said: “He told me. Pretty impressive for any tees. I don’t care if you play off the ladies tees, that’s pretty impressive. So we’ll probably see him tomorrow again.”

If Knox plays, it will be with K.T. Kim, who shot a 78 and was in last place.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

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).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

Getty Images

Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.