Weather Causing Havoc at Pine Needles

By Associated PressJune 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Annika Sorenstam stood in the ninth fairway next to her bag, sizing up how far she was from her final hole on a troublesome day at the U.S. Women's Open.
 
Then came a sound that has become all too familiar. And no, it wasn't a big cheer.
 
An air horn, the most annoying sound in golf, resonated across Pine Needles on Friday to signal another delay brought on by lightning. Sorenstam bowed her head and walked toward shelter.
 
No one hit another shot the rest of the day at a tournament that can't seem to get started.
 
'It's brutal,' said Juli Inkster, playing in the group behind Sorenstam. 'Now we have to get up at 5 in the morning to play one hole. It's just been start and stop, start and stop. And tomorrow might be worse. It's a crapshoot.'
 
When play was suspended amid the rumble of thunder, only 25 out of 156 players had finished the second round. It was to resume at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, although USGA official Mike Davis made no guarantees.
 
Strong storms were expected through the night and into the morning.
 
'This area has gone for weeks on end without any kind of weather. And bring the USGA to town, and it's amazing how we can change weather patterns,' Davis said.
 
The plan was for the third round to begin as early as 3:30 p.m. Saturday, after the cut had been made.
 
Not much changed on the leaderboard from Thursday when there was a 3 1/2 -hour delay -- an 18-year-old named Park was the clubhouse leader.
 
It was Angela Park after the first round, although she didn't hit a shot on Friday. Her good friend, In-Bee Park, bogeyed two of the last four holes for a 73 that put her at even-par 142.
 
She was one shot ahead of Kris Tamulis, who shot 71.
 
Angela Park could also claim the clubhouse lead, since she rarely left except to warm up on the range. She remains at 3 under.
 
'I'm just having a good time relaxing at the locker room,' she said. 'I'm very calm and eager to play the next three rounds.'
 
On the course, nerves were frayed.
 
Candie Kung tapped in a putt on the 18th hole a split-second before the horn sounded to stop play, so she became the 25th player to complete the second round. Janice Moodie of Scotland also had a tap-in, but under the rules for dangerous weather, she was not allowed to finish. Moodie will return in the morning to putt out, then wait until about 5 p.m. to hit her next shot.
 
Sorenstam left before speaking to the media, but no doubt she wanted to put this day behind her.
 
One day after Karrie Webb opened with an 83 for the worst score of her career, Sorenstam looked as though she might join her.
 
She finished off a 1-under 70 in the morning, then after a quick turnaround, began her second round with a double bogey when a chip up the slope on the 10th hole came back to her feet. She blew another chip some 18 feet by the hole, found the bunker with a sand wedge on the par-5 15th and went out in 42 to fall off the leaderboard.
 
Sorenstam was 7 over through 10 holes until she steadied herself, and a birdie on No. 8 brought her to 5 over for the tournament.
 
Two players not many people expected to see beyond Friday made it to the weekend under such circumstances.
 
Alexis Thompson, the 12-year-old from south Florida who became the youngest qualifier in history, chipped in for birdie from 40 yards to complete a respectable 76 in the morning, but her round got away from her in the afternoon. She was 12 over with five holes remaining, including some of the toughest at Pine Needles.
 
'It's pretty cool, being here another day,' she said.
 
The other is Michelle Wie, who opened with an 82 and didn't get past the practice range Friday.
 
The biggest spectacle might have been the dozen Japanese photographers scrambling in the parking lot to get pictures of Ai Miyazato, the biggest golf sensation in Japan.
 
On the course, action was limited.
 
In-Bee Park, a former U.S. Junior Girls champion, struggled to keep her tee shots in the fairway, but got enough good bounces to keep her round together and post a two-day score of even par. And she finished, which was enough cause for celebration.
 
'I think it took us like 10 hours to play yesterday, so I think it was a lot shorter day today,' she said.
 
Inkster put together a remarkable turnaround. After a four-putt double bogey on Thursday in the middle of her first round, she dropped six shots in a four-hole span when she returned and completed a 78.
 
The two-time Women's Open champion was 10 over for the tournament through nine holes of the second round when she two-putted from 12 feet for birdie on No. 1, then fired off three straight birdies, finishing with a chip-in on the fifth. She had a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8 when the horn blew.
 
Lorena Ochoa and Morgan Pressel were among those who did not tee off, still at even par. Pressel was brought into the television booth for an interview and went over highlights from the day before.
 
'It's funny to listen to you talk about my round yesterday because I can't remember it. It was so long ago,' she said. 'It seems like I've just been around here forever and hoping we might hit our first tee shot today. It's going to be a marathon weekend.'
 
And it's going to be an early wake-up for so many players.
 
Paula Creamer was in the 18th fairway, no more than 10 minutes from calling it a day. She was at 4 over.
 
'Obviously, it gets annoying after a while, but it is what it is,' Creamer said. 'We get pulled off for 20 minutes or so, then get back on. It's difficult. But I guess you just have to go with the flow.'
 
Related Links:
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.