Pettersen Leads Big Names Close

By Associated PressJune 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- Suzann Pettersen appears to have put a major collapse behind her.
 
Ten weeks after she self-destructed down the stretch in Kraft Nabisco Championship, Pettersen birdied three of her last four holes Friday just in time to escape the heat, posting a 5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead over Karrie Webb in the LPGA Championship.
 
'I forgot about that a long time ago,' Pettersen said of her collapse in California, where she played her last four holes in 4 over to finish one shot behind Morgan Pressel. 'I didn't look at it as a collapse. I looked at it as what I can do different, so I do stronger when I get to the next tournament and I'm in the same situation.'
 
All that mattered at broiling Bulle Rock was finding some shade.
 
With temperatures in the 90s and no cloud cover, players who teed off in the afternoon carried umbrellas to shield the sun and guzzled water to keep hydrated. Pettersen teed off early and was at 8-under 136 before the course started to cook.
 
'I was lucky being on this side of the draw,' the fair-skinned Norwegian said. 'Already on the front I was heating up pretty bad, and on the back nine, there are some places that just seem to be sheltered from the breeze. So it's boiling.'
 
Michelle Wie also played in the morning. By the end of the day, the 17-year-old from Hawaii was lucky to still be in the tournament.
 
She bogeyed her last hole for a 74 that left her at 3-over 147, and it looked as though she would miss the cut by one shot. While she may not feel she owes anyone an apology, Wie probably owes thanks to Karen Davies.
 
Playing in the final group, Davies bogeyed the last hole to allow 14 other players -- Wie included -- to tie for 70th and make the cut.
 
Wie was 11 shots behind.
 
Pettersen has the lead, but that's about it. Webb continues to hit the ball so well that she was slightly disgusted with her 69.
 
Big-hitting Brittany Lincicome shot 69 and was two shots behind with former U.S. Women's Open champion Birdie Kim (71). The group at 5-under 139 included Pressel (71) and Annika Sorenstam, who birdied her last two holes for a 69.
 
Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player but without a major, hurt herself with a double bogey when she went long on the fourth green and wound up with a second straight 71 to finish at 142, six shots behind. But she is known to run off birdies by the bundles, and the Mexican star was not about to lose hope this week.
 
'That's what I wanted to do today,' she said. 'Maybe tomorrow.'
 
Wie continued to keep driver in the bag and conceded that her chances of winning this week were unrealistic on a course where she is playing with more caution than abandon. Even so, she had few complaints.
 
'This was 5,000 times better than last week,' said Wie, and that was before she knew she was playing on the weekend.
 
She quit after 16 holes at the Ginn Tribute, withdrawing under suspicion that she was trying to duck the LPGA Tour's 'Rule 88,' which bans non-tour members for the year if they don't break 88 in a round.
 
Wie showed plenty of fight Friday, making consecutive birdies to give herself a chance at making the cut.
 
Even after soap opera week of withdrawing from the Ginn Tribute, showing up at Bulle Rock two days later to hit balls and receiving strong rebukes from Sorenstam and LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens for her conduct, the focus is slowly shifting to those who actually have a chance to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
 
Pettersen has enormous talent, and is showing equal parts resiliency.
 
Her meltdown at Nabisco was as severe as in any major, yet she bounced back to capture her first LPGA title a month later at the Michelob Ultra Open. The next step is atoning in a major championship, and she certainly looked capable over two days at Bulle Rock.
 
But her fine play means teeing off in the afternoon Saturday.
 
The sun was so intense late in the afternoon that the largest gallery contained about 75 people who followed Sorenstam, although she made it worth their while. Slowed by a double bogey on the par-5 second hole when she drove into the hazard, she birdied her last three holes for a 69 that put her in contention earlier than she expected.
 
Sorenstam missed two months of competition with back and neck injuries, returning last week to tie for 36th.
 
'I still have some bad shots in me and therefore, I don't want to raise the bar too soon,' Sorenstam said. 'I'm just happy to have two rounds under par. I might be a little injured physically, but let me tell you, mentally I'm not. I'm probably as strong as ever.'
 
Lincicome probably summed up the heat as well as anyone. She walked up the slope to the seventh tee and plopped down in a plastic chair and waited until it was her turn to hit.
 
'I'm more tired now than I've ever been in my life,' Lincicome said. 'We were counting the holes down starting on the back, and that wasn't a good idea because they didn't seem like they were ever going to end.'
 
Good thing she heard there was a slight chance for thunderstorms late in the afternoon. She put her umbrella in the bag to be safe, and wound up using in on the final holes to shield her fair skin from the sun.
 
'I felt like a girl out there,' she said.
 
Webb also made a strong recovery. Right when she was poised to take the lead, she took double bogey on the par-3 third hole by missing the green to the left, but hit 5-iron to 10 feet on the uphill fifth hole for birdie, added a 6-foot birdie on the sixth and was in the final group at a major where she lost last year in a playoff.
 
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  • 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.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes