Pettersson Sensational at Sunrise

By Associated PressMarch 11, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- All those worried about tough greens and high numbers in the Honda Classic must have wondered whether Carl Pettersson played the wrong course at Mirasol.
Pettersson was in the right place Thursday, and conditions could not have been better. The result was a 9-under 63, giving him a two-stroke lead and leaving everyone else thankful that PGA Tour officials went easy on them with the way the Sunrise Course was set up.
'It wasn't playing as tough as it could have,' Pettersson said. 'They've got the pins in slightly easier spots. They could put them in ridiculous places. Glad they didn't.'
Mark Hensby, who faced slightly stronger breezes late in the afternoon, birdied four straight holes late in his round for a 65. Steve Flesch, Jesper Parnevik and Rory Sabbatini were another stroke back.
Sunrise wasn't the pushover that the adjacent Sunset Course was last year, when the cut was a record 6 under and 13 players finished at 20 under or better.
But it played so difficult during the pro-am round Wednesday, when a strong wind came out of the opposite direction, that some players were bracing for the worst.
John Riegger, among those at 67, played only nine holes during a practice round, called his wife and asked if she could bring the kids down for a vacation. His oldest daughter is in driver's education, so he had to stick around.
'I didn't see that kind of score, put it that way,' Riegger said. 'I think the only reason the golf course was playable today was the tour officials did an outstanding job of setting up the golf course.'
The 246-yard third hole played from a forward tee at 158 yards.
Most hole locations on PGA Tour courses are four paces from the edge. There were only three such placements in the first round, which helps because the elevated greens drop off severely on all sides.
That was no accident.
'We're trying to err on the conservative side,' rules official Tony Wallin said. 'The course is young. It only opened in November. It's hard, dry and fast. And if you err on the non-conservative side, that's when you really get in trouble, because then things can just go crazy.'
Pettersson went crazy in a good way.
The 26-year-old Swede, who moved to England when he was 10 and to North Carolina as a teenager, matched his best score on the PGA Tour with a bogey-free round.
After saving par with a 20-foot putt on No. 10, he holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th - another tee that was moved up 23 yards to play at 208 yards - and closed out his round with a 7-iron into 6 inches on the 18th.
'I obviously made a lot of putts to shoot 9 under,' he said. 'I've played better rounds tee-to-green, but I made the putts, which is a huge difference.'
Fred Couples, who predicted Wednesday that 75 would only be a mediocre score if the pins were tucked, shot 30 on his back nine and was in a large group at 68 that included Brad Faxon and Robert Allenby.
Davis Love III was cruising along at 5 under until he missed the green four straight times, and only got up-and-down from the collection area three times. He wound up with a 69.
'It's a little fun, but a little bit frustrating,' Love said.
He wasn't the least bit surprised that Pettersson shot such a low score, and had so much company.
'They talk for two to three days about how hard it is, and someone goes and shoot 7 or 8 under,' Love said. 'It happens all the time.'
The players got some help from the PGA Tour, but that can change.
All it takes is a little wind - 'I can take the Kevlar vest off today because the wind isn't blowing,' Wallin said - and a few more tough hole locations.
'I'm quite comfortable as it is,' Sabbatini said. 'I don't think they need to set it up any harder.'
Flesch wasn't sure which direction the breeze was blowing, only that it was favorable. Players had help on the long par 4s and most of the par 5s, allowing them to reach in two.
'Let's hope it stays that way until Monday,' he said.
Divots:@ No one had a rougher start than J.P. Hayes. He started at No. 10 and hit his first two drives out of bounds. Both times he had to walk back to the tee, and he finally took a quadruple-bogey 8. Hayes finished with an 80. ... Former Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange made his '04 debut with an 82. ... Mitch Knox, the caddie for David Duval, is working at the Honda Classic for 20-year-old Kevin Na, who opened with a 67. 'I got fired from Wal-Mart, so I had to do something,' Knox joked. Duval, who got married Saturday, has not played on the PGA Tour since October and has not said when he will return. ... Mark Calcavecchia, who has been dealing with a rib injury, withdrew after nine holes.
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    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.

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    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.”

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    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.

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    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.