Scott ties record, leads crowded Open leaderboard

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2012, 10:20 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Unlike the guys in charge of the weather forecast, Adam Scott got everything just about right Thursday in the British Open.

Scott was determined not to take himself out of contention in the opening round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, as he had done in the first two majors this year. Caddie Steve Williams gave him a pep talk to play the first hole like it was the last one. Even more inspiration came from the international flags posted above the massive grandstand down the left side of the first tee.

They weren't flapping. They were sagging.

In surprisingly calm conditions, Scott raced out to the lead and almost into the record book. He stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie to break the major championship scoring record, and instead made bogey to settle for a 6-under 64.

It matched the lowest Open round ever at Royal Lytham and gave the Australian a one-shot lead over Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts.

''It was just like a nice walk in the park today,'' Scott said. ''And it was not what we've experienced in the practice rounds. I'm sure there's going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days, so just going to have to knuckle down to handle that. But I'm confident. My ball striking is good. I think I can get it around no matter what the conditions are.''

The proof was in limp flags and red numbers on the scoreboards.

Scott was among three dozen players with rounds in the 60s, a group that included Tiger Woods. Trying to end a four-year drought in the majors, Woods raced out to four birdies in seven holes to take the early lead, only to settle into a series of pars and one adventure through grass up to his knees for a lone bogey that gave him a 67. In his third Open at Lytham, Woods said it was as easy as he had ever seen it play.

''The wind wasn't blowing, and we're backing golf balls up,'' Woods said. ''That's something we just don't see.''

Lawrie won his British Open in nasty conditions at Carnoustie in 1999, and the Scot showed he could handle the calm weather with equal aplomb. He ran off three birdies over the last five holes. Johnson, who won the 2006 Masters in the wind and cold at Augusta National, flirted with a major record-tying 63 until a bogey on the 17th hole. Colsaerts, the big hitter from Belgium, holed out with an 8-iron on the 481-yard second hole for eagle and added four birdies for his 65.

Brandt Snedeker was another shot behind at 66.

''We had a little wind early on the front nine, but it kind of calmed down the second half,'' Snedeker said ''That's the best Americans are going to see over here.''

Rory McIlroy was panned last summer at Royal St. George's for saying he prefers calm conditions, so maybe this was more to his liking. He wound up in the group at 67 after a wild day filled with great shots, bad luck and a bump on the head for a 16-year-old spectator standing in the wrong spot.

McIlroy was at 3 under with four holes remaining when his drive on the 15th hole sailed to the right of the fairway. It plunked the teenager in the head and caromed farther to the right. The teen was OK. The ball settled a few inches beyond the out-of-bounds stakes near a corporate tent, sending McIlroy back to the tee to play his third shot. McIlroy gave the lad a glove on which he wrote ''Sorry'' with a frown face and ''Rory.''

''He could have headed it the other way,'' McIlroy joked later. ''It would have been on the fairway.''

He bounced back from that double bogey by driving the 336-yard 16th hole and two-putting for birdie, then making birdie on the final hole to join guys like Ernie Els, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker, who followed an eagle from the 13th fairway with a double bogey on the next hole.

One sign of the easy scoring was that no one shot in the 80s. That hasn't happened in the opening round of the British Open since 1998 at Royal Birkdale, where conditions also were benign. Woods opened with a 65 that year, only to get blown away in bad weather the next round.

Perhaps bad weather is on the way. The forecast hasn't been nearly as accurate as Scott was with his tee shots on Thursday – sunshine when it calls for rain, clouds when the forecast is for dry spells.

Els and his caddie, Ricci Roberts, figured out immediately that dead calm translates to low scores.

''It's on today,'' he said. ''I said to Ricci, 'I might not have the chance again.' You never know how the weather is going to be.''

But even in such weather suited for low scores, Lytham still required tee shots in the fairway. It still demanded good shots. And it was a struggle for some.

Lee Westwood, despite a birdie-birdie start, hit a bunker shot across the third green to take double bogey, and had to play a left-handed shot out of the back end of a pot bunker on the 13th hole as he staggered to a 73. Luke Donald made a sloppy bogey - his only one of the round - on the final hole for a 70. Justin Rose played in the same group as Woods and already was nine shots behind after eight holes. He rallied for a 74.

Lytham was there for the taking – as long as the tee shots found the fairway.

Phil Mickelson, a runner-up at Royal St. George's last year, went from the left rough to the right rough on the par-5 seventh to make double bogey on the easy hole at Lytham. On the next hole, he tried to hit wedge out of a pot bunker and it got snagged in high grass just over the lip. A small search party nearly didn't find it, and Mickelson had to take a penalty shot to drop it back in the fairway.

''I putted poorly today and I drove it horrific and the chipping was below average,'' he said.

Scott had no such issues. After an early bogey when he got out of position on the third hole, he warmed up with birdies on the sixth and seventh holes, and then ran off three straight birdies on the back nine, starting with the 598-yard 11th hole that he reached in two shots.

Royal Lytham was changed to a par 70 this year, and with a birdie on the 16th that put him at 7 under, Scott needed one more birdie to become the first player with a 62 in the majors. There have been 25 rounds of 63.

''I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee and I did a look at the leaderboard and realized it was a par 70,'' he said. ''And I also probably then realized that I wasn't going to be the guy to shoot 62. It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that.''

He slightly pulled a 2-iron off the tee on the 18th, played out of the thick rough short of the green and failed to save par.

No matter. His 64, which matched Tom Lehman's third-round score in 1996 when he went on to win his only major.

Scott can only hope for the same outcome. His 18 worldwide wins include The Players Championship, the Tour Championship, and the Australian Open. He has reached as high as No. 3 in the world. He is missing the kind of trophy that defines great players.

''I've won a couple of tournaments most years, which is a good habit to have because it's getting harder and harder to win out here,'' Scott said. ''And I'm looking for a win this year. But I would say I haven't achieved what I wanted until I win a major.''

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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.