US Open Draws Various Entries

By Associated PressMay 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
Cortney Brisson called his trip to the 2003 U.S. Open a second honeymoon. For a little-known pro golfer who usually plays on obscure mini-tours, the description fit perfectly.
'Of all the golf tournaments you play, the USGA does it better than anybody,' he said. 'Son, they treat you like you've never seen in your life, they treat you like you wouldn't even believe.'
Two years after missing the cut at Olympia Fields, Brisson is on the cusp of making it back to the Open - he secured one of eight spots from the local qualifier earlier this week at River Landing, his home course about 30 miles north of Wilmington.
Brisson is one of more than 9,000 golfers who signed up for this year's tournament, which will be held at Pinehurst Country Club's famed No. 2 course.
The record number of entrants playing in local qualifiers at 107 sites around the country includes former baseball slugger Mark McGwire, former tennis great Ivan Lendl and NHL star Brett Hull, as well as teen sensation Michelle Wie and two other women. Wie was scheduled to play in a first-round qualifier Friday in Honolulu.
It's what makes the U.S. Open, well, open - just like the movie 'Tin Cup' and fictional driving range pro Roy McAvoy.
'It's neat that if you're good enough, if you can shoot the scores, you can get in the tournament,' said former PGA Tour player and current North Carolina golf coach John Inman, another hopeful at River Landing. 'Now, you've got to shoot low scores, because there's a lot of great players out there, but everybody has a chance.'
Not quite everybody. Eligibility is limited to amateurs with a handicap of less than 1.5 and professionals such as Brisson. Anyone meeting that criteria can pay an entry fee of $125 and sign up for local qualifying. Those who make it out of qualifying move on to 36-hole sectionals in late May and early June.
Of course, this doesn't apply to current tour players. Most are at least exempt from the local level, and several - including Tiger Woods and the rest of the 'Big Five' - don't have to qualify at all.
Still, once you get in, everybody essentially has the same chance. In 1996, Steve Jones came through both rounds of qualifying to win the Open at Oakland Hills, holding off Tom Lehman and Davis Love III by a single shot to follow in the footsteps of Jerry Pate, another qualifier who won the Open 20 years earlier.
Perhaps that's what draws so many wannabes.
Last week, struggling pro Ryan Gioffre told his wife that he was going to quit, disheartened after he missed the cut in 13 of 15 starts last year on the Nationwide Tour. So far this year, he has earned $4,050 in three tournaments on the Tarheel Tour, a mini-tour based near Charlotte, N.C.
Yet he rebounded with a 7-under 65 at River Landing to earn a spot in the next stage, encouraging him to stick with it for a little bit longer.
'I cannot stand to be on the Tarheel Tour anymore,' Gioffre said. 'I cannot stand to be minor league. I hate it. I'd rather go get a job and play golf to enjoy it, because my expectations are a lot higher. And sometimes that's good, and sometimes that's bad.'
Besides, the 30-year-old is ready to start a family.
'We just got a puppy three months ago, and we're having a hard enough time taking care of that thing,' he said with a smile.
Life hasn't been much easier for Australian Nick Flanagan, the surprising winner of the U.S. Amateur two years ago. The former soccer player didn't take up the game regularly until watching Tiger Woods' convincing victory in the 1997 Masters, then traveled to Oakmont Country Club in 2003 and beat Casey Wittenburg, the top amateur in the country at the time.
Flanagan turned pro last summer after missing the cut at the U.S. Open - one of many players who struggled at difficult Shinnecock Hills - and his poor play continued the rest of the year. So far, he's had more success in 2005, and he secured a spot in the British Open through qualifying back home.
The solid play continued at River Landing, where he took medalist honors with a 64.
'I think you just play more as a pro, and it wasn't the best of starts for me,' the 20-year-old said. 'But so far, this year has changed me around a little bit, I'm playing better. So, hopefully, it gets easier from here on in.'
It won't be easy for anyone to qualify, including Wie. Now in the 10th grade at Punahou School in Honolulu, she already has played 20 times on the LPGA Tour, twice on the PGA Tour and once each on the Nationwide and Canadian tours.
The 15-year-old has shown she can play just fine with the women. In three LPGA tournaments this year, including a major, Wie has tied for second, tied for 12th and tied for 14th two weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. If she was a pro, she would have enough money to be 10th on the money list.
And Wie isn't the youngest woman among the hopefuls. That distinction goes to 14-year-old Carmen Bandea from suburban Atlanta.
Lendl wasn't good enough this year, shooting 78 in Palm Harbor, Fla., earlier this week to miss a playoff by six shots. Hull plays Monday near Dallas and McGwire tries Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif.
They hope to join the rest of the fortunate hopefuls in the next stage, along with a host of tour players. If Brisson makes it all the way to the Open, maybe he can create a moment to top one from his trip to Olympia Fields.
'My wife pulled into the golf course and she about ran over Phil Mickelson,' Brisson said. 'And then she said, 'That's Phil Mickelson.' And I said, 'No kidding, you about took his legs out.''
His eyes sparkled at the memory, while a few feet away, his wife cringed a bit with embarrassment.
'It was amazing,' he said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.