Inkster Gets Her Revenge - a Victory

By Mike RitzJuly 8, 2002, 4:00 pm
HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Paybacks are hell.
 
Last week in Atlantic City, Juli Inkster started the final round with a one-stroke lead, three strokes ahead of Annika Sorenstam. Annika ended up holding the trophy. Juli finished three strokes back. Sunday at Prairie Dunes, in the final round of the most prestigious championship in womens golf, Inkster enjoyed a little payback.
 
For those who know Inkster well, last weeks loss was a sure sign the Hall-of-Famer would win this weeks Open. The 42-year-old hates losing when victory is close hates blowing a lead cant stand wasting potential. Juli is one of the hardest workers on tour. Few practice as much as she.
 
If she is anything, Juli Inkster is determined; and you could see in her this week at the Open that she was determined to win. Prairie Dunes was the perfect place for Jules to win her second U.S. Womens Open. She won her first of three consecutive Womens Amateur Championships on this very course in 1980.
 
Inkster opened with a 3-under-par 67 ' good enough to share the first-round lead. Sorenstam, who played with Juli the first two days, was three back.
 
After Round 2, Sorenstam and Inkster were tied for the lead with Laura Diaz at 1-under par. In Saturdays third round, Juli shot 71 to drop back to even par. Meanwhile, Annika posted her second consecutive 69, her third consecutive round of par or better. The worlds No. 1 player was the only player under par for 54 holes. Sorenstam held a two-stroke lead over Inkster and Jill McGill heading to the final round.
 
Inkster was, in her estimation, hitting the ball terribly. She said of her two worst rounds of the Open, Basically, Friday and Saturday won me the golf tournament. Saturday evening Juli said she was ecstatic to be in her position, considering how much she was struggling with her game. On Sunday, she proudly assessed her three days of grinding. Its really hard to do, in an Open, when things arent going your way, to hang in there.
 
Juli hung in there, and it paid off beautifully on Sunday. She got to the practice range about an hour before her tee time. Her husband Brian (a teaching pro himself) and caddy Greg Johnston watched in almost total silence for more than a half-hour as Juli pounded ball after ball.
 
She had talked to her swing coach, Mike McGetrick, Saturday night on the phone. He told her to make a fuller shoulder turn on her take-away. But she still hadnt found it on the range.
 
Then, suddenly, just 15 minutes before her Sunday tee time, it happened! Husband Brian coaxed her into that sought-after fuller turn and Juli began striping the ball.
 
On the course, caddy Greg continued to remind her: Turn. In response, Juli turned red-hot. Her short game remained phenomenal and now her ball-striking was almost as good. She birdied three of the first seven holes. Sorenstams lead was gone on No. 6. And Juli tasted sole possession of the lead for the first time with her birdie on 7. Sorenstam caught her momentarily, but this was Inksters day.
 
Juli posted a final-round 4-under 66. That tied the course record set two hours earlier by Raquel Carriedo.
 
Of all the rounds this Hall of Fame golfer has played of all the rounds she had played to win her previous six major championship titles how would she rank this one? As far as the pressure and the conditions and what was at stake, I would say its No. 1.
 
And, Juli did it while going head-to-head against No. 1. As for Annika, she was as gracious as any runner-up could be in defeat. No, I didnt lose today, Sorenstam said. Juli won.

Annika now has a first-, a second- and a third-place finish in this years three majors. She has every reason to be proud of her performance this week. Its just that Juli played really (well) today. There was nothing I could do about it.
 
Yes, 42-year-old Juli Inkster proved she still has plenty of her Hall-of-Fame game left in her bones and clubs. I play because I love to play, Juli said.
 
Most importantly, she proved on Sunday in the Open that she still has a wealth of something special in her heart. I work hard at my game so I can come out here and stay competitive with the Annikas and Karries. Im not going to win every tournament but if I can stay competitive and win my fair share and raise my family, Im ecstatic.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.