Tseng Tops Hjorth Wins McDonalds LPGA

By Associated PressJune 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- In her rookie year on the LPGA Tour, playing in only her third major championship, 19-year-old Yani Tseng felt lucky to become the youngest winner of the LPGA Championship on Sunday.
 
After the day she had at Bulle Rock, that was hardly the case.
 
First, she went 18 holes with Lorena Ochoa and closed with a 4-under 68 in searing heat, denying the No. 1 player in womens golf a chance to win a third straight major. Then came a sudden-death playoff with Maria Hjorth that lasted four holes.
 
Tseng finished it off by choking down on a 6-iron out of the first cut of rough and hitting the perfect shot, the ball stopping 5 feet behind the hole for a birdie that made her the first rookie to win an LPGA major in 10 years.
 
I cant believe I just won a major, Tseng said. Everything is coming so fast.
 
It felt like slow motion for Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam, both desperate for their own brand of history.
 
Ochoa, who only two days ago appeared to be sailing toward a third straight major, went 14 holes without a birdie. The drought ended on the 16th hole when a 20-yard pitch for eagle banged off the pin, and a birdie on the final hole only made it look close. She closed with a 71 and wound up one shot behind.
 
It wasnt my time, Ochoa said, showing more emotion than she had all week. I am not ashamed. Im proud of my finish. Now I move on and try to win the next few tournaments.
 
Sorenstam, trying to join Mickey Wright as the only four-time winner of the McDonalds LPGA Championship, also closed with a 71 and could count more than a dozen putts on the weekend that she could have made. She twice missed inside 5 feet on par 5s in the final round, and she had a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th to get into the playoff.
 
It was weak and well short.
 
Its a tough time, Sorenstam said. I was determined today, really this whole week. I felt like I could do it.
 
Hjorth appeared to have fate on her side when a fairway metal headed for the hazard instead ricocheted off the rocks in a creek and bounded across the green, turning bogey into birdie. Then she chipped in on the next hole for birdie and the lead.
 
She closed with a 71, and had 18-foot and 12-foot birdie putts to win in the playoff, both narrowly missing.
 
I dont think its really hit me, but Im sure Im going to be very, very tired pretty soon, Hjorth said. But Im very happy with the day. I played solid golf all day, and just very proud of myself for hanging in there.
 
Despite her age and inexperience, Tseng felt right at home in the playoff, which is all about match play. She won 19 times as an amateur, first gaining recognition in 2004 when she rallied to beat Michelle Wie'at a time when Wie was on top of her game'at the U.S. Womens Public Links Amateur. A year later, Tseng beat Morgan Pressel in the North & South Amateur.
 
With power and poise, and a 6-iron she wont soon forget, Tseng became the second-youngest winner of an LPGA major behind Pressel, who was 18 when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year.
 
Tseng became the first rookie to win a major since Se Ri Pak, who won the LPGA Championship 10 years ago at age 20.
 
Playing the 18th hole for the third time in an hour, Tseng took her hand off the driver when it sailed to the right, taking a good hop out of the deep grass and into the first cut. Then came a 6-iron, drawing toward the flag.
 
I wasnt that nervous when I teed off, she said. I just tell myself, Make this putt and win a major.
 
That was something T.C. Chen, her countryman and part-time mentor, failed to do in the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, where he became infamous for a double-hit on a chip out of deep rough and wound up one shot behind Andy North.
 
He always teach me something because Im a rookie, Tseng said.
 
Tseng and Hjorth finished at 12-under 276.
 
Laura Diaz (70) was one birdie away from the lead throughout the back nine until a three-putt bogey on the 17th. She finished fifth.
 
The Ochoa-Sorenstam duel on a searing hot day at Bulle Rock never developed. Instead, five players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round, and the back nine was up for grabs to the very end.
 
Ochoa opened with a 10-foot birdie and didnt make another one until the par-4 16th.
 
She had eagle chances on consecutive holes, both times to get within one of the lead. But she three-putted for par from 45 feet on the 15th, and her eagle pitch from 20 yards lipped out on the 16th.
 
I never lost the hope, she said. I though something good was going to happen, that miracles exist. But it wasnt my time.
 
Still, it was her seventh consecutive top 10 in a major.
 
Equally disappointed was Sorenstam, playing the LPGA Championship for the final time and applauding the fans walking up the 18th.
 
I left a lot of shots out there, Sorenstam said. I wish I could have converted one or two; it would have been enough. But I didnt.
 
Both were part of the carnage on the 13th in which the top six on the leaderboard were a combined to play the toughest hole at Bulle Rock in 7-over par.
 
Sorenstam was the only player in the fairway, but she missed the green to the right, her chip ran over the cup and her 4-foot par putt never hit the hole. That ended a streak of 42 consecutive holes at Bulle Rock without a bogey.
 
Worse yet, she never made another birdie the rest of the way.
 

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    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”


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    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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    Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

    By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

    LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

    Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

    Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

    “When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

    “Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

    Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

    “Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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    Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

    Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

    It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

    “I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.


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    Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

    “I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

    Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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    Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

    LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

    The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

    Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

    In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

    What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

    If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

    Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

    “You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

    That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

    Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

    “Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

    While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

    “Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

    While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

    Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

    “I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

    It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

    One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

    “Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

    And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.