Leading and Bleeding

By Brian HewittMay 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
Playing with the lead these days on the PGA Tour is getting to be like playing with fire. Sleeping with the lead on Saturday nights is getting to be like sleeping with the enemy.

Sergio Garcia was ahead by a bunch Saturday night at the Wachovia Championship. Then he woke up Sunday, shot an even par 72 and lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh.

'They say you learn more from your losses than your wins,' a gracious Garcia said when it was over.

Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia played an emotional round Sunday but went home disappointed.
>If that's the case, there must be a lot of very smart touring pros right now. Singh would be one of them. Yes, he has now won three times this year. But he squandered a 54-hole lead at the Mercedes Championships, shot 74 on Sunday and lost to Stuart Appleby. He bounced back with a victory the very next week at The Sony Open when third round leader Shigeki Maruyama carded a tepid Sunday 71 and tied for third.

'Coming down the stretch,' Garcia said at Wachovia, 'it's not easy to hit perfect shots.'

Just ask Scott McCarron......Or Chris DiMarco.

McCarron led after three rounds at the BellSouth Classic only to balloon to a final round 76 and drop all the way down to a tie for 32d.

DiMarco slept on the lead Saturday night at Augusta even though the third round hadn't been completed. And he struggled immediately Sunday morning before losing valiantly to Tiger Woods in a playoff late in the day.

In his first event after Augusta, DiMarco led after 54 holes at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. But a Sunday 72 by DiMarco gave Tim Petrovic the opening he needed to win in a playoff.

'I felt like every time I missed a shot, I was struggling to make par,' Garcia said Sunday.

Tom Lehman, the 54-hole leader at the Buick Invitational before losing to Woods, knows of what Garcia speaks.

So does Joe Ogilvie, the Saturday night leader at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic where Justin Leonard tracked him down.

Others with similarly presumed learned lessons this season include Brian Davis at the Nissan Open, Kevin Na at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship at Doral, Brett Wetterich and Geoff Ogilvy at The Honda Classic, and Luke Donald at The Players Championship.

You may remember Darren Clarke's Sunday collapse at the MCI Heritage. Even though Clarke had a large lead early Sunday, eventual winner Peter Lonard was actually the 54-hole leader. Lonard stumbled to a final round 75 and won mostly because Clarke was sinking to 76.

'One of those things,' Garcia said Sunday, referring to himself.

But he could have been speaking to all the players on the PGA Tour this year who have had so much trouble closing the deal. This, of course, is nothing new in golf. But what seems to be new is the epidemic proportions.

Is it the money that causes the pressure that causes the failures? Or is it the nature of the human condition in golf that it is much harder to 'protect' than it is to 'strive'?

For certain, golf is not a game generally played well when you are thinking about what you have to lose. Yet any player will tell you he'd much rather have a six-shot lead after 54 holes than a six-shot deficit.

But make one double bogey early Sunday and watch your playing partner make a couple of birdies and a two-shot lead can actually 'feel' like you're behind.

It's not easy to play golf. It's even harder to play golf well. Playing golf well enough to win at the game's highest level is an almost infinite step up in class. Playing with the lead at that level these days appears to be excruciating.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

Getty Images

Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

Getty Images

Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

Getty Images

Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.