Harrington shoots record 61 at Innisbrook

By Doug FergusonMarch 15, 2012, 8:35 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Padraig Harrington knew he was playing better golf than his scores indicated. He just wasn’t expecting the lowest official score of his life, a 10-under 61 to set the course record Thursday in the Transitions Championship.

Harrington took a step toward ending 17 months and 37 tournaments without a victory when he made 10 birdies, including a 75-footer late in his round, to build a three-shot lead among the early starters at Innisbrook.

“I play better on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than I do on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Harrington said. “I’m trying to stay patient. I know my game is good. One of the hardest things is to wait with confidence. I’m feeling like things are ready to happen. Obviously, today it showed the potential. Today is a peak. But we’ll wait and see what happens over the next number of weeks.”

Harrington’s previous best was a 62 three times, most recently at the 2009 Portugal Masters.

With a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th – how could it not go in the way his day was going? – he broke by one shot the record at the esteemed Copperhead Course at Innisbrook that had been held by Mark Calcavecchiain 2007 and Jeff Sluman in 2004.

Will Claxton birdied the 18th for a 64, a score that would have put him atop the leaderboard at Innisbrook the last seven years. John Senden, coming off a 65 in the final round at Doral, was in a large group at 66 that includedWilliam McGirt and 51-year-old Kenny Perry, making a rare appearance on the PGA Tour.

Did anyone see a 61 at Innisbrook?

“I did. I watched it,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who played alongside Harrington. “On the first tee, I didn’t see 61. But after you see it done … the only really, completely unreasonable birdie was on the 17th. There was never any stress.”

That birdie putt up the ridge was from 75 feet, and Harrington said it looked good for the last 15 feet.

But if there was one putt that reminded him how everything was falling his way, it was the 6-foot birdie on the 16th, atop a crown in such a way that Harrington wasn’t sure which way it was going to break. He guessed right.

“You’re really guessing at which way it’s going to go, but on your day, it goes the right way,” he said. “I guarantee you there will be a lot of players having a frustrating day, telling you they hit it exactly where they wanted and it missed.”

With a wedge into 15 feet on the last hole, he had no doubt.

“When it’s your day, I could have turned my back on the hole and I would have holed the putt on the last,” Harrington said. “That’s just the way it is when things are going for you.”

Not much has been going well for the three-time major champion since he last won the Johor Open in October 2010. Though he tinkers endlessly with his swing, Harrington had trouble scoring.

He has been working with Pete Cowen, and in January began seeing Dave Alred, whom he refers to as a practice coach. Alred also works with Luke Donald as the Englishman rose to No. 1 in the world, though he is best known in rugby circles as a kicking coach for the likes of Jonny Wilkinson.

Harrington said it’s all about practicing with a purpose, which he has done. He can’t work much harder. The toughest part of this has been waiting for it all to come together, which is exactly what happened on a gorgeous day near the Gulf coast of Florida, with only a mild breeze and minimal rough.

The longest putt for par he had all day was about 4 feet on the third hole. Harrington hit so many quality shots that he allowed the thought of a 59 to creep into his head. He was 6 under through 10 holes and had an easy, uphill birdie putt from 6 feet on the par-5 11th.

“I got over it and started thinking, `If I hole this, I’m 7 under par, seven holes to go, I only need to make five more birdies,”’ he said. “I just got totally out of where I should have been, hit a bad putt and missed. But if anything, it kind of got the 59 out of my head. So as much as I did choke, it made it easier for the rest of the holes.”

Harrington said he never shot lower than 60 as an amateur, back when he went at every flag, before he accrued what he called “fear and damage in my system.” He did have a 61 at the Nedbank Challenge a decade ago, though it didn’t count as a course record because it was preferred lies that day.

Stewart Cink and David Toms were among those at 67, while Sergio Garcia had a 68.

Innisbrook wasn’t easy for everyone. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel opened with a 76, while Matt Kucharhad a 73.

Harrington, who rose to No. 3 in the world three years ago, has fallen to No. 90. He remains eligible for the majors, though the reality of how far he has dropped was evident over the last month. He missed the Match Play Championship for the first time since 1999, and he was not eligible for the World Golf Championship at Doral.

“It’s not a wake-up call because it’s not like I could be working any harder, or trying any harder,” he said. “You feel like you’re good enough. But if your performances are not good enough, you have no else to blame. It is a little frustrating. But I’m working, like everybody else – working to keep a good attitude and be patient and let it happen and look at the positives.”

That’s never been a problem. Even during this slump, Harrington rarely lets a pro-am round go by when he doesn’t invite his amateur partners to lunch. He endorses the Special Olympics, and took time Wednesday to meet with one of the athletes, whom he described as being “just happy with life, and it’s infectious.”

Asked about the low point during this slump, Harrington shook his head.

“I’m a professional golfer,” he said. “There isn’t a low point in being a professional golfer. I mean, let’s be realistic.”

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''