Notes Nas wild ride 17th becoming easy

By Doug FergusonMay 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Kevin Na trudged up the 18th fairway, stopped a few yards short of the green and started searching for his ball.
 
It was buried deep in the rough.
 
He probably wished he could have left his entire round there.
 
Na had the wildest round during a strange Saturday at The Players Championship. The 25-year-old Na twice pulled within a stroke of leader Alex Cejka, but followed both of them with near-meltdowns on the unforgiving Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
 
He shot a 2-over 74, was at 5 under heading into the final round and six strokes behind Cejka. It could have been worse, too.
 
This golf course can do that to you, said Na, who turned pro at 17 and is still looking for his first PGA Tour victory. Every hole is birdieable, but definitely you can make an X on it.
 
Na has proof. He made consecutive birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 to get to 9 under, then badly misread a long putt on No. 9 that seemed to start the free fall. He pulled his tee shot on No. 10 into the sand, then hit his approach 70 feet past the pin and three-putted for bogey.
 
He yanked his second shot into a tree on the par-5 No. 11 and dropped another shot. Things got even messier at the par-3 13th.
 
His dropped the club during his follow through, then covered his mouth as his tee shot landed in the water left. His third shot landed over the green, leading to a triple bogey.
 
Na managed to regroup and get back near the top of the leaderboard with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 15 and an eagle at the par-5 16th. But his day ended in forgettable fashion ' with consecutive bogeys that left him in a three-way tie for eighth heading into the final round.
 
It was wild, Na said. Some of the holes youve just got to take your medicine center of the green. I tried that. It was just a little off. I wasnt down the middle of the green, and thats what you need to do out here. Im going to go work on it on the range and figure it out a little bit.
 
He might first want to try to forget the last two holes.
 
Nas tee shot at the famed island green, No. 17, might have been the most baffling. After discussing club selection with his caddie, he watched in disbelief as his ball sailed by the pin and rolled precariously close to the edge of the water.
 
Using a hybrid club, he watched his slippery putt roll past 10 feet past the hole. He missed the par putt, but walked off the green feeling a little lucky he didnt make double bogey.
 
He hoped to get back on track at No. 18, but landed just short of a tree in the right rough. His knocked his approach shot into the tree and it ricocheted into the fairway. He came up short from there and couldnt even find his ball as he walked toward the green.
 
Fans and volunteer marshals had to help him out.
 
This course, its crazy, he said. I love the crowd here. I love the way the finishing holes are. Its just beautiful finishing holes. I think its just a great test of golf. Youve got the greatest players in the world having trouble shooting par on this golf course. It means something. Theres a reason why were shooting over par.
 

 
ANOTHER CUT: For the first time in the tournaments 36-year history, The Players Championship had a second cut. Twelve more players were cut after the third round Saturday, all of them sent home because of a Tour rule that calls for another cut if more than 78 players make it to the weekend.
 
Robert Karlsson, Hunter Mahan, Stewart Cink and Fred Funk were among the dozen players done a day earlier than they had hoped.
 

 
ISLAND PARADISE?: The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, the famed island green that has given players nightmares over the years, has proven to be a much more pleasant place to visit this year.
 
The lagoon hole, the one with swirling winds and daunting galleries, is playing under par for the first time since 1997. The holes scoring average is 2.940 through three rounds, with only 24 balls hit into the murky waters. Only four balls landed in the water Saturday, the fewest in any round since only four also got wet in the third round in 2004.
 

 
DIVOTS: NBC commentator Peter Jacobsen took a playful jab at Tiger Woods, and renowned swing coach Hank Haney, during the third-round broadcast. Jacobsen said he thought Woods would rub off on former NBA star Charles Barkley, who is starring in a reality TV show as Haneys pupil. But Jacobsen said it looked like Barkley was rubbing off on Woods. Only 18 players shot under par in the third round. Woody Austin and Kenny Perry led the way with 68s. Alex Cejkas five-stroke lead is the largest in tournament history heading into the final round.
 

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.