Verplank Happy Tiger Still Sore

By Mercer BaggsNovember 2, 2001, 5:00 pm
Scott Verplank walked into the media center late Friday afternoon eating a sandwich and cracking a few jokes.
Its easy to enjoy yourself after shooting 65 and taking the lead into the weekend of the season-ending Tour Championship. Its even easier when you have Verplanks perspective.
Verplank, winner of this years Bell Canadian Open and member of the United States Ryder Cup, has come a long way since his golden days as an amateur; both professionally and personally.
His 6-under 65 in the second round at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, TX has him at 10-under-par 132, one shot clear of overnight co-leader Bernhard Langer and two removed from Mike Weir (66).
The golf course is perfect. And no wind, if you get going today, you can hit it at the hole and make some putts, Verplank said.
Langer followed an opening 65 with a 69. His fellow first-round leader didnt fare near as well. Frank Lickliter bogeyed four of his final five holes to shoot 2-over 73 and fall into a tie for 13th place at 4-under.
On a still Texas day, 24 of the 29 players in the field shot par or better. Mark Calcavecchia had the round of the day, a 7-under-par 64. Hes now tied with Justin Leonard (66) for fourth place at 7-under.
Check out Mark Calcavecchia's scorecard
Calcavecchias day consisted of two eagles, five birdies and a pair of bogeys. A three at the par-5 9th highlighted his round. For the second straight day, he hit the tree guarding the right portion of the green on his second shot. But instead of his ball caroming 40 yards backward ' like it did on Thursday ' it kicked onto the green and rolled four feet from the hole.
I hit a bad shot. I was hoping it would miss the tree and just end up in the bunker, Calcavecchia said. I had given up on it. I kind of looked down and all of a sudden I heard the crowd making some noise and I look up and its rolling over there toward the hole.
David Duval wasnt as fortunate Friday. Standing at 7-under for the tournament, his tee shot on the par-5 13th hit someone in the gallery and went into a hazard.
He re-teed, and once again his ball went right; this time it hit a tree and went into the same hazard.
Duval, who won this tournament here in 1997, eventually carded a triple-bogey-8 and finished the day at 4-under after a 69.
I played good. Im just really disappointed about my score, said Duval, who is still positive about his position. I started the day four (strokes) behind and it only took eight holes to tie (for the lead).Tiger Woods hasnt sniffed the top of the leaderboard yet; but all things considered, hes fortunate to still be in contention.
Hampered by a back injury, Woods shot a first-round 70. Friday, feeling better after some physical treatment, he shot 67 to move to 5-under-par.
Its not painful. Its just a little sore, Tiger said of his ailment.

Tiger was also feeling a little sore after finishing with a three-putt bogey on the final hole.
I felt like I hit the ball well today, said Woods. Just to make a silly mistake at the end like that, just not the way you want to cap off your round.
This is Verplanks fourth appearance in the Tour Championship. He first played in 1988 and tied for eighth. He won the Buick Open that year, three years after winning the Western Open as an amateur.
Little could he imagine ' or anyone else, for that matter ' that it would be 12 more years before he would reenter the winners circle on the PGA Tour.
A series of injuries, combined with frustration and self-doubt led to a trip to Q-School in 1997. After earning medalist honors, he made a strong return to the tour, earning a pair of runner-up finishes and over $1.2 million in 1998.
Then came another setback. Verplank learned he was a diabetic. He said he spent the 1999 season feeling sorry for himself and dipped to 82nd on the money list.
Now that I have got that straightened out and I am so much better it just makes golf so much easier, said the 37-year-old.
Recharged, reinvented and wearing a MiniMed insulin pump on his back while playing, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy won the 2000 Reno-Tahoe Open and climbed to 22nd in earnings.
I have a lot different attitude now. I look forward to playing, Verplank said. When you have something that you like to do and you have it taken away from you, it hits home, you know, it hits home a little bit deeper than, you know, if a guy is just playing bad and hes down in the dumps about his game.
This year, Verplank has seven top-10s. After a tie for seventh in the PGA Championship, captain Curtis Strange chose him for the Ryder Cup team. Two starts later, he won in Montreal.
I never really got a chance to let that soak in, he said of the victory. I got home late on Sunday. I played an outing on Mondaythen the next morning I am trying to get up and go to St. Louis, and you know, the world changed.
Verplank will have to wait another year before competing in his maiden Ryder Cup.
I will be as excited as anybody to be there at that time, he said. But right now, it just pales in comparison to what has gone on around the world.
Just another bit of perspective for Scott Verplank.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Verplank and Langer will tee off Saturday at 10:35 a.m. local time.
*Thursday, only Hal Sutton (at the par-5 10th) made an eagle. Friday, 14 players accomplished that feat. There were seven eagles on the par-5 9th and five on the par-5 5th.
*Thanks to a lack of wind, the course played to a 68.759 scoring average in the second round; compared to an average of 70.034 in round one.
Full-field scores from the Tour Championship
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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

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.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

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).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.