Kuchar leads Memorial as Woods balloons

By Doug FergusonJune 1, 2013, 11:53 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Matt Kuchar couldn't think of conditions more difficult than Saturday in the Memorial, and he had plenty of evidence.

The swirling wind that made it difficult to pull the right club. Fast greens that led to 65 three-putts in the third round alone. And a 44 on the back nine for Tiger Woods, the highest nine-hole score of his professional career.

''I think most of us would tend to be surprised any time Tiger shoots a number like that, but a lot more understandable in these conditions,'' Kuchar said after hanging on for a 2-under 70 that gave him a two-shot lead.

''If you're not on good form, these conditions are really going to beat you up.''

Woods rallied on the front nine to salvage a 79, matching his second-worst score on the PGA Tour. And that wasn't even the highest score on a tough day at Muirfield Village. Jordan Spieth shot 45 on the front nine for an 82, while Zach Johnson and Justin Hicks each had an 81.

Highlights: Woods struggles to 7-over 79 on Day 3

Memorial Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

Kevin Chappell matched the best round of the day with a 4-under 68, leaving him two shots out of the lead, along with Kyle Stanley, who had a 70. Chappell loves having a chance to win his first PGA Tour event, which isn't to suggest it was fun getting to that position.

''I guess it's like a prize fighter,'' Chappell said. ''He enjoys winning, but I don't know if he enjoys getting hit that much.''

Kuchar was at 8-under 208, among 10 players separated by four shots.

''It was a bit of survival,'' Kuchar said. ''I was fortunate to make a handful of birdies. I think anytime you make a birdie in these conditions, you feel like you're really up on the field here. Most of these holes, you're looking at just getting out with a par.''

Woods didn't get away with anything.

Going for his sixth win at the Memorial, and his fourth victory in his last five tournaments, Woods had two double bogeys and a triple bogey on the back nine for a 44, and he did that without a penalty shot.

''The conditions were tough and when I missed it cost me,'' Woods said through a PGA Tour media official. ''I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple bad swings and all in all, it just went the wrong way.''

He wound up 16 shots out of the lead. Woods will tee off late Sunday, but on the opposite side of the course in the two-tee start because of weather.

The tournament was happy just to complete 54 holes with mid-afternoon storms that avoided Muirfield Village.

Bill Haas, the 36-hole leader, ran off three straight bogeys late in his round for a 76, and he wasn't all that upset about it. Haas was still only three shots back, and it wasn't hard to determine that par was a good score.

Like so many other players, Chappell wasn't sure which way the wind was blowing. On the 14th hole, with a wedge in hand from 105 yards, he felt the wind coming into him from the right, yet the flag was blowing in the opposite direction.

''I kept saying, 'Wow, this is tough here.' You hit a good shot and end up in a bad spot,'' Chappell said. ''What can I do? You've just got to keep doing it, put one foot in front of the other and finish each hole.''

Past winner Justin Rose had a 71 and joined Haas and Matt Jones (70) at 5-under 211. Masters champion Adam Scott had a 69 and was in the group at 4 under that included Charl Schwartzel, who was within one shot of the lead after completing the second round Saturday morning. The South African bogeyed both par 5s on the back nine and took double bogey on the 14th. He had a 41 on the back for a 76.

That was still better than Woods, whose round was somewhat of a mystery – not only because the world's No. 1 player was in great form coming into a course where he has won five times, but because he was in good position off the tee. Woods, who started the round on No. 10, missed only one fairway on the back nine.

He took double bogey on the par-3 12th when he was in such a bad spot in the front bunker that he had to play out sideways to the wrong side of a long green, and then he three-putted. On the par-5 15th, he pulled his second shot well to the left, and then took two chips to get onto the putting surface only for the ball to run through the green. He really was fooled on the 18th, with a chip that spun back down the hill and a three-putt from short range.

He had three birdies on the front nine to avoid his worst score as a pro. That was an 81 at another Muirfield – the real one – in the third round of the British Open that cost him his best shot at the calendar Grand Slam in 2002.

Kuchar surged into the lead with two birdies on the front nine and didn't drop a shot until the ninth hole, when he missed the green to the left. The wind got him on the 15th when his high fairway metal drifted beyond the bunker and into a hazard that Kuchar didn't know existed, leading to bogey.

He saved par with a 10-foot putt on the par-3 16th, and made regulation pars coming in to give himself the 54-hole lead for the second straight week. He also was atop the leaderboard at Colonial, only to finish second to Boo Weekley.

''If you're not hitting the ball solid, you don't have a chance,'' Kuchar said.

Rory McIlroy had a 75, and part of him was happy to do that. He was safely inside the cut line when he returned Saturday morning to finish his round, and he birdied the 15th hole. He followed with back-to-back bogeys, and then came up short of the green and had to get up-and-down to avoid missing the cut. He made a 4-foot par save.

Pat Perez and former Masters champion Bubba Watson were among those at 3-under 213, still with a chance but needing some help. Tee times were pushed back for Sunday in case of early storms that might require time to clean up the course.

Perez was asked whether he wanted more wind.

''I'd like it to be dead calm,'' he said. ''But I haven't hit a shot when it's not blowing 40 mph.''

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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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.”