Well well well look whos back near the top

By Associated PressApril 9, 2010, 4:16 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – PGA champion Y.E. Yang won't let himself think about winning back-to-back majors even though he is back atop the leaderboard again.

The winner of last year's final major is one stroke off the lead at the Masters after shooting a first-round 67 on Thursday. Yang and four others – including fellow South Korean K.J. Choi – trail 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples.

'I don't want to say that I'm surprised, but that's the best round that I've had here at Augusta National,' said Yang, who tied for 30th in 2007 and missed the cut last year. 'So I am very happy.'

Yang's victory at Hazeltine National last August was the biggest upset golf has seen in years. It was the first major title won by an Asian player. Yang hadn't started playing golf until he was 19, and only joined the PGA Tour in 2007. His lone other victory was the 2009 Honda Classic.

Oh, he also beat that guy named Tiger Woods to win.

Yang has only one top-10 finish in his eight previous starts this season, finishing third at the Phoenix Open. But he managed the wind right Thursday, making only one bogey.

But Yang has a long way to go before he can add a green jacket to his Wanamaker Trophy. No one has won back-to-back majors since Padraig Harrington, who won the British Open and the PGA Championship in 2008.

'Every tournament that I come into, I usually try to put myself in a position to at least go into the top 10 after the third round,' Yang said. 'It would be nice, yes, but no, I really don't have a conscious feeling of trying to win back-to-back majors.'



BACK TO THE ROARS: Tiger Woods couldn't figure out why he saw so many low scores on the board before he teed off. Then he looked at how the course was set up and it all made sense.

The pins were accessible on several holes, and the tee markers were moved up.

As a result, 44 players were at par or better, and 16 players shot in the 60s. Strangely, no one is talking about all the fun being taken out of Augusta National any more.

'It gets me back to thinking that's the way the course was originally designed to be played,' Tom Watson said.

Jerry Kelly says it could change. He suspects the club set up the course for scoring because of high winds expected ahead of the storms.

'It's set up to score today, there's not question about it,' Kelly said after his 72. 'I think that's as easy as you're going to see Augusta, which is not that easy. We're at Augusta, so there's nothing easy about an easy setup.'



IN FINE FORM: Trevor Immelman is feeling good again. Just check out his scorecard.

The 2008 Masters champion shot a 3-under 69 in the first round Thursday, only the second time he's broken 70 since having surgery on his left wrist last October.

'I felt like I was getting close, but still not close enough,' Immelman said. 'The practice rounds here, I started hitting some shots that felt real good, and it was nice to do the same today.'

Immelman, whose last victory was at Augusta National, missed most of last season with severe tendinitis in his left wrist. He tried to let the injury heal with rest, but eventually realized surgery was his best option. He couldn't touch a club for three months, and only started hitting balls again in February.

He returned to the tour at the Phoenix Open the last week of February, and has made four starts. His best finish is a tie for 59th at the Honda Classic, where he shot a 68 in the second round.



TOMS SHOULDER: David Toms needs surgery on his right shoulder to repair a rotator cuff, and he planned to wait until after the Masters. That would give him enough time to heal before the U.S. Open.

Now he plans to wait – and not just because he opened with a 69.

'I had an injection on Friday and it feels a little better, and I'm just going to keep playing through it as long as I can,' Toms said. 'I would hate to hang up my golf clubs at this point in the year when I'm exempt for all of the majors and a lot of tournaments I like to play in May and June. So for now, I'm going to put it off.'

Toms has average length off the tee, and the injury has cost him power he couldn't afford to lose. He's made some adjustments in his swing that he ordinarily wouldn't make. Still, the toughest part is getting comfortable when he sleeps.

He said the injury first occurred in October.

'I don't know any specific event other than I turned 43 in January,' he said. 'Maybe that has something to do with it.'



NICE SHOT: Anthony Kim had fans asking 'How'd he do that?' with his second shot on the par-5 No. 2.

The brash youngster's drive sailed so far left it landed on a thin layer of pine straw on the concrete cart path, a dismal lie by any measure. But instead of taking a drop, Kim made a perfect punch out and salvaged a par.

Kim had only one par on the back nine to go with four bogeys, an eagle and three straight birdies at the end of his wild round of 68.

'I got some good breaks and I capitalized on those, so I'm pretty happy with the way I finished,' Kim said. 'But I still have to work on the driver and get that ball in the fairway.'



DEAR OLD DAD: No need for Nathan Smith to call home and let his family know how he did at the Masters.

His dad was right there beside him.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur champion's father, Larry, was on the bag Thursday. It's the second time the two have been paired at Augusta National; Nathan played in 2004, also as the Mid-Am champion.

'He's really cheap,' joked Nathan Smith, a 31-year-old financial adviser in Pittsburgh. 'It was great. Having your dad caddie for you at the Masters doesn't get any better, and we're lucky to be able to do it twice. It was a great day no matter what.'

Nathan Smith got off to a strong start with birdies on two of his first three holes. But he bogeyed four straight holes on the back nine, and finished at 2-over 74.

'It's nerve-racking,' Larry Smith said of working for his son. 'To watch him out there giving it his best effort and it's going pretty rough at times, it's tough, it really is. ... You just try to keep even keel as much as you can, and hopefully don't build up too much so there's one big burst and you make a goof of yourself.'



DIVOTS: It wasn't a day of low scoring for everyone. Jim Furyk, coming off a victory three weeks ago, was among five players who failed to break 80. Furyk had three double bogeys and a triple bogey in shooting 44 on the back nine for an 80. Henrik Stenson also had an 80, while former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell shot 83. ... David Duval played his final five holes in 4 over to shoot 76. ... The wind and rain might have helped out the groundskeepers at Augusta National, clearing out the pollen that littered the course. Ian Poulter spent almost five minutes picking the yellow sprigs off the sixth green so he had a clear path to putt.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”