Pak Pettersen Tied Creamer Just One Back

By Associated PressMarch 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Se Ri Pak kept her mistakes to a minimum, finished with a 35-foot birdie putt and now stands one round away from becoming the seventh woman to complete the career Grand Slam.
 
Lorena Ochoa made a whopper of a mistake that might cost her a chance to win her first major and move to No. 1 in the world.
 
The 25-year-old Mexican star whiffed a flop shot on her way to a quadruple bogey on the par-3 17th hole Saturday, leaving Pak and Suzann Pettersen atop the leaderboard at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a major no one seems to want to win.
 
If Saturday was any indication, the tournament could come down to who doesn't lose it.
 
Pak overcame some short-game gaffes over the closing holes with a birdie putt from the back of the green that dropped on its final turn, leaving her with a 2-under 70 and a chance to capture the last leg of the Grand Slam.
 
Pettersen chipped to 18 inches for tap-in birdie on the 18th for a 71 that allowed her to join Pak at 4-under 212.
 
When a wild day in the desert finally came to a close, the Kraft Nabisco was up for grabs.
 
Paula Creamer had a wedge into the par-5 18th and walked off with a three-putt bogey for a 73 that put her one shot behind along with Meaghan Francella (69). Big-hitting Brittany Lincicome eagled the final hole for a 71 and was another shot behind.
 
But the buzz came from Ochoa, for all the wrong reasons.
 
She was 3 under and one shot behind on the 17th when her 6-iron clipped a tree and her pitch to a back left pin went long into grass so deep she could barely see the ball. Trying to hit a flop shot, the club slid under the ball without moving it. Her fourth shot ran down the ridge some 45 feet away. Three putts later she had a 7 on her card and was no longer in the top 10.
 
Ochoa wound up with a 77 and was five shots behind.
 
'I was one behind, and suddenly I'm way back,' Ochoa said in clipped answers, still seething over her bad fortune. 'I'm OK. I'm happy to be here for tomorrow. I'm glad I'll be playing behind now. I have nothing to lose. Hopefully, I'll put pressure on the leaders.'
 
There was plenty of pressure in the third round, most of that coming from a baked course at Mission Hills that put a high premium on keeping the ball in the short grass.
 
Five players had at least a share of the lead at one point on a blistering hot afternoon.
 
Pak, who has never finished higher than ninth in this major, got to 5 under with an approach that hit the flag and settled 2 feet away on the 13th to take the lead. Then came a couple of bogeys, electing to use putter from short of the green on the 15th, and flubbing a chip over a hump in the fringe on the 17th that made her work for bogey.
 
But she was all smiles leaving the 18th after her big birdie, and knows exactly what is at stake Sunday.
 
'You can't really think of that out,' Pak said. 'There's just so much trouble out there. Even par is a good score.'
 
One advantage for Pak?
 
Of the top 15 players on the leaderboard, she is the only one to have captured a major.
 
'I don't really have much pressure because I've been there a lot of times,' she said.
 
It will be a first for Pettersen, the feisty Norwegian who missed eighth months a few years ago with a back injury. She managed a relatively quiet round, picking up birdies on two par 5s, limiting her mistake to only the 13th hole when it took her four shots to reach the green during some adventures in the high grass.
 
The surprise in many cases is Francella.
 
The only time the 24-year-old rookie had been to Mission Hills was for Q-school, and she wasn't even in the tournament until beating Annika Sorenstam in a playoff in Mexico earlier this month.
 
'Anything that happens after I got in would be a bonus,' she said.
 
She will play in the final group with Pak and Pettersen.
 
Sorenstam, meanwhile, turned into another face in the crowd. After her worst 36-hole start in a major since she was an amateur, the Swede teed off on the back nine, shot 71 and was 10 shots behind.
 
'When you're teeing off on the 10th hole in a major, it doesn't feel like you're in a major anymore,' Sorenstam said. 'I didn't have a single butterfly today. It's not like I'm out there focusing on the score, what it should be and what it is now.'
 
Creamer has never held a 54-hole lead or played in the final group at a major, and it was there for the taking when she had wedge into the par-5 18th. But she went long onto the fringe, blew her putt some 6 feet by the hole and took bogey.
 
Still, she has a great chance -- along with so many others.
 
'The last five groups, there's going to be a lot of us in contention,' she said.
 
Indeed, there were 13 players separated by five shots going into the final round, and Ochoa is one of them. Her hopes are buoyed by last year, when Karrie Webb came from seven shots behind on the final day to win a playoff.
 
'I'm waiting for something special tomorrow,' Ochoa said.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.