Furyk's collapse at Bridgestone latest of season

By Randall MellAugust 6, 2012, 12:00 am

AKRON, Ohio – What in the name of Jean Van de Velde is happening in golf?

In what is unfolding as one of the game’s cruelest years, the WGC-Bridgestone was witness Sunday to yet another painful collapse.

With Jim Furyk unraveling under pressure at the 72nd hole at Firestone Country Club, no PGA Tour season in recent memory has seemed to be in more dire need of a Heimlich maneuver.

Keegan Bradley played beautifully down the stretch Sunday, but this championship wasn’t his until Furyk gave it to him.

A shot ahead at the last hole, Furyk, a tough-as-nails veteran, took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee but hit four consecutive poor shots to make double bogey and lose by a stroke. It was yet another nasty blow for Furyk, who was wobbled just seven weeks ago when he lost a chance to win the U.S. Open with a stumble at the 70th hole at The Olympic Club

Sunday at Firestone, in the cruelest scene of all the cruel closing acts this year, Furyk staggered off the final green to see the heartache in his 9-year-old son, Tanner.

“I walked over, and my boy is crying right after the round,” Furyk said.

Tanner, and his older sister, Caleigh, were also there in the end of that crushing U.S. Open defeat with their mother, Jim’s wife, Tabitha.

“I guess it reminds you as an adult, as a parent, that you have to act the proper way,” Furyk said. “You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons.”

Furyk, a 16-time PGA Tour winner, nobly stood up to all the questions in the end and did his best to make sense of the crazy game he plays.

“I’m still a little in shock,” said Furyk, 42, as he left the scoring trailer. “I’m stunned. I can’t quite fathom what I just did.”

A 54-hole lead is almost becoming a curse on the PGA Tour. Just 10 players have closed out 54-hole leads with a victory in 33 PGA Tour events this year.

Two weeks ago, Adam Scott blew a chance to win the British Open closing with four consecutive bogeys.

In January, Kyle Stanley blew a three-shot lead at the 72nd hole to lose the Farmers Insurance Open.

A week later, Stanley won when Spencer Levin lost a six-shot lead in the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Then there was Furyk’s back-nine failure at the U.S. Open. Though that defeat cost him winning his second major championship, Furyk seemed more bewildered and gutted by what happened at Firestone.

“I’ve lost some tournaments in pretty poor fashion, but I don’t think I’ve ever let one nearly as bad as this one,” Furyk said. “This was my worst effort to finish off an event.”

Bradley, 26, a three-time PGA Tour winner with a major and World Golf Championship on his resume, deserves credit, and Furyk said as much.

Despite an awful, plugged lie in the sand beside the 18th green, Bradley thumped a bunker shot to 15 feet, about the best he could do from that lie. With Furyk struggling, needing two shots to get out of the rough right of the green, Bradley found himself over a 15-foot putt that he knew would at least force a playoff.

Bradley buried the putt with that belly putter of his. He buried it looking like he relished the pressure.

“I was reading this putt, and I kept telling myself that this is the exact moment that I live for, that you grow up your whole life wanting, and I’m living it,” Bradley said. “I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it. It was unbelievable.”

That’s what Furyk was thinking when he was finished, too. He couldn’t believe the calamity of errors he put himself through at the final hole. There was a pulled tee shot into a tree, which fortuitously bounced out in the fairway. There was the hard 7-iron that didn’t draw and bounced into heavy rough right of the green. There was his fluffed slash, a pitch that never reached the green, and then another misplayed chip that left him needing to make a 5-foot putt for bogey.

After Bradley holed his par save, Furyk had to make his putt to force a playoff. He jabbed it hard and clumsily to the right, never coming close to the hole.

“It was a pretty disappointing putt,” Furyk said. “It was awful, to be honest.”

Furyk showed class handling this loss, a brutal defeat in a summer of brutal finishes for 54-hole leaders.

With Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course offering a potentially torturous finish at next week’s PGA Championship, this cruel, cruel summer may be far from over.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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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.”