LPGA Stars Headlining in Sin City

By Lpga Tour MediaApril 11, 2006, 4:00 pm
Wendy Ward returns to Las Vegas this week for the 54-hole LPGA Takefuji Classic and is in a similar situation she found herself last year at this event-looking for consistency.
Finding a little roulette-style luck would not hurt, either. Like last year, Ward heads to the $1.1 million event with only one top-30 finish on her current season's resume. She is 43rd on the ADT Official Money List-compared to 46th last year-and could use a pick-me-up that only Las Vegas can provide.
A year ago, Ward torched the par-72 layout winning wire-to-wire. She was the only player to shoot in the 60s all three rounds and finished the event at 16-under-par to win her fourth career LPGA title. But, more importantly, she parlayed her Las Vegas success to four more top-10 finishes and a 17th place finish on the 2005 ADT Official Money List.
To do the same this year, she is going to have to top some pretty tough competition. Juli Inkster, who checks in at No. 1 on the ADT Official Money List, has been on Tour-now in her 24th year-longer than some of her competitors have been alive. But at 45, Inkster is still one of the best in the game. The LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member won the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola last month and, two weeks ago, finished fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Second to Inkster on the ADT Official Money List is Lorena Ochoa, who has had her share of ups and downs this year. She has shot 62, 64 and 65, respectively, this year, but has also suffered defeat twice in sudden-death playoffs. The 24-year-old Mexican is one of the most aggressive players on Tour and played well here last year, finishing second to Ward.
Ochoa ended the tournament at 14-under-par, but that was after opening up with a 74. She shot a 63-65 to end the tournament and provided a brief scare to Ward. If she can shake off her early-season disappointments and pick up where she left off last year, then Ochoa might be leaving Las Vegas with her first trophy of the year.
Hometown favorite Natalie Gulbis and 2004 champion Cristie Kerr have to be considered favorites, as well. Gulbis has been on the cusp of winning for some time now and maybe all she needs is some hometown cooking to put her over the top. She earned more than $1 million last year and already has four top-five finishes this year in five events, so a win could be right around the corner for her.
Like Gulbis, Kerr has been playing great golf this year. The six-time champion has four top 10s this year.
Perhaps one of the rookies will breakthrough this week and become a Rolex First-Time Winner. Four of the top-five players in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race are playing and are poised for a win. Seon Hwa Lee, who leads the standings with 280 points (74 more than Morgan Pressel, who is not playing this week), has shared a similar fate as Ochoa this year.
The Duramed Futures Tour graduate is consistently at the top of the leaderboard, but lost in a three-hole playoff to Meena Lee at the Fields Open in Hawaii. She also tied for second to Annika Sorenstam at the MasterCard Classic Honoring Alejo Peralta. Maybe this is the week she finally puts together three solid rounds and cashes an oversized paycheck.
Fellow rookies Brittany Lang (174 points), Julieta Granada (149 points) and Ai Miyazato (90 points) join Lee in the field this week. If either Lee, Lang, Granada or Miyazato wins, you will not see them risking their winnings at a roulette table Saturday night-no matter how tempted they are. Miyazato, the oldest of the four, doesn't turn 21 until June.
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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideki Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    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."