No pressure on Scott as he cards 69 in Round 1

By Jay CoffinApril 10, 2014, 11:09 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sound the alarm, Adam Scott has nothing to lose.

That should seem disconcerting for 96 other men looking to capture this 78th Masters.

“Having won last year, I think in some ways has taken a little pressure off me as I teed up today and kind of felt like, ‘what was the worst that can happen? I’m still going to be a Masters champion,’ ” Scott said Thursday after an opening 69 left him in a second-place tie, only one shot behind leader Bill Haas.

This is a common refrain from previous major winners. There are truckloads of pressure on most top-ranked players to win that maiden major. Once it finally happens, a weight is often lifted.

In fact, just two days ago Phil Mickelson was preaching to the press about how much easier it was to win jacket Nos. 2 and 3 after winning his first in epic fashion in 2004.

“I have won this thing,” Mickelson said. “I know how to win it and it’s a confidence and momentum-builder when you can look back on that. It’s a huge thing to have already done it.”

Scott is in this type of zone.

There’s little doubt that having one jacket in his closet has allowed him to be more comfortable, especially during an opening stretch where he made four birdies in the first 10 holes. In the past, Scott admitted to nerves and knees knocking on Augusta’s historic first tee. Now it’s booming drives, precise iron shots and smooth strokes with that infamous broomstick putter.

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The opening-round score marked the fourth time in the last five competitive rounds that Scott has shot 69. Each of the last three winners of the Masters shot 69 in the first round and each of the last six winners has shot an opening score in the 60s.

“It was really how you hope to come out and play at any major, and especially the Masters,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about my round.”

Sure, Scott hit 14 of 18 greens, 10 of 14 fairways and took 30 swats with the putting wand, but there was one swing the 33-year-old Aussie would love to have back.

In the heart of Amen Corner, walking from the 11th green to the 12th tee box, Scott received a standing ovation, a customary practice from Masters patrons to Masters champions.

Minutes later Scott completed his worst swing of the day and deposited a 9-iron shot into Rae’s Creek. He took a drop, chipped to 5 feet and missed the bogey putt.

“I just lost a little focus on that shot and didn’t commit fully to it and paid a price on that one,” he said.

Such hiccups are bound to happen occasionally around this place.

Although Scott made birdie on the 14th hole, he three-putted both par 5s on the back (Nos. 13 and 15) to make par when birdie seemed likely both times. He salvaged par on the last hole after hitting his approach over the back of the green. He got up and down by converting a longish par putt.

Still, Scott has everything going for him. He’s the first defending champion in 13 years to break 70 in the first round – Vijay Singh did so in 2001. Since 1974 only four first-round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the Masters, but in 14 of the last 18 years the winner was inside the top 10 after Day 1.

Couple all those stats with Scott’s confidence, attitude and copious amounts of talent, and we could be on the verge of seeing only the fourth repeat champion in the history of this great tournament.

“There is a certain sense of freedom in the way you play, I think, and no doubt you can see that in the way Phil’s played around here since breaking through and hitting some shots that, if he had not had the success or the wins, he might not have hit being a little tighter,” Scott said.

“I’m swinging well, so I don’t mind taking on a couple shots… I’m kind of assessing everything and trying to play the percentages in my favor. That’s my kind of game.”

That game has a great chance to produce the same result it did 52 weeks ago here amongst the azaleas, dogwoods and Georgia pines.

Scott has fired the first warning shot.

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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.