Thompson, Guthrie share Day 3 Honda Classic lead

By Doug FergusonMarch 2, 2013, 11:22 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – PGA Tour rookie Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson survived the chilly, blustery conditions and shared the lead Saturday in the Honda Classic.

With wind making the course play longer and the water look even more daunting, Guthrie held on for a 1-over 71 in his first time playing in the last group on Tour. The 22-year-old from Illinois closed with eight good pars. Thompson narrowly missed a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole for a 70.

They were at 8-under 202, and had to buckle down for what figures to be a wide-open final round.

Lee Westwood chipped for an unlikely birdie on the 14th hole, made a 20-foot birdie on the 17th and salvaged a par despite hitting 3-wood into the water on the final hole for a 70 that left him only two shots behind. Geoff Ogilvy also had to work hard for a 70, starting with three bogeys on the opening four holes. Ogilvy made a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th to join Westwood at 202 and give him a great chance to erase a miserable West Coast swing.


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Ogilvy, who failed to finish in the top 50 and qualify for the Masters at the end of last year by one shot, missed his last four cuts and didn't qualify for the Match Play Championship last week. He has until the end of the month to go from No. 79 into the top 50, making Sunday an important day.

Eleven players were separated by four shots going into the final round, a group that included Rickie Fowler, Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose.

Missing from the mix was Tiger Woods.

Woods had hoped to post a low score to at least get into contention and was headed that way with a 32 on the front nine. But he didn't make another birdie the rest of the way, and took a double bogey on the par-3 17th when his shot plugged into the bank short of the green and he never found the ball. He wound up with a 70, not a bad score under the conditions, but not good enough to achieve what he wanted. He was eight shots behind.

Woods was nine shots out of the lead a year ago after 54 holes, closed with a 62 and was runner-up by two shots to Rory McIlroy.

Instead of the No. 1 player at the top of the leaderboard, there is a pair of players who have never won on the PGA Tour, two players who realized that a victory Sunday would get them into The Masters. Thompson (pictured) hasn't been to Augusta National since 2008 as a U.S. Amateur finalist.

If the wind is anything like it was Saturday, it could be a matter of hanging on – and not just for them.

''Even par for the day was never going to go backward,'' Ogilvy said. ''It was only going to go forward, and I did that.''

Proof of that was the scoring. No one among the last 20 players to tee off Saturday broke par. Former PGA champion Y.E. Yang had a 67, the low score of the third round, and moved up 36 spots into a tie for seventh.

Westwood made a pair of sloppy bogeys to end the front nine and was in danger of falling too far behind until a 33 on the back nine got him back in the game. Just as key was getting through the 10th and 11th holes with par.

The par-4 11th, with the second shot over a lake, played so difficult that it yielded only one birdie among 75 players – a 35-foot putt by Yang – and played to an average score of 4.8, which was higher than both the par 5s at PGA National.

The 10th played just over 500 yards as a par 4 and into the wind, so tough that Ogilvy had to hit 3-wood for his second shot.

''I like my chances regardless of the conditions,'' Westwood said. ''I'm playing nicely. Just got a couple of mistakes I made today, but other than that, I'm playing solidly. I have to start making a few putts. I had a lot of chances to make putts that just grazed the hole. I like being out late on a Sunday and having a chance.''

Five of the nine players within four shots of the lead could get to the Masters with a win, and that would be particularly meaningful to Howell, who grew up in Augusta. He was five shots out of the lead, until making a 20-foot birdie on the 15th and coming close to the water on the 18th, stopping short of a bunker for an up-and-down birdie that gave him a 71.

Fowler had a 69 and finished nearly two hours before the leaders. When the round was over, his name was prominently on the leaderboard. He will play in the final round with Howell in the third-to-last group.

''The biggest thing is being within a few shots going into the back nine tomorrow,'' Fowler said. ''That's where the tournament really starts.''


Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.