Pettersen Leads Annika Seven Back

By Associated PressOctober 25, 2007, 4:00 pm
  PATTAYA CITY, Thailand -- Suzann Pettersen topped yet another LPGA Tour leaderboard Thursday, shooting a 7-under 65 in warm and breezy conditions to take a two-stroke lead over Canadian Alena Sharp in the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Seeking her second straight victory and third in four weeks, Pettersen missed an opportunity to take a much bigger first-round lead, playing the final seven holes in 1 over after birdieing eight of the first 11.
'These greens, you just have to attack where you can attack and, if you can't, then you have to play for the big center part,' Pettersen said. 'The greens are tough because the runoffs are so severe.'
The Norwegian star won last week in South Korea in cold and windy conditions.
'It's very warm, but the breeze makes it quite nice,' Pettersen said. 'So, I just tried to go out there and take what the course gave me. It's like last week, you could stand and talk about the shot and then, when it's your turn, the wind's turned.'
She shared attention with Thai amateur Ariya Jutanugarn, at 11 years, 11 months, 2 days the youngest qualifier to play an LPGA Tour event.
Jutanugarn, 10 strokes back after a 3-over 75, broke Michelle Wie's mark of 12 years, 4 months, 14 days set in the 2002 Takefuji Classic. Beverly Klass holds the overall record, playing a 1967 event in Dallas at 10 years, 6 months, 3 days.
Jutanugarn's 13-year-old sister, Moriya, served as her caddie.
Sharp, winless in two full seasons on the tour, had six birdies and a bogey in her 67 on the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club.
'Last week, you had to try to stay warm and, this week, you're sweating to death,' Sharp said. 'Mentally, I think, I knew last week, with the cold weather, a lot of girls wouldn't play very well. It's just harder in the cold. It's so much easier in the warmth. Now, you're looking for shade out here this week.'
Angela Park and Katherine Hull shot 68s.
'I didn't hit it great, but I didn't miss it badly, either,' said Hull, from Australia. 'I made a couple good putts and it all adds up. ... I'm just trying to get my timing back with my golf swing. It's still a little off, but it's not rocket science. I just try to hit the fairway, hit the green.'
Park three-putted the 18th for a bogey, missing from a foot.
'A little careless on the last hole,' Park said, 'but I played well throughout the whole day and I don't think I should let one putt put me down.
Annika Sorenstam, winless since September 2006, was seven shots behind at 72 along with Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Thai star Virada Nirapathpongporn.
Defending champion Hee-Won Han, making her first start since the birth of her first child this summer, topped a group at 69. Last year at Amata Spring, Han beat Diana D'Alessio by five strokes for her sixth LPGA Tour victory.
Kraft Nabisco winner Morgan Pressel and Japanese star Ai Miyazato struggled. Pressel shot a 75, and Miyazato's 79 left her tied for 56th in the 60-player field.
Pettersen birdied the first three holes and ran off three more on Nos. 6-8, hitting wedges within 4 feet for her first five birdies and holing a 20-footer for the sixth.
After parring No. 9 for a front-nine 30, she reached 8 under with two more short birdie putts on 10 and 11. She dropped strokes with three-putt bogeys on 13 and 16, but hit a wedge to 4 feet for a birdie on 18.
'We had a lot of short irons into the greens, but you still have to hold them,' Pettersen said. 'It's hard to adjust how much they're going to bounce and stuff. But, I'm playing great. I hit 16, 17 greens and had a lot of short putts for birdie.'
Sidelined for eight months in 2005 by a career-threatening ruptured disk in her back, the three-time Solheim Cup player has already had a career year.
After blowing a late three-stroke lead in the Kraft Nabisco, she rebounded to win the Michelob Ultra Open in May for her first LPGA Tour victory. Then in June at Bulle Rock, she took the McDonald's LPGA Championship for her first major.
She also won the Ladies European Tour's SAS Masters in August in Norway, and beat top-ranked Lorena Ochoa three weeks ago in a playoff in the Longs Drugs Challenge. In Pettersen's lone loss in the past three weeks, she was fifth in the Samsung after sharing the third-round lead with winner Ochoa.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Honda LPGA Thailand
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.