Stricker maintains 5-shot lead at Kapalua

By Doug FergusonJanuary 9, 2012, 3:12 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Steve Stricker reached his boiling point Sunday in the Tournament of Champions when he walked off the 12th tee, his lead down to two shots and his ball in a bunker after he missed a fairway almost as wide as Wisconsin.

As he reached a clump of trees that shielded him from the fans, he thumped his 3-wood on the soft grass.

For the mild Midwesterner, this constitutes a meltdown.

“I was frustrated at that point,” Stricker said.

But he never lost his patience. More importantly, he never lost his lead. Stricker closed with four straight birdies, including a chip-in from short of the 16th green, for a 4-under 69 that restored the five-shot lead he started with in the third round at Kapalua.

It only looked as though nothing had changed.

Defending champion Jonathan Byrd had a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole for a share of the lead. He missed it and had to settle for two more pars and a 67.

Webb Simpson had long birdie putts on the 13th and 14th holes to catch Stricker. He missed both of those and was left in the wake of Stricker’s great finish.

“That was key to finish that way,” Stricker said. “Sets me up for some momentum going into tomorrow. I just kept telling myself that I had the lead still and just to be patient. Things were not really going the way I had hoped, but I just kept telling myself to hang in there.”

Stricker was at 19-under 200, poised to start the new season off with a trophy in his hands and a lei around his neck.

Only two other players have led by as many as five shots through 54 holes at Kapalua – Geoff Ogilvy in 2009 and David Duval in 1999 – and both went on to win handily. Stricker doesn’t expect it to be that easy.

He will play in the final group with Byrd, who overcame back-to-back bogeys early in his round for a 67. Byrd would have taken a spot in the last group at the start of the week. Five shots behind the highest-ranked American in the field?

“He’s a tough guy to catch,” Byrd said. “But I don’t think any lead is too much.”

Martin Laird had a 67 and also was five shots behind at 14-under 205, along with Simpson, who had to settle for a 69.

“I don’t know what it will take, but I’m guessing a minimum of 8 under probably,” Laird said of his chances Monday. “But this is a golf course that you can do it.”

Stricker showed that Saturday when he had a 10-under 63. As uncomfortable as he felt Sunday, such a score looked impossible.

“I wasn’t making any birdies, and it seemed like everybody else was,” Stricker said. “I knew it was going to be tough. When you’re leading a golf tournament, it’s just hard to keep that momentum. When you’re not making birdies, you feel like you’re letting things slip away. I felt everyone was coming after me, and I was coming back to the pack.”

But he owns the closing stretch on the Plantation Course.

With his four straight birdies at the end, Stricker is now 13 under par on the last five holes. This time, he started his birdie run on the par-5 15th with a 3-wood that he had to hit perfectly to get onto the green, and he did just that for a two-putt birdie.

He followed with a chip-in from short of the 16th green – “I stole one there,” Stricker said – then crushed a tee shot and hit 9-iron into about 4 feet on the 17th. With a 406-yard drive on the 18th – down the hill, down the grain, the wind at his back – he came up just short of the green for an easy birdie.

It’s the rest of the day that didn’t feel so easy.

“I didn’t feel comfortable,” Stricker said. “I didn’t hit it bad, but I didn’t feel as aggressive at times. You’re in a position where you don’t want to screw up, but yet you’re on a course that birdies can be made and guys can come from a ways back.”

The more pars Stricker made, the more he let other players back into the hunt.

Stricker began the third round with a five-shot lead over Simpson, and only five players were closer than 10 shots of him.

Byrd, despite consecutive bogeys early in the round that put him nine shots behind, began his rally with an eagle on the fifth hole. Laird made four birdies on the front nine and made the turn in 12 under.

Stricker’s cushion effectively was gone in two holes.

After making a 20-foot birdie putt on the seventh, he ended his streak of 30 holes without a bogey with a three-putt on the eighth, missing badly from just over 3 1/2 feet.

Then on the par-5 ninth, his lob wedge came up woefully short and rolled back down to the fairway. Again, Stricker did well to scramble for par on a birdie hole.

Simpson birdied the eighth for a two-shot swing, then picked up birdies on the 10th and 12th to close within one shot.

But no one ever caught up to Stricker, and he pulled away in the final hour.

Stricker was on the 11th tee when Bryce Molder holed out from 75 yards for eagle on the 14th hole, a cheer that caused the final group to turn and look. That got Molder to within three shots of the lead. He wound up eight shots behind.

“Steve is certainly not one to back off the pedal, so you know there’s not a great chance he’s going to come back to the field a lot,” Molder said. “You’ve got to make some birdies. I saw that through nine, he was just playing OK. And I thought, `OK, well, cool. Now we’re within striking distance.’ But you know, so much can happen in so many holes.”

It happened just in time for Stricker.

Watch live coverage of the final round of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel: Monday, 4-8 PM ET.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for an overall 15-under 201. The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is chasing his second Race to Dubai title but leading rival Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit crown, is tied for 13th on 10 under.

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.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”