Amateur Dambaugh shares lead at LPGA Q-School

By Randall MellNovember 30, 2016, 10:49 pm

Amateur Katelyn Dambaugh grabbed a share of the first-round lead Wednesday at LPGA Qualifying School.

Dambaugh, a senior at the University of South Carolina, opened with a 5-under-par 67 in high winds at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., tying her with Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, who is making her second trip to Q-School after making it through as a 17-year-old last season. They both played the Jones Course.

Japanese teen sensation Nasa Hataoka, LPGA veteran Jaye Marie Green and South Korea’s Min-G Kim opened with 68s on the Jones course.

“I was just focusing on having fun out there,” Dambaugh told LPGA media after her round. “My coach (Greg Boyette) from home was on the bag, and we were just out there goofing off and having fun like we always do. I’m just trying to take it one shot at a time and not put pressure on myself, and letting the results take care of themselves.”

Dambaugh said her goal coming into this week was to win Symetra Tour status, then defer the status into next summer, so she could finish off her senior year at South Carolina. She might have a tougher choice than that by week’s end. The low 20 players after 90 holes will earn full LPGA status for next year, with players who finish 21st through 45th and ties earning partial status. If Dambaugh is in position to claim LPGA status come Sunday’s finish, she’ll have to declare her intention to turn pro after the round to do so.

The 156-player field will be cut to the low 70 and ties going into the final round. Everyone who makes the cut will receive at least Symetra Tour status.

Hataoka, 17, won the Japan Women’s Open last month, holding off former Rolex world No. 1 Jiyai Shin and two-time major champion In Gee Chun to win the title. She’s the first amateur and the youngest winner of a Japan LPGA major. Green was the medalist at LPGA Q-School three years ago. Kim finished 54th on the Symetra Tour money list as a rookie this year.

“I was really nervous this morning,” Hataoka said through a translator. “I’m really happy to shoot under par.”

England’s Mel Reid, a five-time Ladies European Tour winner and a Solheim Cup veteran, is among eight players who are two shots back. Reid equaled the lowest score on the Hills Course, which played the toughest of the two courses in the first round. Eighteen of the lowest 21 scores Wednesday were posted on the Jones Course, where the scoring average (72.62) was almost three strokes better than the Hills Course.

Reid said she isn’t focusing on winning an LPGA card this week. She hopes a larger goal will get her there.

“If you get to about 20-under, I think you’d get your card, so that’s what we’re trying to get to,” Reid said. “We see it as a tournament, and we’re trying to win it. I know the stakes of top 20, but we’re here to win a tournament, so I’ve got a number in my head, and I’m just going to try my very best to get to that number.”

India’s Aditi Ashok, 18, opened with a 73 on the Jones Course. She’s tied for 52nd. Ashok is coming off back-to-back victories on the LET.

“It was really up and down,” Ashok said. “I didn’t find my rhythm. I was making birdies and then dropping shots, but I made five birdies. So, it wasn’t bad. It’s still OK.”

After winning LPGA Q-School medalist honors three years ago, Green got off to a solid start as a rookie, finishing 58th on the LPGA money list. She slipped to 112th this year, prompting her return to Q-School.

“This year was rough,” Green said. “It’s weird being top 60 and getting into everything, to now having to come back to Q-School. I don’t think everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that this did to help give me some confidence. This first round definitely gives me confidence.”

UCLA’s Bronte Law, winner of the Annika Award as the best player in collegiate golf last season, opened with a 75 on the Hills course.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.