McIlroy starts strong at PGA, while Woods struggles

By Doug Ferguson, Associated PressAugust 7, 2014, 11:52 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rory McIlroy showed no sign of letting up. Lee Westwood might just be getting started. Momentum was a big theme Thursday in the opening round of the PGA Championship, and it even applied to Tiger Woods.

Except that Woods kept going the wrong direction.

Westwood followed up a season-best 63 four days ago at Firestone by matching his best score in a major championship. He made nine birdies at Valhalla for a 6-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell.

One shot behind was McIlroy, the No. 1 player and overwhelming favorite in the final major of the year. McIlroy, coming off back-to-back wins at the British Open and a World Golf Championship, overcame a wild double bogey on the par-5 10th hole by running off four straight birdies. His eagle attempt on the 18th hole narrowly missed. He settled for a 66, a solid start in his bid to become only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year.


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Woods achieved that feat twice, including at Valhalla in 2000. That now seems even longer than 14 years ago.

On a day when nearly half the field shot par or better, Woods opened with a 3-over 74. He hit two tee shots that missed the fairway by some 30 yards, hooked a 3-wood into a creek and hit a spectator with his tee shot on a par 3. His two best putts were for par and bogey.

''It wasn't very good,'' Woods said.

He didn't look very sharp. In his last competitive round, Woods withdrew after eight holes at Firestone because of another back injury. He said his trainer was able to pop a joint back into place above the sacrum, eliminating the pain. But it apparently did little for the rust.

Woods wasn't the only player who hit a few wild ones.

Right when McIlroy was building momentum, he hooked his second shot on the par-5 10th hole over a fence and out of bounds, leading to a double bogey. He was more upset about a three-putt bogey on the next hole, but then Boy Wonder bounced back with four straight birdies to get right back into the mix.

''Whenever you are confident and you have some momentum on your side, it's easier to do what I did today rather if everything is sort of going against you, and you're struggling for form and you have a patch like that,'' he said.

Everything is very much going his way right now. It was his 11th straight round under par, and his third straight round of 66.

Westwood also had a double bogey on his 10th hole that kept his score from being even better. He played the back nine first, and hit his tee shot right down the middle at No. 1, and right at the edge of a divot that wasn't entirely filled with sand.

''It was like caught or plugged,'' Westwood said. ''So it would have been a perfect 9-iron from the fairway, and just unlucky. Caught it a bit heavy.''

He flubbed a chip trying to be too perfect and missed a 4-foot bogey putt. Much like McIlroy, he responded in splendid fashion by closing out his round with four straight birdies, finishing with a 30-footer on the ninth hole.

Westwood also had a 65 in the third round at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open.

''I've played better rounds of golf, but I was really pleased today,'' he said. ''I hit a lot of quality iron shots, and it felt like 65 was a fair enough score for the way I played. I got a couple of bad breaks out there, but I rolled a couple of putts in that you probably wouldn't expect to hole. But that's just the way it is. A bit of momentum is a wonderful thing.''

The timing was great for Westwood, who is trying to avoid missing the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1995. European captain Paul McGinley told Westwood he wanted to see some form, and Westwood has delivered a 63 at Firestone and a 65 in the opening round of the final major.

Chappell played bogey-free in his 65, while a late bogey was about the only thing that spoiled Palmer's day. He was the only one to reach 7 under par, with a birdie on the seventh hole, and he allowed himself to think about two more birdies for a 62 and the lowest score ever in a major. He missed a short par putt on No. 8 and that was that.

''I wanted to get to 8 (under) so bad and it kept driving me,'' Palmer said. ''So we'll take 6 going into tomorrow.''

The course was generally soft and gentle, and it showed in the scores.

While it's daunting to see McIlroy anywhere near the lead the way he's playing, Valhalla offered good scores to plenty of players.

Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk were among five players at 66. Kentucky native J.B. Holmes had a 68 despite taking a double bogey on the 13th hole when his drive landed in a divot and his next shot to the island green didn't find the island.

Phil Mickelson played alongside Woods and rallied for a 69.

For Woods, it was the second straight round in a major when he didn't beat the Ryder Cup captain, 64-year-old Tom Watson, who had a 1-over 72.

Watson was more interested in how his team was shaping up than his own game. Qualifying ends after the PGA Championship, and Watson gets three picks on Sept. 2.

''I'm going to with horses that are running well,'' he said.

After one day, Tiger was stumbling badly. Woods' first order of business Friday was simply to make the cut.

Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

The awards and winners:

William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”

Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.