Six To Watch This Summer
In this world of what have you done for me lately? each fits nicely into conversation around the water cooler. In no order of importance, here we go:
Davis Love III: Davis hardly needs to be reminded that he hasnt won a tournament since The International in 2003. Loves 03 campaign was nothing short of spectacular and thats much of the reason were looking for more and wondering why we arent seeing the results. He was third on the money list that year with more than $6 million in earnings. This year hes shown signs of getting back to winning ways. Four top 10s and the runner-up finish at the MCI Heritage when Darren Clarke and Peter Lonard battled. I talked with Love that week and he was quick to point out that his son Drew has become quite knowledgeable about money lists and World Rankings.
Three stats dont help the current cause: 108th in driving accuracy, 86th in greens in regulation and 79th in putting. As it stands, 18 PGA Tour victories, including one major and two Players Championships, should get him to the World Golf Hall of Fame someday. I say 'should.' Hes better than those numbers as they stand, and I expect well see another run soon like we saw in 2003.
Mike Weir: He drives it an average of 272.9 yards, which ranks him 158th. That would be a concern except that he ranks 12th in driving accuracy and ninth in greens in regulation. Weir has always been one of the most accurate players and, like Chris DiMarco, hes forced into that because of the lack of true power.
Whats hurting Mike is the flat stick. Hes 123rd on the PGA Tour right now. After winning the Masters we expected even more from the Canadian whose World Ranking was heading north in a hurry. Last year, Weir won the Nissan Open. This year he finished second at Pebble Beach but has only one other top 10 finish. Canadians follow Weir all the time. American followers were growing after 03. I never thought that magical season was a once in a lifetime. But, like Love III, he needs a win to find himself back in conversation about the games top stars.
Jim Furyk: Why watch Furyk this summer? Im quite certain hes ready to get back to his winning ways. Like DLIII, he tied for second at the MCI Heritage and also has three other top 10s. Furyks final-round numbers this year are as follows: 67, 65, 73, 70, 68, 74, 69. Not bad, not bad at all. Jim also lacks for true power at 164th on tour in driving distance. His most impressive stat is the combination of 40th in greens in regulation and 10th in putting. Like Love and Weir, Furyks biggest season came in 2003. The U.S. Open and the Buick Open came his way, leading to a fourth-place finish on the money list. Nobody doubts that Furyk will be in the winners circle again. Its my hunch that itll come this summer, and it may come more than once. Some limb Im going out on, huh?
Sergio Garcia: When Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is getting more W's and more publicity for contention, then something has to change. This is the time of year Garcia heats up. Aside from the Mercedes Championships, his PGA Tour wins have come at summer sites like the Barclays Classic (formerly the Buick Classic at Westchester), EDS Byron Nelson Championship and The Bank of America Colonial.
Sergio has three top 10s this year thus far, but like Love, he missed the cut at the Masters and hasnt really had a big impact week. With all the talk about great winners on the PGA Tour this year, Sergio needs to find his way into the conversation. Putting is drowning El Nino ' hes 185th this year in that statistic. Tough to win with those numbers, and even tougher to succeed under pressure. Sergio wants majors. Hell get his share, but he needs wins right now ' and soon.
Charles Howell III: It has to happen, right? Hes too good for just one PGA Tour win, right? I think so. So does everyone else. Charles finished third at the Sony Open in Hawaii and then second in his next start at the Buick Invitational. Like Sergio, this American young gun could use a putting lesson or two. Hes 145th in that category.
When you hit greens on the PGA Tour ' youd better make your fair share of birdies. Howell is not. Hes converting at just a 28 percent clip, which ranks him 116th. One of the nice things about Howell to me is that hes a straight shooter. Hes extremely knowledgeable about the game and his numbers. Charles is always striving to get better and that might be the only thing that hurts him. Two years ago, Howell was a member of the Presidents Cup team for the USA. Its no guarantee hell get an opportunity this year ' but for the sake of Americas future in team events, it would be nice if he showed up with at least his second PGA Tour win.
Jay Haas: This man hardly needs any publicity. Hes been talked about more than any player who hasnt won of late. In truth, Haas hasnt won since 1993. But hes accomplished so, so much. His 2003 season had golf observers in disbelief that at the age of 49 he could finish 15th in money and post two runner-up finishes. Last year he made another $2 million and again made the trip to the Tour Championship.
The question now is, Is he slowing down? Haas hasnt missed a cut this year but has just one top 20. I wonder how soon the Champions Tour will come calling full time. His game is certainly PGA Tour quality ' and then some. But Haas could do a lot by winning with regularity on the Champions Tour. I say watch Jay this summer and appreciate his class. He might be switching addresses sooner than we think.
Given all the talk about the Big Four and all the great names whove won this season - including Appleby, Leonard, Harrington, Perry, Scott and Toms - I just cant believe some of these guys mentioned havent found their way yet. Its a long season, I know and Im sure you can come up with your own Ones to Watch list.
Im all ears.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.
She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.
Her confidence is high.
“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”
Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.
Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.
“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”
Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.
“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”
Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.
“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”
That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.
While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.
But then . . .
“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”
In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.
She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.
With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.
At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).
Park’s back with a hot putter.
That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.
“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.
“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.
Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.
“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.
Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.
Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.
They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.
Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.
“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.
“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”
Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.
“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”
Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.
“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.
It came on St. Patrick’s Day.
“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”
Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).
One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.
“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.
Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.
Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF
PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”
She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.
That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.
With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.
Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.
Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.
Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?
“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”
Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.
“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”
Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.
“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”
About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.
“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.
Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.
While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.
“You never know,” she said.