Notes: Another rookie miracle?; Calc's love affair with the Open

By Doug FergusonJuly 14, 2011, 11:43 pm

SANDWICH, England – He’s a PGA Tour rookie who had not finished in the top 10 all year until his most recent tournament, which came at the right time because it made him eligible for the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

That was Kyle Stanley on Thursday.

It also was Ben Curtis in 2003, when the unheralded American won the claret jug.

Is there a repeat performance in the works? Stanley has a long way to go, and he played in the favorable conditions Thursday afternoon, but he still managed a 2-under 68 despite a bogey on the final hole.

“I didn’t expect to be here,” Stanley said. “But now I am, and I just hope I can take advantage of the opportunity.”

Stanley was still optimistic enough that he took his passport with him to the John Deere Classic last week in Illinois, which offered a British Open spot to the leading player among the top five who was not already eligible. Stanley thought he had to win, so he was disappointed when Steve Stricker birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory.

Before long, he was on a charter flight to England for his first British Open. He has been able to do some laundry, although he had to buy some warm clothing in the pro shop.

“It took me a day to adjust, but I’m sleeping well, and I’m pretty tired in the evenings,” Stanley said. “So that’s good.”

The real adjustment comes on the links course of Royal St. George’s. Stanley, who went to college at Clemson, grew up in Washington state. He’s used to a little rain, but not on bumpy turf like a seaside links.

But he feels his game is in good shape for any kind of golf.

AN ACE OF A RECOVERY: Dustin Johnson felt his British Open chances slipping away, mostly because he couldn’t make a putt.

He got right back in the game with a shot that didn’t require a putt.

Coming off back-to-back birdies, Johnson hit a wedge from 161 yards that bounced hard toward the cup and vanished into the hole for an ace, the third of his professional career. He added another birdie on the 17th, then watched a par putt catch the lip on the 18th for an unlikely 70.

“Standing on 14, I wanted to make a few birdies and give myself a chance to get back in this thing,” Johnson said. “If you would have bet me money that I would be 1-under par standing on the 18th tee, I wouldn’t have taken it.”

The hole-in-one looked as though it might run some 20 feet by the hole. Ian Poulter said Johnson turned to him and said, “I don’t care, as long as it’s 4 inches under.”

Johnson tossed the ball into the gallery. He doesn’t get too excited about moments like this, and when someone asked if it was hard to calm down on the next tee shot, the laid-back Johnson stared back blankly.

“I’m not very excited,” he said. “I’m going to go home and sleep.”

Moments later, he showed a large lump on his neck, the produce of swollen glands. Johnson said he has an infection and began taking antibiotics on Wednesday. The finish was a good tonic in its own way.

CALC’S BRITISH: Mark Calcavecchia doesn’t get in any other majors anymore unless they’re of the senior variety. That makes him appreciate his annual trip to the British Open even more.

Not to say Calcavecchia still can’t play a bit. His 69 in Thursday’s opening round would have been a good score even if he wasn’t a member of the Champions Tour.

“I just get fired up coming over here, and even if I hadn’t won the thing once, I would have told you it was my favorite,” said Calcavecchia, who won the British in 1989 at Royal Troon.

Calcavecchia arrived on Tuesday and played only five holes of practice at Royal St. George’s before going out early and posting his 1-under-par round. The 51-year-old Calcavecchia said he plans to take advantage of his former champion’s exemption as long as he can.

“Just coming over here, the atmosphere, the one week here of links golf and wind and weather and bounces, the stands, everything about it I love really,” he said.

Calcavecchia said his dream would be to win the Open again, but that he would take what he gets.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t get mad and just do the best I could every hole,” he said. “So one day down and three to go.”

LEADING OFF: History suggested Jerry Kelly might not have been the best guy to lead off Thursday morning at Royal St. George’s. The last time he played the first hole here in the British Open he shot an 11.

Kelly was better in the first round this year, making a bogey 5 after bouncing a sand wedge over the green. Still, thoughts from eight years ago were on his mind.

“I recognize the irony in it after what happened last time,” Kelly said.

Kelly shot an 86 that day and withdrew from the Open. He got around in 74 on Thursday, finding Royal St. George’s to be a much different course than it was then.

“The rough at No. 1 (in 2003) was up to the waist,” Kelly said. “Now it’s just up to the knees, but it’s the coverage underneath that was so heavy before. It’s much more playable this time.”

THE ONE-TWO PUNCH: Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the top two players in the world, each had 71 on different sides of the draw. Donald wasted a strong start in the tough morning weather, while Westwood had to birdie two of his last five holes in the afternoon.

Donald said his putting, not the pressure of playing before a home English crowd as the world No. 1, was to blame.

“I felt like I played a pretty solid round other than some missed opportunities on the greens,” Donald said. “I had three or four lip-outs and a few other opportunities that went amiss. It really could have been a very good round. A 71 is still solid, but it certainly could have been a little bit better if I’d have had the putter going.”

Westwood made three straight bogeys early in his round and made the turn in 38. He was helped by birdies on the 14th and 15th, and not dropping any more shots coming in.

“It could have been a lot worse - 3 over through five holes is a poor start, and you don’t want to be chasing in major championships,” he said. “My game was pretty good today. I hit a lot of good shots. Like I say, on the greens I didn’t capitalize on it.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Tom Lewis is named after Tom Watson. To show a sense of the golfing tradition in his family, his younger brother was named Jack.

“You can imagine who that’s after,” Lewis said, referring to Jack Nicklaus if it’s still not clear.

That led to a natural question of whether his brother plays golf, and how well. Lewis showed some humor when he leaned forward into the microphone and made sure he understood the question.

“Is he any good? No,” he said, as the room broke into laughter.

Then came some perspective.

“I think he (plays) off about 7, so he can play,” Lewis said. “I’m sure he’ll beat half the people in here.”

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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.