Gal holds steady in wind on Day 2 of Titleholders

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2013, 10:53 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sandra Gal is in control halfway through the CME Group Titleholders Championship.

That’s a big deal given she didn’t feel like she had much control of her swing or game when she was struggling to make cuts earlier this year.

Even in the blustery winds over Tiburon Friday, Gal was undaunted, carving draws and fades on command on her way to a 3-under-par 69. At 11-under, she’s three shots ahead of Sun Young Yoo (68) and five ahead of Gerina Piller (67), Cristie Kerr (69) and Pornanong Phatlum (68).

Gal, 28, is in position to soothe some disappointment this year with the biggest first-place check in women’s golf. The winner takes home $700,000 this weekend.

“It’s easy to say I don’t care about money, and I just want to play well,” Gal said. “Everybody says that. I’m going to say that and try to mean it.

“At the end of the day, I think when you win a tournament, you’re happy fighting and overcoming fear and hitting good shots.”

Highlights: Gal leads Titleholders through 36

Photos: CME Group Titleholders

Gal’s career was on a nice upward arc until she lost her best form this year. The German broke through to win the Kia Classic in 2011, her first LPGA title. She made the European Solheim Cup team that beat the Americans in Ireland that year. Last year, she was voted’s “hottest golfer.”

But her game cooled off this year. Through a stretch early in the summer, Gal missed four cuts in six starts, including the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. The swoon cost her a spot on the European Solheim Cup team.

Something started click after she started working with Gary Gilchrist as her coach, but it wasn't enough to win her the favor of European captain Liselotte Neumann. Gal tied for fourth at the Ladies European Tour Masters in July, tied for sixth at the Safeway Classic in August and tied for sixth at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October.

Did missing the Solheim Cup spark something?

“I was very disappointed, but my good play hasn’t had anything to do with not getting picked,” Gal said.

Yoo, 26, has been working to find winning form, too. She broke through to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year, her first major championship and second LPGA title, but she hasn’t won since.

“I was pushing myself a little too hard,” Yoo said. “It was kind of stressful for me, because I wanted to play better and better every week. At the same time, I had confidence after winning. I felt like, `Oh, I can win the big tournament.’”

Gal and Yoo avoided most of the trouble Friday’s winds brought.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park got to 7-under on the front nine, but she made four bogeys over the final 10 holes, including one at the last, where she tried to splash a shot out of a muddy hazard but dumped her ball into a bunker. Park shot 72 and sits seven off the lead. Park wasn’t fretting about it, though. After signing her card, she was off to get ready for the LPGA's Rolex awards program, where she would receive the Rolex Player of the Year award.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the week,” Park said.

Cristie Kerr opened the second round with a double bogey after hitting her second shot into a hazard and then bogeyed the third hole, but she rallied with four birdies and an eagle to get within five of the lead.

“Honestly, I got so PO’d, like I wasn’t going to let this tournament go down the toilet,” Kerr said. “I just got really determined. I said I don’t care if I’m not hitting it great. I’m going to have to just be better mentally. I just made it happen out there. That’s the kind of round I needed in the wind today.”

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.