Thompson's 66 leads Open; Tiger three back

By Associated PressJune 15, 2012, 2:31 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Open featured two marquee groups, but only one marquee player.

Take Tiger Woods out of the equation and the top five players in the world were no match for unforgiving Olympic Club.

Then again, not many were.

The lead belonged to Michael Thompson, a 27-year-old in his first U.S. Open as a pro. He made seven birdies - that's seven more than Luke Donald - for a 4-under 66 that gave him a three-shot lead over Woods and the four other lucky souls to manage to break par Thursday.

The buzz came from Woods.

Even as Thompson strung together four birdies on the back nine, Woods put on a clinic on the other side of the course on how to handle the toughest test in golf.


Video: Highlights of Woods' 69

Video: Disastrous start for big names

Video: Meet surprise leader Michael Thompson


Woods was never out of position. None of his tee shots found the deep, nasty rough lining the fairways. There was hardly any stress in the most demanding of majors. With consecutive birdies late in his round, including a 35-foot putt that banged into the back of the cup, Woods opened with a 1-under 69 to raise hopes that he can finally end that four-year drought in the majors.

''I felt like I had control of my game all day,'' Woods said. ''Just stuck to my game plan - and executed my game plan.''

For so many others, the game plan was simply to survive. Thirteen players shot in the 80s, and the average score was 74.9.

The best tribute to the toughness of Olympic was the top five players in the world. They combined to go 26-over par, which includes Woods at 69. Perhaps it was Ryo Ishikawa who best summed up the day after a hard-earned 71: ''I'm very tired right now.''

Woods stood out on a day when the game's best struggled mightily.

He was in the marquee group in the morning with four-time major champion Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson. Mickelson never found his opening tee that he hooked into the trees and shot 76. Watson could only say that Olympic ''beat me up'' on his way to a 78.

In the afternoon, the USGA put together Nos. 1-2-3 based on their world ranking, and it was a rank performance.

Donald failed to make a birdie in his round of 79. Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, bogeyed three of his last four holes for a 77 and then declined interview requests, instead speaking to a pool reporter. Lee Westwood was 4 over through six holes, and made an impressive rally for a 73.

The shocking numbers: The top three in the world ranking combined for three birdies.

''It shows how tough it is,'' Donald said. ''There aren't that many opportunities out there.''

Only six players managed to break par in the opening round, which would have come as a surprise to none of the players. After opening with a birdie, Joe Ogilvie turned to his caddie and said, ''Seventy-one more pars and we're hoisting the trophy.'' He shot 73.

Woods and David Toms opened with 69 in the morning, with overcast conditions from a marine layer off the Pacific Ocean.

Graeme McDowell, who won the U.S. Open two years ago down the coast at Pebble Beach, Justin Rose and Nick Watney each had 69 in the afternoon.

Watney would not be in that group except for the rarest shot in golf - with a 5-iron from 190 yards, the ball well below his feet on the canted fairway, he made an albatross 2 on the par-5 17th that saved his day.

McIlroy said he simply got out of position. What didn't need to be said by anyone was that Olympic Club is a far different test from Congressional, where the 23-year-old shattered the U.S. Open scoring record at 16-under 268.

The good news for McIlroy? His record is safe here.

''Anything just a little off and it really punishes you,'' McIlroy said. ''You have to be precise with your tee shots and your iron shots and leave it on the right side of the pins, and today I didn't really do any of that.''

Toms relied on a superb short game and an even better attitude.

''You really just have to concentrate, give it your all on every shot and never give in to the golf course, because it will punish you if your attitude is not good, if your concentration is not good,'' Toms said. ''There's just too many hard shots out there to really ever give in to it and not be there.''

The group at 70 included Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar and 17-year-old Beau Hossler, already playing in his second U.S. Open.

Thompson's game seems to work on this quirky, tree-lined course built on the side of a giant dune that separates the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced.

He was runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic Club and couldn't wait to get back.

After a roller coaster of a front nine that featured consecutive bogeys and holing a bunker shot for birdie on the downhill par-3 third hole, Thompson hit his stride on the back nine, even if hardly anyone was watching.

He made five consecutive 3s - three of them birdies - and closed his dream round with a 10-foot birdie putt on the short, tough 18th for the lead. Thompson took only 22 putts.

''On the back side, the putter ... seems like every putt went in the hole,'' Thompson said. ''Got a little nervous there once all those cameras showed up. It's always a little bit of an adjustment. In that sense, I kind of wish I was Phil or Tiger, because you get the cameras from the beginning.''

There weren't enough cameras or fans to find Mickelson's opening tee shot, but it was easy to find Woods.

He missed only four fairways - three of them that ran off the severe slopes and into the first cut, the other into a bunker on the 256-yard seventh hole, which is where he was aiming. The only glitch was failing to get the ball closer to the hole with short irons, including the 14th when it landed on the back of the green and bounced off the base of the grandstand.

That led to one of his two bogeys, the other at No. 6 with a poor bunker shot. The only surprise was a good one - the 35-foot birdie putt on the fifth that he struck too hard and worried it might lead to a three-putt until the hole got in the way.

''Five was a fluke,'' Woods said. ''That putt was off the green.''

Olympic wasn't that simple for most everyone else.

Watson was asked about his strategy of hitting his pink-painted driver. ''I shot 8 over, so not very good,'' he said. The next question was how he played out of the rough with short irons in his hand. ''I shot 8 over, so not very good,'' he said.

''You could answer these yourself,'' he said.

The marine layer in the morning allowed for cool, overcast conditions that eventually gave way to sunshine. That didn't help. Steve Marino opened with an 84. Zach Johnson didn't feel as though he played all that badly until he signed for a 77. Padraig Harrington thought the course was fair, and allowed for good scores. But he had two four-putts and a three-putt that ruined a reasonable day and gave him a 74.

''It just goes to show that firm greens scare the life out of professional golfers,'' Harrington said.

Mickelson was looking forward to playing with Woods - the last time they were together, Lefty closed with a 64 and buried him at Pebble Beach in February - but he could not have envisioned a worse start. The hook was bad enough. But as Mickelson approached the gallery and looked for a crowd surrounding his ball, his eyes widened when a marshal told him, ''No one heard it come down.''

Five minutes later, he was on his way back to the tee.

Mickelson made an unlikely bogey on the hole, added two more bogeys and was fighting the rest of the day. A three-putt late in the round cost him dearly, and now Mickelson can only hope he's around for the weekend.

''I can't really think about the lead or anything,'' said Mickelson, who was 10 shots behind. ''I've just got to make the cut right now, and to do that I've got to shoot something under par.''

Woods is coming off his second win of the year at Memorial, and while that made him the favorite at the U.S. Open, recent history left some questions.

He won Bay Hill by five shots going into the Masters, and then had his worst performance as a pro at Augusta National. Woods said he wasn't hitting the ball as consistently well in the spring, not like he is now. And it showed.

''That was the old Tiger,'' Watson said. ''That was beautiful to watch. That's what we all come to see. That's what we all want to watch, and that was awesome to see him strike the ball good.''

It wasn't enough for the lead, but it was enough to break par, which is never bad at Olympic Club.

Thompson, who said he had only a few hundred people following his group, understands all the fuss over a 14-time major champion who is showing signs of returning to the top of his game. He was more than happy with a 66 and his name atop the leaderboard, and he made it clear he wasn't going to settle for one good round.

''A lot of people don't know who I am, and I'm totally OK with that because I've always been a player that just kind of hangs around,'' Thompson said. ''I don't give up very easily and I'm very proud of that. Give Tiger the spotlight. I don't care. I'm going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today, I'll be contention.''

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.