Damron Survives for Maiden Victory

By Mercer BaggsMay 13, 2001, 4:00 pm
When Robert Damron arrived in Irving, TX, Sid Wilson, Director of Player Relations for the PGA Tour, approached him.
Wilson told Damron he had a premonition that he would walk through the parking lot on Sunday receiving pats on the back. This was Roberts week.
Free Video - Registration Required Damron talks about his four-hole playoff win
Sid, who do you like in the fifth at Pimlico?
Damron birdied the fourth hole of sudden death on Sunday to defeat Scott Verplank for his first career title at the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic.
Damron and Verplank carded a pair of 4-under-par 66s on Sunday to finish regulation at 17-under-par, three shots clear of Tiger Woods (63), Nick Price (67) and David Duval (67).
Damron, who grew up and still resides in a home on the Bay Hill golf course in Orlando, Fla., collected a first-place check of $810,000, more than any previous single-season total.
It's been such a long day, so many holes, Damron said. It was so up and down. It hasn't really soaked in yet.
Under an over-bearing Texas sun, names flocked to the top of the leaderboard as if looking for shelter.
A bakers dozen found themselves within one stroke of the lead at some point on Sunday. And in a Texas shootout, Tiger simply ran out of bullets.
Woods had fans and media scurrying on Sunday. He made the turn in 4-under-par 31, and then added three straight birdies to his card upon starting the back.
On the par-70 TPC Las Colinas course, the number 59 reverberated from tee to green. But Tigers six-shooter couldnt fire a fourth straight birdie bullet at the 13th.
After making five putts ranging from 15 to 25 feet, Tiger missed his birdie effort from 10 feet. The momentum was stalled, and ultimately shut down when he bogeyed the par-4 14th to fall to 13-under-par.
After a birdie at the par-5 16th, Tigers last chance to put a little fear into the field was a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.
The moment it left his putters face it looked good. Even Tiger thought so. He back-peddled, clinched his fist and then raised his head ' not his hand ' to the heavens when the ball lipped out of the cup.
As it turned out, that proved only to be the difference between solo third place and a share of third ' insignificant to Woods.
Im very pleased with the way I played this week, not really playing a whole lot for a month, said Woods of his first start since winning his fourth straight major at the Masters Tournament.
Im pleased that I was able to hang in there and not really have my best stuff.
Woods will leave Monday for Germany to play in the upcoming Deutsche Bank-SAP Open on the European Tour.
Despite failing to win his first tour event since 1998, Price was also pleased with his performance. The 44-year-old Zimbabwean put a new set of irons in his bag on Tuesday and said he was surprised with how well he hit them.
Price, who won this tournament in 1991, raced up the leaderboard with a front-nine 4-under-par 31, but could only manage a 1-over-par 36 on the back.
The ultimate misfire came at the par-3 17th. Price tried to smooth a 7-iron over the water and onto the green. He found neither. The ball stayed dry, but within inches of the bordering rocks.
Price was unable to get enough club on the ball to advance his second shot onto the green. He carded a bogey to fall to 14-under and out of contention.
I had my chances today, Price said. It was a good week for me. I played steadily all week. Its a good platform for the future. Im getting to an age where I dont know how many chances Ive got.
I really needed another week or two to get confident with the irons. I just wish Id have had a little more confidence. If I get in this position next week, therell be a different outcome.
Though many were in contention, but two could separate themselves; and it took them a full 72 holes to do so.
Playing in the final twosome, Damron and Verplank went toe-to-toe. Damron birdied the first and then took a two-shot advantage on his playing companion when Verplank bogeyed the 2nd.
However, the three-time tour winner birdied the 4th and 9th holes to draw even at 14-under-par upon making the turn.
Following 11 straight pars, Damron recorded his second red number of the day at the par-3 13th. Verplank matched that birdie with one of his own two holes later when he pitched in from just off the green at the par-4 15th.
Both men birdied the par-5 16th to move to 16-under. At the par-3 17th, each had birdie putts inside of 15 feet. Damron made his, while Verplank missed.
Down one with one to play, Verplank stuck his approach shot on the par-4 finishing hole to eight feet. This time, one swipe of the flatstick was sufficient.
Seventeen-under-par 263. Sudden death.

The playoff proved to be one of altering acts of charity.
Verplank missed a 12-footer for the win on the first extra hole. Damron left a sealer on the second on the lip of the cup. Verplank then extended the action by missing another 12-footer on the 21st hole of the day.
However, the favors were forgone on the next hole as Damron snuck in a 14-foot birdie putt. Verplank had a chance to reciprocate, but missed miserably to the right.
Im disappointed I didnt win the tournament, but other than not winning, I couldnt ask for anything else, said the Dallas native, who held at least a share of the lead from the outset.
Playoffs are always bittersweet; and in his first extra session, Damron was on the sugary side.
I think Ill carry my head a little higher next week, but its great and its awesome, said Damron.
Dont think that because both men missed multiple winning opportunities that the playoff was amateurish.
Far from it. Neither man missed a fairway or a green.
I was pretty fun coming down the stretch, said Verplank. Robert and I were both making things happen.
I kept hitting good shots and he kind of matched me.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Robert Damron wins his first PGA Tour title in his 132nd start.
*This marks the first time in Damrons career that he has posted four rounds in the 60s in a 72-hole event (66-64-67-66).
*This was the third consecutive playoff at this event, and the longest in tournament history.
*Damron joins Mark Hayes (1976) and Neal Lancaster (1994) as the only men to make the Byron Nelson Classic their first PGA Tour triumphs.
*An estimate 85,000 people were on-hand Sunday, bringing the five-day attendance total to 264,500.
Full-field scores from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic
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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.