Pernice Green grab Sony Open lead

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' On the kind of day where Tom Pernice Jr. kept his head down to battle the wind and rain, he looked up just in time to see his final shot disappear into the hole for eagle on Friday that gave him a 7-under 63 and a share of the lead in the Sony Open.
 
It was a fitting end of a second round that delivered a few surprises, starting with the weather.
 
Those 50 mph gusts in the forecast, which forced school closings across Oahu, never quite made it to this corner of the island, leaving Waialae wet and windy, but no worse than the opening round.
 
Tadd Fujikawa, the 18-year-old who turned pro after his sophomore year in high school, secured his first PGA Tour paycheck by ripping two shots onto the green at the par-5 ninth for a birdie and a 69.
 
But nothing was more stunning than Pernice making eagle into the strength of the wind, tying for the lead with Nathan Green (66).
 
The finish was spectacular, Pernice said. Youre not thinking about holing it from the fairway. It was tough out there today. Luckily, I scraped it around when I needed to and didnt make any bogeys, and just kind of hung in there.
 
Pernice and Green, who played in the morning, were at 8-under 132 going into a weekend that could be wide open.
 
Shigeki Maruyama had a 68 and was one shot behind, and the dozen players within four shots of the lead included former Masters champion Zach Johnson, Mercedes-Benz Championship winner Geoff Ogilvy, Boo Weekley and David Toms.
 
Only nine shots separated the top from the bottom.
 
Fujikawa finished his two rounds at even-par 140 and was eight shots behind, the same margin he faced in 2007 when he became the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour. He wound up tied for 20th that week, and was hopeful of something similar.
 
I have a lot of good memories from that year, Fujikawa said. I want to keep it going. Im playing well.
 
Lorens Chan, the 14-year-old amateur qualifier who was trying to become the youngest player in PGA Tour history to make the cut, lost hope early when he played his first nine holes in 42. He birdied two of the last three holes for a 75 and missed by six shots.
 
The par-5 ninth was the scene of other high drama.
 
Andres Romero, still struggling to find his form from his offseason rust, was headed home to Argentina until he holed an 18-foot birdie on the seventh, then made a 15-foot eagle putt on the ninth to make the cut on the number.
 
Davis Love III wasnt so fortunate. A runner-up last week at Kapalua that moved him to No. 54 in the world as he tries to qualify for the Masters, had a 12-foot eagle putt to make the cut, but he missed.
 
Johnson finished birdie-birdie-eagle to turn a decent day into a great one with a 65.
 
Even so, Pernice stole the show.
 
After ripping a driver and a 3-wood into the wind, he had 92 yards left to the hole, which typically would be a lob wedge. Pernice went with a punch pitching wedge just right of the hole, and it spun to the left and into the cup.
 
Its not necessarily something where you feel like youre going out and hitting every shot perfect, he said. Its not going to happen, even in these conditions, because your good shots dont always turn out good. The mentality was to hang in there and keep plugging along. Obviously, the eagle at the last was quite exciting.
 
Green didnt have too much excitement except for the fifth hole, when it started raining hard and he hooked his tee shot toward the hazard. It was one of the few times a player is happy to see a tree in the way, for it allowed him to escape with bogey.
 
That was the only glitch on an otherwise solid start to his season. And like so many other players, Green considered it a minor victory that he got to play at all considering the forecast.
 
All the news that maybe we wouldnt play had a few of us pretty scared, and that it was meant to blow all day, Green said. But you get patches out there where it was not really blowing at all. They have the tees forward on a lot of holes. So as long as you get your tee shot in the fairway, you still have a few fair opportunities to make birdie.
 
The rain was so strong at times that Greg Kraft had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and as the ball was not even halfway to the hole, he was running toward his caddie to get under the umbrella.
 
Toms watched the wind carry one shot across the green into the rough, but he chipped nicely to 3 feet for par. Then came the 17th, playing 188 yards, and Toms selected a 3-iron. He came up some 40 yards short of the hole.
 
Im hitting into the wind, trying to hang onto the club, everything soaking wet, he said. It was tough.
 
But it could have been much worse.
 
The course was slightly shorter, and the greens a little slower because the greens were cut only once in case of high wind.
 
Ernie Els, a two-time Sony Open champion who has never finished lower than fifth at Waialae, played bogey-free over the final 16 holes to scrape out a 69 and finish at 1-over 141 to make the cut on the number, as did former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger
 
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.