Augusta Next Stop on Flanagan Express

By Mercer BaggsApril 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
Who is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion?
This isnt a thought-provoking question. Not presented to seek some deep, philosophical insight.
Its just a simple question, in need of a simple two-word answer.
Who is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion?
Nick Flanagan.
Maybe you knew that, maybe you didnt. Maybe seeing his name triggered a light bulb: Oh, yeah, the Australian kid.
Believe it or not, Flanagan, a physically unimposing 19-year-old from New South Wales, may be more recognizable in the U.S. than in his native country.
Its not really that big of a thing in Australia, Flanagan said in regards to becoming the first Australian in 100 years to win the U.S. Amateur championship. People dont realize how big of a thing it is, back home in Australia. Unless youre a golfer you might not know a thing about it.
Seven years ago, few who didnt have Flanagan blood running through their veins were familiar with Nick.
I never heard of him until that week last year at the U.S. Amateur, said fellow Aussie Adam Scott.
No, not really, replied Stuart Appleby, when asked if Flanagan was much of a name in Australian golfing circles prior to his major triumph.
Flanagan, the son of a coal mine electrician and a grocery store clerk, wasnt much of a golfer until one of the most inspirational moments in golf history became his most influential.
I watched the 1997 Masters ' its what got me started playing, he said. That was the first golf tournament I ever watched on TV.
The medium of television and the mastery of Tiger Woods combined to create some kind of addictive elixir in Flanagans golfing soul.
Tiger is the guy that ' thats what got me started playing golf pretty much. I had been playing for probably a year or so and I watched that and then went crazy on the practice range for the next few years and just gone from there, he said.
Tiger Woods in 97 was really the main thing that influenced my life.
Woods has had an impact on many a youthful life, but never, when considering a players rise through the golfing ranks, the straight adrenaline affect it had on Flanagan.
To go from nothing to being a top, world-class amateur in six, seven years ' thats probably never happened in the history of modern golf, as I can remember, said Appleby.
Appleby was Flanagans host when the now accomplished amateur competed in the Bay Hill Invitational, which offers an invitation each year to the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.
Nick, who shares the same instructor as Appleby, Steven Bann, was extremely appreciative for the room and board, as well as the opportunity to play his first PGA Tour event ' where he shot 72-76 to miss the cut.
But the highlight of the week came before the tournament ever started.
The Sunday before Bay Hill week, Appleby and Flanagan participated in a little practice session on the range at Isleworth Country Club ' alongside one of the exclusive community's more famous residents.
Stuart introduced me to Tiger. That was good, he said with still a hint of awe. Hes been my idol since I was 13, 14 years old. Hitting balls next to him for a half-hour or so ' out of this world.
In Flanagans world, golf barely had a pulse B.T. ' Before Tiger.
I didnt really know much about golf history before 97, he readily admits.
He knew of countryman Greg Norman, but couldnt have told you ' at least B.T. ' of his Masters misfortunes.
He knew of golf about as much as it knew of him.
Of course, then Tiger came along and changed everything. Hes now more knowledgeable of its past ' and the realm of what hes accomplished ' even if he still relates everything to his golfing Buddha.
The Australian Amateur is nothing compared to the U.S. Amateur. As an amateur, the U.S. Amateur is The Tournament. I grew up watching the Tiger Triple tape where he won three in a row, Flanagan said.
In addition to his recent PGA Tour foray, Flanagan has competed in three events on the Australasian Tour since winning the Havemeyer Trophy.
He made the cut in all three, and even tied for third in this years ANZ Championship. The week before, he tied for 32nd in the Heineken Classic, where he shot 67 in the opening round while grouped with Ernie Els, who had a 60 that day, and Adam Scott.
It was interesting to see him play with me and Ernie in Melbourne. I thought he would be really nervous, but he came out and birdied the first three holes, Scott said.
Aside from not being game enough to approach Tiger on his own during their mutual practice session, Flanagan doesnt appear to be the testy type.
He received an encouraging and calming letter from Norman prior to his 36-hole match against Casey Whittenberg in the U.S. Am. final, and then kept his poise long enough to dispose of the American favorite on the first hole of sudden death.
Now hes at Augusta National, where he lived two dreams Monday: playing the course for the first time and doing so alongside Woods.
He will play with defending champion Mike Weir over the first two rounds, and will use the invaluable services of veteran caddie Tony Navarro, who is on loan from Norman.
Courtesy his Amateur victory, Flanagan can compete in the first three major championships this year so long as shuns professional status ' and he plans to do just that for the time being. He also has his broadening sights set on adding the British Amateur title to his resume.
I would like to play Memorial (for which he has an exemption to compete), but the British Amateur is at St. Andrews (the same week) this year and I would like to go over there and play, he said. I would like to try and hold both titles at the same time.
After that, his playing status is in question; though, he said there is a possibility that he would turn professional after the British Open ' which would be a month before the U.S. Amateur.
I want to see how it goes after the majors this year, and take it from there, he said. Well have to see how it goes.
Whenever he makes that decision, he will have a bank vault of valuable advice ' from Norman to Appleby to Els ' upon which to draw.
Ernie asked me when I was turning pro. Its good to hear from guys like that, top 20 players in the world, Flanagan said.
He told me what he thought was probably the best thing for me to do. I just said to him, I just want to see if I can go out here and compete with these guys, and Ernie said that Im right there at the moment.
For someone like that to say that at this time is pretty amazing.
That kind of praise has been prevalent from those with whom he has played.
Theres no doubt that hes good enough to turn pro. But as long as he just enjoys himself, doesnt pressure himself to be the next Tiger Woods, hell be fine, Scott said.
Added Appleby: Hes got a good attitude; hes down to earth. Hes a good Aussie kid.
Hes got a lot of fight in him. Hes got a lot of what we call mongrel in him that pushed him to where he is today so quickly.
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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.