Lietzke Storms His Way to the Top

By George WhiteJune 28, 2003, 4:00 pm
TOLEDO, Ohio -- Thursday belonged to Tom Watson, who shot a 65, and his ailing caddie, Bruce Edwards. Friday they stepped aside to surrender the spotlight to Argentinean Vicente Fernandez, who shot a 64 after struggling with a multitude of financial and personal woes.
 
Bruce Lietzke politely stood to the side while everyone cheered heartily for those worthy opponents. But Saturday was his day, and Lietzke had been Mr. Nice Guy long enough. He started the day quietly enough, but roared to life with a 31 on the back nine, shot a 64 on the day, and leads the U.S. Senior Open by four shots. It was the greatest day of a golfing career which started almost 30 years ago.
 
Figuring the kind of golf course it is, and how difficult I think it is that probably is the greatest day Ive ever had, said Lietzke.
 
He began the third round three shots off the lead, but after his birdie at the 11th hole he was all tied with Watson and Fernandez. Then Lietzke shifted the gears into super mode and roared off by himself. He birdied the par-5 13th, lipping out his eagle attempt, then jumped ahead by two with a 90-foot chip-in at No. 14.
 
After he rolled in an eight-foot putt at 15 for his third birdie a row, he wound up his magnificent day with yet another birdie at No. 18. By that time he had virtually choked the life out of everyone in the field except maybe Watson and Fernandez. Watson and Fernandez are at 5-under, trailing Lietzkes 9-under, and for anyone else to win this tournament would be an upset of the highest magnitude.
 
Lietzke made nine birdies while hitting just seven fairways, which means he had to make a lot of birdies out of the thick, wiry hay that is Inverness. The conventional wisdom is you just dont do that. He made a mockery of it, though that is certainly something he didnt plan.
 
If you had told him before the day began that he would hit just seven fairways, he would figure his score to be 4- or 5-over par, he said.
 
But he putted beautifully all day, and his recoveries from the rough were adroitly played. He somehow found the greens, and when he did miss a green, his chips were almost always from the correct side of the pin.
 
He doesnt think too far ahead, though. For that reason, a shot in the rough was one shot only. He didnt allow himself to think about his driving or not hitting fairways.
 
I dont have strategies when it comes to the golf course, he said. Golf is a reactionary sport. You react to wherever your first tee shot goes, and if youre in position and if youve got a pin position you like, you react to that.
 
I just didnt think there were going to be those kind of opportunities out there. I didnt hit a lot of fairways, so youre not thinking birdies. But my recoveries were great, I chipped in once, I made a whole bunch of putts. I got lucky several times.
 
But Ive got news for you ' guys who have won U.S. Opens in the past have all had lucky streaks. Thats what it takes to win.
 
Watson was one of those who got flattened by the Lietzke steam roller.
 
I was backpedaling there watching Bruce do what he did, said Watson. Desperation hasnt set in yet, but we will see what happens tomorrow. We will see if we can get a little closer than four shots and put a little pressure on Bruce.
 
Watson sizzled with the putter on Thursday, making four putts of 20 feet or longer and using the wedge to hole another shot. If he did it once this week, could he not do it again Sunday?
 
Well, Id better, Watson said quickly. If I have any chance to win this tournament, they better falling tomorrow. They didnt fall today. I played enough golf to know that you cant force it to happen.
 
But Lietzke isnt so sure that he doesnt have another great round in him.
 
I felt 1- or 2-under would be a real good round of golf, I certainly didnt expect anything like a 63 or 64, he said. But if it was a possibility, then its possible tomorrow.
 
Related Links:
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.