Bunker Shots Big Tests - COPIED

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2010, 6:21 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from mighty Oakmont to a Scottish test before the British Open.

LPGA TOUR

LPGA Tour _new

U.S. Women's Open

There was once a golf 'massacre' at Winged Foot in the women’s game, too.

Back in 1972, Susie Berning won the U.S. Women’s Open there at 11 over par for the championship. 

With the U.S. Women’s Open being played at Oakmont this week, players are bracing for what could be another memorably punishing test. It seems almost a given that the event’s winning score will be over par for just the third time in the last 26 years. We just can’t be sure how punishing the U.S. Golf Association will dare to make it until play begins Thursday.

Basically, it will come down to how fast USGA officials set it up. Oakmont’s greens are among the most challenging in the world. Will they be manageable at 12 on the Stimpmeter? Or will the USGA push this test to the limit at 13.5, rivaling what the men faced there three years ago? Weather, of course, will play a factor. Patty Sheehan won at even par when the U.S. Women’s Open was played at Oakmont in ’92.

Bunker shot: Cristie Kerr, coming off her 12-shot romp at the LPGA Championship, is the overwhelming favorite. She isn’t a true bomber, but she’s one of the longest straight hitters on tour. What sets her apart is a velvet putting touch, maybe the best on tour. If she can win this week, she solidifies her legitimacy as the No. 1 player in the women’s game and begins a run to succeed Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa as the LPGA’s next dominant player. Kerr doesn’t lack the desire or temperament to dominate. The question is whether she’s reached another level and can muster her best more consistently.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jiyai Shin. Contender – Cristie Kerr. Darkhorse – Jee Young Lee.

  • Course: Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa. Par 71, 6,598 yards (Designed by Henry Fownes and opened in 1904).
  • Purse: $3.25 million (winner’s share, $585,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, ESPN, 3-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Eun-Hee Ji rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the final hole to defeat Candie Kung by a shot at Saucon Valley.

    PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

John Deere Classic

There’s a quality consolation prize up for grabs this week.

Anyone finishing among the top five who isn’t otherwise qualified for the British Open earns a spot at St. Andrews and next week’s major championship.

Bunker shot: John Deere Classic officials make the most of their tough spot a week ahead of the British Open by offering a non-stop charter flight for players who want to play both events. This year’s transcontinental fliers will include a batch of players who are capable of winning on both sides of the Atlantic. Steve Stricker, the defending champ at the John Deere Classic, has a seat on that charter if he wants it. Among others, so do 2001 British Open champ David Duval, K.J. Choi, Tim Clark, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry and Bubba Watson. The odds of somebody winning both events aren’t good. Though the John Deere Classic hasn’t always been played the week before the British Open, none of the 39 previous winners of the John Deere Classic has ever won the British Open.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Zach Johnson. Contender – Steve Stricker. Darkhorse – Jason Dufner.

  • Course: TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill. Par 71, 7,257 yards (Designed by D.A. Weibring and opened in 2000).
  • Purse: $4.4 million (winner’s share, $792,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., replay 8:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Steve Stricker fashioned a final-round 7-under-par 64 to beat Zach Johnson, Brett Quigley and Brandt Snedeker by three shots.

EUROPEAN TOUR

2009 European Tour

The Barclays Scottish Open

A lot of fuss is made that the European Tour doesn’t stage the event leading into the British Open on a links course, but the winner at Loch Lomond will carry the momentum of knowing he beat a quality field when he heads to St. Andrews for next week’s major.

Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell are among 10 players among the top 25 in the world competing.

Bunker shot: Mickelson nearly won this event three years ago, coming up short in a playoff with Gregory Havret. The confidence gained in playing so well in Scotland, however, didn’t translate in Mickelson’s British Open quest that year. Mickelson missed the cut at Carnoustie. Mickelson’s struggles at the British Open are well documented with just one top-10 to his credit in 16 tries in the championship. He was third at Royal Troon in ’04. His next best finish at the British Open? That would be a tie for 11th at St. Andrews in ’05.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Francesco Molinari. Contender – Phil Mickelson. Darkhorse – Soren Kjeldsen.

  • Course: Loch Lomond Golf Club, Glasgow, Scotland. Par 71, 7,149 yards (Designed by Doug Carrick and opened in 1971).
  • Purse: 3 million euros (winner’s share, $500,000 euros).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., replay 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-12:15 p.m., replay 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., replay 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Martin Kaymer posted four rounds in the 60s and defeated Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano by two shots.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide Tour

Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic

A field of 160 players will compete on two courses.

A whopping 10 sponsor exemptions get into this field, as do the top five players off the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark got a taste of winning claiming the Mexico Open Bicentenary in the last Nationwide Tour event and leaped to second on the money list behind Chris Kirk. Watch for a terrific battle for the tour money title into the fall.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Tag Ridings. Contender – Jamie Lovemark. Darkhorse – Hunter Haas.

  • Course: Georgian Bay Club (Par 71, 7,139 yards) and Raven Golf Club (Par 72, 7,105 yards), Thornberry, Ontario, Canada.
  • Purse: $800,000 (winner’s share, $144,017).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, 1-3 p.m., replay midnight-2 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m., replay midnight-2 a.m.
  • Last year: Roger Tambellini won by a four-shot margin over Blake Adams.
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.