Stanford leads LPGA Founders Cup

By Associated PressMarch 20, 2011, 5:54 am

RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup

PHOENIX – Angela Stanford plays for keeps no matter the stakes.

“I play with the guys at Shady Oaks in the 1 o’clock and I’m out there trying to beat them – and they’re out there to enjoy the weekend,” the 33-year-old Texan said Saturday after opening a three-stroke lead in the play-for-free LPGA Founders Cup.

“It always matters to me.”

Instead of paying the players, the tournament honoring the 13 tour founders is donating $1 million to charity – half to The LPGA Foundation and its LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and half to the top 10 finishers’ designated charities.

Stanford is playing for her own foundation.

“I don’t care if it’s for money,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s for money for my charity or for the LPGA Foundation. I don’t care what’s it’s for. If you tell me it’s official and I have a chance to compete to win something, I’m going to show up.”

Her foundation provides scholarships for children from families affected by cancer. The winner will receive $200,000 to donate.

“It would do wonders for my foundation,” said Stanford, a four-time winner in 10 full seasons on the tour. “We could help a lot of kids a lot faster than I thought we would. There’s a lot on the line in that respect.”

She shot her second straight 6-under 66, playing in the morning before the wind picked up a bit on the partly cloudy, 80-degree day at Desert Ridge.

“Surprised, to be perfectly honest,” Stanford said about her low score. “I didn’t feel quite right this morning. I had kind of a weird warmup session.”

Long-hitting Brittany Lincicome was second. She followed her opening 67 with a 68, holing an 8-foot par putt on No. 18 just before dark.

“I just putted lights out,” said Lincicome, Stanford’s U.S. Solheim Cup teammate. “My driver let me down today, but my putter saved me.”

The three-time tour winner was frustrated by the pace of play in the round that took about 5 1/2 hours to finish.

“I’ve never waited that much in my life,” she said. “We waited about 20 minutes on every tee shot.”

Mindy Kim was third at 8 under after a 67. She birdied the first five holes.

Cristie Kerr, also a U.S. Solheim Cup player, was another stroke back after a 68. She rallied to beat Stanford twice in 2006, overcoming a four-stroke deficit in the final round in Tennessee and an eight-stroke margin in the Canadian Women’s Open.

“Anything can happen on Sunday,” Kerr said. “It’s a different feel when you’re playing in the last group, especially with the lead, because you tighten up and try to protect it. And I can stick with my game plan. It depends on the pins and the conditions tomorrow, but sure anything five and in is doable.”

In 2006 at London Hunt in Ontario, Kerr closed with a 7-under 65, while Stanford bogeyed the final two holes – three-putting the last – for a 74. Stanford began that round with a four-stroke lead over Meena Lee.

“I learned a lot in those two losses. People say you learn more in a loss than a victory,” Stanford said. “Not that I played scared, but if there was pin tucked left, the first day you’re probably going at it. Well, if you have a five-, six- or seven-shot lead on the final day, you may go at the middle of the green. For me, I learned that when I did that, it wasn’t very successful.

“I learned that I have to keep hitting golf shots. You can’t just say, `I’m going to go out and make 18 pars and hope I win.’ I think I was still maturing as a player at the time and I didn’t know what it took to win.”

While many players struggled to adjust for their approach shots releasing on the firm greens, Stanford is right at home on the sun-baked layout. She grew up near Fort Worth, played at TCU and still lives in the area.

“Fortunately for me, I’ve always played release,” Stanford said. “I’m not one that spins the ball a whole lot. So, it doesn’t bother me if it releases 5 or 25 feet. I think for me that’s good because I expect it already. … I’ve seen it my whole life.”

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the winner three weeks ago in Singapore, shot a 67 in the afternoon to match Seon Hwa Lee (69) and Mina Harigae (70) at 6 under. Webb won the last Phoenix event in 2009 at Papago and also won in 1999 at Moon Valley.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, had her second straight 73 to make the cut by a stroke at 2 over. No. 2 Jiyai Shin was 2 under after a 70.

Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

Getty Images

One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

Getty Images

DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

Getty Images

Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.