Pratts Opening 67 Gives Her Futures Tour Lead
'It's been really difficult not to play how I know I can play,' said Pratt of Mackay, Australia, now in her fourth season and still looking for her first professional win. 'I know I can shoot those numbers, but it's been about a year since I've done it.'
Pratt spent the early part of this week working on her wedges. That wedge work paid off in today's first round at Hickory Point Golf Course, where she hit her wedges close and converted seven birdie putts within 12 feet. Her short game, combined with a hot putter, rendered 24 putts and the first opening-round lead she has held since the first round of the Futures Tour's 2004 event in Albuquerque, N.M., last May.
'I made everything I looked at from 12 feet,' said Pratt, who tied for third at the 2004 ANZ Masters in Australia, topping fellow Aussies and LPGA stalwarts, Karrie Webb and Rachel Teske. 'Today was just one of those days when you know things are going to go right.'
And it also went right for Sun Young Yoo of Seoul, Korea and Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ontario, who tied one shot back at 4-under-par 68. Like Pratt, Yoo's putter was a pal with 25 putts on the day. The 18-year-old rookie carded a bogey-free round with four birdies and credited a new Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for getting her back on track with her flat stick.
And with three top-10 finishes in eight starts this season, the two-time member of the Korean National Golf Team said she has tried to remain patient in her attempt to win.
'It has been frustrating, but I try not to think about it,' said Yoo with the translation help of fellow Futures Tour member Aimee Cho of Seoul. 'I might be a rookie, but I'm ready to win.'
Sharp nearly notched her first Futures Tour win two weeks ago with her second-place finish in Kankakee , Ill. A non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour, Sharp could choose to divide her time between the Futures and the LPGA Tours, but instead, she has focused on the Futures Tour and has climbed into the No. 9 spot on the seasons money list.
Today, Sharp continued climbing up the leaderboard, opening her round with a birdie from 12 feet and an eagle-3 on the par-5 second hole from 6 feet. For the day, she hit 14 greens and rolled in 29 putts.
'I didn't make many mistakes and all of my birdie putts were inside 15 feet,' said the Canadian. 'I played here last year and I know the scores were low. I tried to hit it close and make some good putts.'
A pack of eight players tied at 69 (-3), including third-ranked Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea, second-week rookie Lisa Ferrero of Lodi, Calif., and Lisa Fernandes of Jacksonville, Fla., who tied for second at this tournament in 2003. Fernandes (who previously played as Lisa Strom), reached 6-under par after 11 holes in today's opening round, but bogeyed three of her final six holes on the 6,456-yard course.
'I know if I make putts here, I have a chance,' said Fernandes, a long hitter who reached 15 greens in regulation, but used 30 putts in her opening round. 'Still, I'm happy with my start. Tomorrow's another day.'
Joining Fernandes in that group at 3-under-par 69 were Katie Quinney of Jacksonville, Fla., Tamara Johns of Queensland, Australia, Meredith Duncan of Shreveport, La., Su A Kim of Seoul, Korea and Cristina Baena of Pereira, Colombia.
Eleven players are tied at 70 (-2), while 14 are tied at 1-under-par 71. All total, 38 players carded rounds of par-72 or better.
With that many players only a few shots off the lead, Pratt knows she'll have to produce some birdies to stay ahead of the pack -- and maybe even give her tennis-pro sister a little incentive to carry the family name high next week at Wimbledon .
Saturday's second round of the 54-hole event, presented by Ameren and Miles Chevrolet, will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2 p.m.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.