Crane leads Players Mickelson struggles

By Doug FergusonMay 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Ben Crane should have known what was coming when he rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the first hole of the day. He kept right on pouring them in until he had a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead in The Players Championship.
Crane made four birdie putts longer than 20 feet, kept his ball on land throughout another wild opening round Thursday on the TPC Sawgrass and wound up atop a leaderboard devoid of the biggest stars.
Tiger Woods couldnt make a putt outside 4 feet.
Tiger Woods had plenty of missed opportunities in the first round of The Players Championship. (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson ran off three straight birdies early in his round, then couldnt keep the ball in play.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia opened with a 71 and already was looking forward to going home to Spain.
Crane couldnt relate.
Its one of those rounds that you just live for when youre a golfer, he said. And I had one today at one of my favorite courses and tournaments of all time.
He had a one-shot lead over John Mallinger, Alex Cejka and Richard S. Johnson of Sweden, with a large group at 67 that included Retief Goosen, David Toms, Camilo Villegas and Scott Verplank, who had two eagles ' one of them from 150 yards out on the 15th fairway, another with a putt that seemed about that long on the par-5 second.
Woods opened his round with four straight birdie chances inside 12 feet and missed them all. He wound up with a 71, keeping alive his streak of never breaking 70 in the opening round at this elite event.
Mickelson hit iron off the 18th tee but it worked out beautifully with an approach to 5 feet for birdie to salvage a 73.
Looked like it was going to be a great round, Mickelson said. And then it just kind of went away.
That can happen on one of the most exciting courses in golf, where small mistakes can turn into big numbers.
Brian Gay made a small error by trying to reach the fourth green from the left rough, coming up short and into the water. He took a drop, dumped it in the water again, finally got on land and three-putted for a quintuple-bogey 9 on his way to an 80, one of five players who failed to break 80.
Or take the group of Steve Lowery, Daniel Chopra and Paul Goydos. They played the par-3 17th in a combined 18 shots, with four balls in the water ' and Goydos made a par. Lowery put two in the drink and three-putted for an 8, while Chopra rinsed two and made 7.
But there were times that Sawgrass was forgiving.
Villegas was cruising along at 3 under early in his round when he punched a 6-iron from under the trees to just short of the green, then chipped too hard and watched it roll off the green and into the water. He dropped on the edge of the putting surface and holed a 35-foot putt to walk off with a par.
Its funny how people talk, Oh, this golf course is perfect for this guy or for that guy, and trust me, Villegas said, players dont think that way. We just get a target and swing at it. Ill be out there focusing on every target, every swing, every shot, and hopefully, keep it going.
Crane got his day off to a slow start. His wife had the car, so he rode to the Stadium Course on the back of his caddies moped. Then, he was off to the races. He opened with consecutive birdies starting at No. 10, made the turn in 33, then ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch along his back nine.
The hole looked the same size, but it seemed like a magnet for his ball.
How often from 30 feet do you actually start it there and then the read is correct? And that happened a number of times today, he said. You just smile. Youre like, Yeah, this is why I play golf right here.
Johnson, who won in Milwaukee last year, had to battle to be low man in his group. He played with Verplank and Johnson Wagner, and they combined for 17 birdies, two eagles and were a collective 14 under.
Woods only felt as if he should be there on his own, especially after missing seven birdie putts inside 12 feet.
This is probably the highest score I could have shot today, he said. Thats the way it goes.
Toms, who qualified for the tournament two weeks ago with a strong finish in New Orleans, was headed for the first-round lead until he made a few bad choices, hit a few bad shots and took three bogeys on his final four holes for a 67.
Im not sure exactly what I feel right now, he said. Im just glad to get off the golf course.
At Sawgrass, thats usually the safest place to be.

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    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.”

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    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.

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    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.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.