Lewis captures Women's British Open

By Doug FergusonAugust 4, 2013, 9:47 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Stacy Lewis felt such a spiritual connection with St. Andrews that even when she was three behind with three to play, she never lost hope she could win the Women's British Open.

No way could she have scripted a finish like this.

Facing the scariest shot and the hardest hole on the Old Course - the approach to the 17th, the famous Road Hole - Lewis pictured a low 5-iron that a right-to-left wind would knock down and allow to bounce up the slope toward the flag without going over the back of the green.

''It's one of those shots you see in your head, but you don't really ever pull it off,'' Lewis said. ''And just off the club face, it was perfect.''

The ball settled 3 feet away for birdie, the best shot of the tournament, maybe the best of her career.

Then, she wisely used putter from 40 yards short of the 18th green, through the Valley of Sin to 25 feet. Lewis bent over and placed both hands on her knees after making the putt, a birdie-birdie finish that gave another special moment at the home of golf - her second major title.

Lewis saved her best for the final two holes of a marathon finish Sunday and closed with an even-par 72 for a two-shot victory over Na Yeon Choi and Hee Young Park. It ended a record drought for the Americans in the majors – 10 straight, all won by Asian players.

''It's unbelievable,'' Lewis said. ''It all happened so fast at the end. You're afraid for every shot, and all of a sudden you make a couple of birdies and it's over.''

It was over early for Inbee Park and her bid to become the first pro golfer to win four straight majors in a single season. Returning to the Old Course in the morning in calm conditions to complete 14 holes of her third round, she couldn't make a putt and lost ground. Park had a 74-78 finish and wound up 14 shots behind.

''I'm really relieved,'' she said. ''I really enjoyed this week, every moment I was here. But it's tough to be in the center of everything for a week, and I feel exhausted.''

The last time Lewis was on these hallowed grounds of golf was in 2008 for the Curtis Cup, her final event as an amateur, and she went 5-0 in her matches to lead the Americans to victory. The love affair continued this week, and her second big win at St. Andrews was even sweeter.

''I love the golf course more than anything. I love the history. I almost felt like I was meant to be here,'' Lewis said. ''I think I was happy being here all week, and I was comfortable. And I think that's a lot of the reason I'm here right now.''

Having the silver trophy at her side also required no less than her best golf over 36 holes Sunday.

The wind wasn't as bad as Saturday, when 40 mph gusts suspended play and forced 20 players go to 36 holes Sunday. But it was strong enough in the afternoon that Lewis was the only player at par or better from the last 21 groups that teed off.


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Choi had a three-shot lead with six holes to play until she had a pair of three-putt bogeys from 80 feet. Her hybrid was too strong on the 17th and hung up on the collar of rough at the back of the green. She missed a 6-foot par putt that ended her chances, and she closed with a 73.

Choi saw that Lewis had posted at 8-under 280, she just didn't know how she got there. And she couldn't believe it when she heard.

''She got birdie on 17 and 18? That's huge, especially this golf course,'' Choi said. ''I feel like I missed a couple putts out there, but still, she's playing well. She's playing better than me. I think that's why she won. I think I have to accept that.''

Hee Young Park, one of four players who shared the lead at some point in the final round, had three straight bogeys on the back nine and shot 73. Morgan Pressel had the 54-hole lead after a 71 in the wind-delayed third round that was played Sunday morning. Pressel was one shot behind until a double bogey on No. 12, and she never caught up. Pressel shot 76 and tied for fourth with Suzann Pettersen (74).

The consolation for Pressel was earning the last spot available from the world ranking to make her third straight Solheim Cup team.

It was the second time the Women's British Open was played at St. Andrews, and Lewis provided another quality winner. Lorena Ochoa won in 2007.

Lewis last year became the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win LPGA player of the year, which is based on a points system. Then, she won twice early this season to reach No. 1 in the world. That lasted only until Park won the first major and kept right on going.

Sunday was another stage for Lewis to show her grit.

She was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11, so severe that she wore a back brace for 18 hours every day from age 11 until she got out of high school, and then had to have surgery when that didn't correct the curvature in her spine.

She went on to win an NCAA title at Arkansas, star at St. Andrews in the Curtis Cup and then take the 54-hole lead in her first U.S. Women's Open as a pro. Lewis won the Kraft Nabisco in 2011, the last American major champion in women's golf until her remarkable performance Sunday.

Nothing was more impressive than her 5-iron on the 17th, one of the toughest par 4s in golf that starts with a blind tee shot over the corner of the Old Course Hotel. Lewis drilled it in the middle of the fairway, and couldn't remember how far she had for her second shot. With the wind, it didn't matter. This is the kind of shot that must be felt, and her 5-iron was hit with the right trajectory and line to catch the slopes perfectly and feed toward the hole.

''That might be one of the best of my career,'' Lewis said.

Oddly enough, it was Lewis who said she would like to play the role of spoiler at St. Andrews to stop Inbee Park's bid for history. With the trophy at her side, Lewis marveled at what Park had accomplished this year.

''I don't know if you'll ever see three in a row again,'' Lewis said. ''That's pretty incredible.''

Lewis now is at one in a row, headed to the Solheim Cup in two weeks on a high, and then to France in September for the fifth and final LPGA Tour major at the Evian Championship. She didn't mind losing the No. 1 ranking because Park earned it. Lewis looked strong enough Sunday at St. Andrews to believe she can get it back one day.

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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”


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McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”


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Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.


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Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”


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He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.