Stanford Had Eerie Feeling About Lunkes Putt
'I know the kind of line she had,' Stanford said. 'I didn't get my hopes up too high.'
Stanford was 1-over heading to the par-5 closing hole at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on Monday, in a three-way playoff for the title. Lunke was at even par, and Kelly Robbins was 2 over.
After a well-placed third shot, Stanford made an impossible 30-foot putt for a birdie. On the same hole a day earlier, she also made a birdie putt to join the playoff.
'I hit the best shot that I could and I felt, well, maybe there's still some magic left in this hole for me,' she said. 'Once it went in, I thought, I can't believe this is happening to me.'
But there was some magic there for Lunke, too. She made a 15-footer -- after easily draining putts all day -- for the victory.
Lunke finished with a 1-under 71, while Stanford was even. Robbins also birdied the final hole to wrap up with a 73.
Just a little more than two weeks ago, Stanford missed the cut at the Wegmans Rochester International. But she rebounded with her first ever LPGA Tour win in the ShopRite LPGA Classic last weekend.
Even though she didn't pull off a miracle on the 18th, Stanford left the course smiling.
'I think when I show up at events now, I can walk a little taller,' the third-year tour pro said of her recent success.
But Stanford admittedly sealed her fate with a poor front nine. She opened with consecutive bogeys and added another on No. 8 in a 3-over 39.
A run on the back nine, with three birdies in four holes, pulled Stanford even with Lunke -- until a bogey on No. 17 dropped her a shot back and set up the final hole.
'For as bad as I hit it on the front nine, maybe this is the way it should be,' Stanford said.
In the end, Robbins was nearly forgotten. But an amazing shot from a deep collection area on the No. 18 nearly went in for an eagle.
Lunke made the winning putt before Robbins' final putt.
'I didn't know if I needed to play anymore,' she said. 'I thought I was done.'
Robbins, the veteran of the group with 12 years on the tour, was thinking of giving up the game just a few years back. She has not won an event since 1999.
But the Open has given her new energy.
'Last week if you would have told me I was going to be in the playoff, I would have said, `Yeah, right. Sure,'' she said.
Robbins' unlucky number Monday was No. 13, where she double bogeyed. She also bogeyed three of the first four holes.
'I was just happy to be here,' she said. 'I thought maybe I could pull it off.'
The three-way playoff was set up Sunday when all three players came in with 1-under 283s.
Robbins birdied two of the last three holes Sunday to close with a 2-under 69.
Lunke made six bogeys in a 75, but kept her composure and had a chance to win with a 15-foot birdie putt that was right on line but came up short.
The surprise was Stanford, who made a slick, downhill birdie putt from 20 feet that fell in the center of the cup on the 18 at Witch Hollow.
It was the first playoff in the U.S. Women's Open since Se Ri Pak won at Blackwolf Run in 1998, and the first involving three women since Laura Davies beat JoAnne Carner and Ayako Okamoto in 1987.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.