Careful with applying too much pressure on Spieth

By Will GrayApril 16, 2014, 3:00 pm

“It’s only a matter of time.”

That’s the general sentiment pertaining to Jordan Spieth and major championship victories, now that Spieth has begun his Masters career with a T-2 finish at the ripe age of 20. A player that has exceeded all realistic expectations for more than a year did so again last week at Augusta National, and the question of him landing a maiden major title appears to be not if, but when.

It’s an understandable stance after Spieth held a two-shot lead at one point Sunday, and only nine months after winning on the PGA Tour as a teenager. He’s now the ninth-ranked player in the world.

His jaw-dropping debut on a major stage, though, seems somewhat familiar.

The year was 1999. A rising star with boyish charm took galleries by storm during the final round, only to fall short to a player who went on to claim his second career major title.

Sergio Garcia was 19 when he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the ’99 PGA Championship, but like Spieth he had a decorated amateur career (Garcia won the British Amateur and European Amateur, while Spieth took home two U.S. Junior Amateur titles and an NCAA championship at Texas). Like Spieth, he already had a victory among the professional ranks, having won the Irish Open earlier that summer.

Photos: Spieth through the years

Photos: Garcia through the years

Spieth’s rise up the OWGR since early 2013 has been impressive, but Garcia’s was as well. Turning pro after earning low amateur honors at the 1999 Masters, Garcia was ranked No. 354 in the world for his professional debut. He cracked the top 100 with his win in Ireland, and after a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship was inside the top 30 in the world – just four months into his pro career.

When Garcia and Woods left Medinah that week, it appeared a burgeoning rivalry had been gifted to the game. Woods’ rise had been foreseen for years, but here was a precocious teenager ready and willing to give him a run for his money, all while wearing his heart on his sleeve. The majors – plural – would soon follow.

Fifteen years later, Garcia’s next major title will be his first. He has not lacked for chances – another defeat to Woods at the 2002 U.S. Open; then a pair of runner-ups to Padraig Harrington, first in a playoff at the 2007 British Open and again at the PGA the following year. He’s had a distinguished career, one that saw him reach No. 2 in the world after a win at the 2008 Players Championship, but many will suggest that the promise that began at Medinah has, to this point, gone largely unfulfilled.

As is often the case in sports, a series of close calls do not equate to victory, and golf is the ultimate “prove it” game. There’s a reason why Greg Norman wasn’t at the Champions Dinner last week in Augusta, why Arnold Palmer has never lifted the Wanamaker Trophy and why the spot on Phil Mickelson’s shelf marked “U.S. Open” remains vacant.

Does Spieth possess the talent to win majors? Certainly. The game that took him to the top of the standings Sunday is one that few can match. But before trademarking “Heir Jordan” and projecting whose major haul he’ll most likely match, let’s allow Spieth to find his footing on his own terms. After all, sometimes the earliest estimations are the ones that go the most awry.

Just ask Sergio.

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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.