Thompson takes ANA lead; Ko one back

By Associated PressApril 3, 2016, 2:27 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Lexi Thompson rallied Saturday to put herself in position for a run at another victory leap into Poppie's Pond. For most of the warm afternoon at Mission Hills, it looked as if her new big-headed putter might end up in the drink - or in a twisted heap in the nearest garbage can.

Overcoming her struggles on the greens, Thompson made two late birdies and curled in a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration.

''It was definitely a bit frustrating,'' Thompson said. ''I just tried to stay positive. I did get frustrated. I'm not going to lie. But I just tried to remind myself the putts I did make the last two days, and remember those strokes and getting that feeling, and basically telling myself to just put a more confident stroke on it, put some more speed on it.''

Her putting problems started on the par-3 fifth when she missed a 4-foot birdie try. She three-putted for bogeys on the par-3 eighth and par-4 10th, missing from 5 feet on eight and 6 feet in 10.

''I was hitting it well, just couldn't get the putts to drop,'' Thompson said.

Trying to win the major championship for the second time in three years, the 21-year-old American shot a 3-under 69 to reach 10 under. A day after making a 30-foot birdie putt on 18, she hit a 207-yard, 5-iron approach that settled pin-high to the left to set up the left-to-right breaking putt.

''To knock it in on 18 is always the most amazing feeling here,'' Thompson said. ''To finish like that definitely turns around my confidence. I feel really good going into tomorrow. ... I do know what it takes to win on this golf course. I mean, I absolutely love this golf course.''


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The long-hitting Thompson took the flat stick out of the equation with short irons to 2 feet for birdies on the par-4 15th and 16th. She nearly had a third straight birdie, but couldn't get a 6-footer to fall on the par-3 17th.

''I was just putting a little timid and then hit a few good shots coming in, so I had a few short birdie putts,'' said Thompson, the winner in Thailand in February for her seventh tour title.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun and Ariya Jutanugarn were tied for second, and fifteen players were within four strokes of each at the top of the leaderboard.

Ko shot a 69, a day after fighting allergies that led to vision problems. On Friday, she repeatedly changed her contact lenses, irritating her left eye to the point that she said she was ''one-eye blind.''

''I was a little worried about my eye, but it was great today,'' Ko said.

The 18-year-old New Zealander won the final major last season, the Evian Championship in September in France, and is coming off her 11th LPGA title last week in Carlsbad.

''I felt like I struck the ball much better today and I hit a few more fairways, so the less time you're spending in the rough, the better,'' Ko said. ''I feel like today I was able to control my shots and kind of have an idea where the ball was going to go.''

Chun got up and down for birdie on 18 for her third straight 69. The 21-year-old South Korean player is returning from a back injury that sidelined her for a month. She was hurt when she was struck by a hard-case suitcase that rival player Ha Na Jang's father dropped down an escalator at the Singapore airport.

''Tomorrow, I'm just going to focus on my game again,'' Chun said. ''The only thing I can control is my mindset, my mental game, myself.''

Jutanugarn had a 67. The 20-year-old Thai player is winless in the LPGA. At age 17 in the 2013 LPGA Thailand, she closed with a triple bogey to blow a two-stroke lead.

''Whatever it is, I'm going to take it and have fun and enjoy tomorrow,'' Jutanugarn said.

Miyazato and Charley Hull were 8 under. Miyazato birdied the 18th for a 71, and Hull birdied the final four holes for a 69.

''I was kind of in the zone,'' Hull said.

Michelle Wie topped the group at 7 under after a bogey-free 70.

Wie is winless since the 2014 U.S. Women's Open and hasn't had a top-10 finish in 30 events since the last tournament that year. In her last two starts, she missed the cut in Phoenix and tied for 60th in Carlsbad.

''You kind of have to grind it out when you're not hitting the ball as well,'' Wie said. ''But I'm very proud of what I did today. I hung in there, had some good birdies. Hopefully, I'll give myself more opportunities tomorrow and take advantage of them.''

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”