Kerr Ready for Title Defense

By Lpga Tour MediaSeptember 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
LINCOLN, Calif. ' For the first time in her seven-year LPGA career, Cristie Kerr enters an LPGA event not as one of the hungry players chasing a win, but as the tournaments defending champion, looking to hold off a wave of challengers gunning for her title.
Kerr headlines a 144-player field at this weeks $1 million Longs Drugs Challenge, where she will be looking for her second career victory. Her breakthrough win last year came via a 280 (-8) total, one stroke better than Koreas Hee-Won Han.
Kerrs title defense comes a little late and on unfamiliar territory, as the event was moved from April to October and from Twelve Bridges Golf Club to Lincoln Hills Club.
A deep and talented field awaits the 25-year-old, as 11 tournament champions from 2003 are playing in the 72-hole event. Three-time champions Candie Kung and Se Ri Pak, as well as two-time champions Hee-Won Han, Juli Inkster and Rachel Teske are teeing it up on the 6,428-yard course.
In addition, 2003 tournament winners Beth Daniel, Wendy Doolan, Hilary Lunke, Grace Park, Angela Stanford and Karrie Webb are competing. Kerr will also have to defend her title against 10 of her U.S. Solheim Cup teammates and five players from the victorious European squad. U.S. Solheim Cup captain Patty Sheehan and assistant captain Jane Geddes are also making the trip to Lincoln, Calif., for the event.
Seventeen-year-old Aree Song, who advanced to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament after finishing as co-medalist at the LPGAs first sectional qualifier, is competing in the event as a sponsors exemption. Song has made the cut in 11 of her previous 14 LPGA events, including all six major championships. Most recently, she finished fifth at this years U.S. Womens Open.
Last year, Kerrs opening-round 66 (-6) gave her a share of the first-round lead with Sara Sanders, three strokes ahead of Jane Crafter, Sophie Gustafson and Julie Piers. An even-par 72 in the second round left Kerr with a two-shot advantage over Mi Hyun Kim and Crafter after 36 holes.
Kerr fired a 5-under-par 67 in the third round to widen her lead to five shots over Crafter and put her in position for her first career win. A pair of front-nine bogeys and a costly double bogey on the 15th hole, coupled with birdies by Han on holes 13 and 16, left the two tied for the lead as Kerr stood on the 18th tee.
Han, who was playing in the group ahead of Kerr, struggled to a bogey on the final hole after an errant tee shot, while Kerr two-putted from 25 feet for par and her first career LPGA title. Despite a final-round 75, Kerr became the 2002 seasons second Rolex First-Time Winner and wire-to-wire winner.
Han, whose final-round 70 was not enough to get her in a playoff with Kerr, finished a stroke back in second, followed by Heather Bowie and Crafter two strokes back in a tie for third.
Related Links:
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Longs Drugs Challenge
  • More LPGA Tour Preview Information
  • Getty Images

    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

    Getty Images

    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

    Getty Images

    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

    Getty Images

    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."