Johnsons birdie run lands ATT lead

By Doug FergusonFebruary 12, 2010, 4:44 am
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Defending champion Dustin Johnson closed with five consecutive birdies to finish with an 8-under 64 and top the leaderboard at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.

Johnson overpowered the par 5s with his string of birdies on a pristine day at Pebble Beach to equal the tournament record with a 30 on the back nine.

Charley Hoffman had a 6-under 64 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, the newcomer to a three-course rotation that opened to rave reviews and scenery to match.

dustin johnson pebbleDustin Johnson birdied his final five holes at Pebble Beach to take a one-stroke lead into Friday. (Getty Images)
“One of my favorites now on Tour,” Phil Mickelson said after a 68 at Monterey Peninsula.

The best round might have belonged to David Duval, who played bogey-free until the final hole for a 5-under 67 at Spyglass Hill, traditionally the toughest course of the bunch. The average score at Spyglass was 71.52, compared with a 70.89 at Pebble Beach and a 69.97 at Monterey Peninsula.

J.B. Holmes finished eagle-birdie at Pebble Beach for a 7-under 65, an unusual streak that began by holing out an 8-iron on the par-4 eighth hole over the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Korea’s K.J. Choi also had a 65 at Pebble Beach.

The most famous of the three courses was the best place to be in such serene conditions. If wind and rain is in the forecast – anything is possible in these parts – it’s best to get Pebble out of the way.

“It’s one of the best places you want to be when it’s good weather,” Johnson said. “It’s so pretty, too. It’s a fun place to be.”

It’s always good to have length, and Johnson used that to his advantage.

He reached the front edge of the green on the 573-yard 14th hole, setting up a chip and a putt to start his birdie run. Johnson was worried momentarily when he pulled his 3-wood toward the out-of-bounds stake, safe by some 20 feet and leaving him a sand wedge that he hit inside 6 feet. Johnson finished with another big drive that left him only a 3-iron to the middle of the par-5 18th green.

But it was a 7-iron that left him the most pleased.

Johnson had 169 yards to the hole, typically an 8-iron. But with the pin to the back right, he tried to protect against too much spin down the slope. Instead, he hit what Johnson called a “chip 7-iron” that settled about 6 feet away.

“One of the better swings,” he said.

Johnson missed a 30-inch par putt on the fifth hole, but that’s not unusual at this tournament, with soft, damp greens that get plenty of footprints considering the 156 players each have an amateur partner.

Holmes also missed a par putt about that length on the par-3 seventh hole, but he bounced back better than he could have imagined. The 8-iron over a corner of the ocean to a tough green at No. 8 covered the flag and landed about 10 feet behind the cup before it spun back into the hole. He followed that with a 40-foot birdie putt on the ninth.

“That’s one of those rare occasions when you make one and you actually hit it perfect,” he said of his 8-iron from 175 yards.

Holmes has been working with Dave Stockton over the last month, and the first instruction was to ditch the belly putter. Stockton wanted Holmes to putt the way he did as a kid – similar to the advice Stockton gave Mickelson – and Holmes learned quickly that it was tough to make a forward press with the end of a putter jabbed into his gut.

“That was a pretty quick decision,” Holmes said. “I had been wanting to go to the short putter, anyway.”

The celebrities were at Monterey Peninsula, and the antics were at a minimum. Most of them – whether it’s Bill Murray or George Lopez or Andy Garcia – pace themselves for the third round Saturday at Pebble Beach.

The best golf out of Mickelson’s group belonged to Brian Gay, who shot a 68. Mickelson made the turn at 3 under, but he missed a short par putt on the 14th and played his final eight holes in 1 over.

One similarity to Pebble – along with the Pacific scenery – is that it’s best to play Monterey Peninsula on a calm day. Half of the holes run along the coast, making them exposed to the wind.

“We caught it on a pretty calm day, and I thought that there were some low rounds to be had out there,” Mickelson said. “But you’ve got to make some putts. That was the one area that I didn’t quite do.”

Hoffman’s highlight was an eagle at the par-5 sixth with a hybrid that cleared the bunker and stayed on the top shelf, some 18 feet away.

Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, 18 had a 72, while 21-year-old Rickie Fowler ended with a 67.

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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.