Guthrie leads Daly, Uihlein on Day 1 of BMW Masters

By Doug FergusonOctober 24, 2013, 12:00 pm

SHANGHAI – Luke Guthrie took only 19 putts in his round of 7-under 65, giving Americans the top three spots on the leaderboard Thursday in the BMW Masters.

Only three Americans are in Shanghai for this European Tour event. And one of them is John Daly, playing for the first time in nearly four months since surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right elbow.

Equally surprising was Guthrie, a promising young American who is taking a break from the start of a new PGA Tour season because he wanted more experience in the growing world of golf. He showed plenty of game on a day of 30 mph wind – so difficult that only 13 players broke par.

''It was one of the better rounds I've ever played,'' Guthrie said.

Daly relied on knockdown shots to cope with the wind and kept bogeys off his card for a 68. One shot behind was the one American that could have been expected to contend at Lake Malaren – Peter Uihlein, a European Tour member who already has one win this year and is 10th on the money list.

Uihlein got off to a poor start, three-putting for bogey on the second hole and then hitting his approach into the water right of the par-5 third green, even though the wind was ripping from right-to-left. He rallied with six birdies for a 69, and maybe the timing was just a coincidence. He was on the tee at No. 7 when he heard the Boston Red Sox had won the opening game of the World Series, 8-1.

''I was 5-under the rest of the day,'' Uihlein said.

The wind was relentless and contributed to threesomes taking some 5 1/2 hours to finish.

Graeme McDowell, trying to chase down Henrik Stenson in the Race to Dubai, holed a 90-foot eagle putt on the 13th hole in his first tournament as a married man. McDowell was at 70, part of a group that included Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee and Wales Open winner Gregory Bourdy.

Rory McIlroy, equipped with a new golf ball, drove the ball beautifully in the blustery conditions and shot 71. Stenson opened with a 72.

Guthrie played the opening two events in the new PGA Tour season in California and Las Vegas, and then flew halfway around the world to China. He will return to America for two more events after this, so Shanghai seems a long way to travel for just one week of golf.

But the 23-year-old from Illinois was determined to travel, and he accepted a sponsor's exemption to the BMW Masters about a month ago.

''This is my first time over in China and Asia, and I just wanted to challenge myself to come travel abroad and get used to this, and just keep gaining experiences and get better at becoming a global player,'' he said. ''And it's nice to get off to a good start today.''

His first trip overseas was this summer to Scotland for the British Open, where he missed the cut but picked up at least one lesson.

''I kind of drink a lot of Mountain Dew to a fault, and couldn't find Mountain Dew,'' he said. ''I packed some, so I'm learning.''

More important than the caffeine-laced soda was his short game. Guthrie had about a 25-foot putt on the 10th hole when he realized it was the longest putt he had faced all day. And then he realized he had one-putted every green on the front nine.

What skewed the statistics was his three-hole stretch in the middle of the back nine that built some separation – a routine up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 13th, pitching a 25-yard shot over the bunker and into the cup for an unlikely birdie on the 14th, and then using the wind to hold up a flop shot from beyond the green at the par-5 15th. Once it landed, the ball ran toward the cup like a putt and dropped for eagle.

He closed with pars for a score that left some players wondering what course he was on. The wind was blowing across on most of the course, making it tough to get near the hole. The greens were fast and frightening, and crispy toward the end of the round. Uihlein said he couldn't recall faster greens on the European Tour this year.

''I've never witnessed wind like this in China,'' McIlroy said.

Coming off a tie for second in Korea last week, McIlroy was pleased with the quality of his golf. He threw away shots with three-putt bogeys, from 10 feet on the fourth hole and with a poor chip that led to a three-putt bogey on the easy par-5 13th.

''From tee to green, it was really solid,'' McIlroy said. ''It could have been better. But on a day like today, it's just good to keep yourself there, or thereabouts. Luke shot 65, but the next is 4 (under) and 3 and 2. So it's not too bad.''

DIVOTS: Joost Luiten hit a tee shot and then withdrew with a shoulder injury. The BMW Masters is the first of four events called the ''Final Series'' in the Race to Dubai. Players are required to play two of the three events leading to the final event in Dubai. Luiten's WD counts as a start. ... Six players failed to break 80. Defending champion Peter Hanson, who has had back problems all year, opened with a 79. Graeme McDowell's wife, Kristen, is an interior designer. Rory McIlroy raved about the work she did at his south Florida home. Asked if she was expensive, McIlroy smiled and said, ''It's not just GMac making the money.''

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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.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.