Controversy didn't diminish Lang's dream win

By Randall MellJuly 11, 2017, 2:50 pm

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – When Brittany Lang came home after winning the U.S. Women’s Open last year, she set the trophy on the breakfast bar in the middle of her kitchen.

The Harton S. Semple Trophy stayed there for pretty much the last year.

Lang’s husband, Kevin Spann, offered to build her a trophy case for it in their McKinney, Texas, home.

“Nah,” Lang told him. “I like it right here.”

Lang liked seeing it first thing in the morning with breakfast. She liked seeing her name engraved on it with Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, Annika Sorenstam and so many greats of the game.

She liked the way family and friends got to enjoy it as much as she did.

“People would laugh,” Lang said. “They would ask me, ‘Why don’t you put it in a safe place?’ But I liked seeing it every time I was home.”

The trophy reminded Lang of the power of believing.

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That’s the story she didn’t fully get to tell after she won, because so many of the questions in the aftermath of her victory at CordeValle last year were about the championship’s controversial ending. So many questions were about Anna Nordqvist getting penalized in their playoff after a zoomed-in, slow-motion replay showed she grazed a few grains of sand taking back a 5-iron in a bunker.

The story Lang didn’t fully get to tell is how she knew she was going to win a U.S. Women’s Open someday. Absolutely and unshakably knew it.

“I’m a big believer in the things you want to happen, you should say them aloud,” Lang said. “So, I said it a lot to family. I said, ‘I just know I’m going to win a U.S. Women’s Open.’”

Lang says she knew it the day she walked away from her very first U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills, where she tied for second as a 19-year-old amateur when Birdie Kim won.

The nature of the championship just felt like it suited her.

“That’s because Brittany is a grinder,” said Spann, her husband. “She does well on hard courses, where par is a good score. When she’s in tough situations, she locks in.”

The tougher Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster plays this week, the better Lang’s chances.

“I play with more of a conservative strategy,” Lang said. “I don’t hit it at every pin, which isn’t always great in day-to-day golf, where girls are making a lot of birdies. But I hit it long and straight off the tee. I have a nice, high iron game. I’m good at hitting it in fairways and getting on greens, and my putting has come so far the last few years.”

Lang, 31, believes she is just coming into herself as a player. She became the first player from Duke University to win an LPGA event when she claimed the Manulife Financial in 2012, and she’s hopeful she will add to her two LPGA titles.

It says something about Lang’s priorities that she doesn’t wish she got more acclaim for winning last year.

In her world, she got all she needed and ever wanted.

Luke, her older brother by four years, is her caddie. He has been on her bag from the day she turned pro. They have a special bond, as a team, and it made her victory that much more meaningful.

“I don’t think what happened at CordeValle took away from my win one bit,” Lang said. “My family and friends know I’m the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion. If the way it ended is what people wanted to talk about, I could absolutely care less.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Anna. She’s a good friend, and she’s a great player, but the cool thing about winning there for me was that my family was all there to see it. My husband was there, my mom and dad were there, my brother was there. That almost never happens, with all of us together like that at an event.”

When Lang got home after winning last year, the TPC Craig Ranch threw her a party. That’s the golf club she and Kevin belong to in McKinney. The next night, she celebrated at another party for her with her friends.

That’s all the acclaim she wanted.

“The U.S. Women’s Open is the one tournament Brittany wanted to win her entire life,” Kevin said. “She’s very patriotic. She loves her country. She loves the USGA. So watching her win her national open, I got emotional, because I knew how big a deal it was to her.”

That trophy in the kitchen reminded the whole family of that.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.