Lewis: New life, new priorities

By Randall MellMarch 30, 2016, 11:48 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Stacy Lewis wiped away tears leaving the media center Wednesday at the ANA Inspiration.

There’s so much coming over the next six months in women’s golf, especially for Lewis, so long the earnest face of the American game. There are so many life-changing crossroads ahead this summer, both on and off the course for Lewis, one of the toughest competitors in the game. The tears were revealing in how much the game’s emotional landscape is already changing as this steely-faced competitor works out her path to September.

This week’s ANA Inspiration marks the start of an intense stretch the likes of which the LPGA has never witnessed. There are seven major events crammed into the next six months. There are five major championships, plus the Olympics and the UL International Crown.

A player could change her life, the way she’s remembered, getting hot in this run.

Lewis’ life promises to change in monumental ways no matter what scores she posts.

Lewis, 31, is getting married in early August, just before the Olympics and the Evian Championship, the year’s final major.

She’ll be planning a wedding amid this intense six-month run.

That’s revealing in how Lewis’ life and priorities are changing in ways she couldn’t have imagined just a year ago. She sold her house in South Florida earlier this year and bought a home back in Houston, where she will make her future with Gerrod Chadwell, her fiancé. He’s the coach for the University of Houston women’s golf team.

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“The biggest thing is I've got somebody in my life that's more important than any golf tournament I'll ever play in, or any tournament I'll ever win, and I honestly never thought I would be up here saying that,” Lewis said. “I never thought I'd be in that position. So it's a little bit strange to me, and that's one thing I'm trying to figure out right now.”

And that’s where Lewis is at today, trying to figure out how her new life will work, how she needs to change her schedule, how she needs to juggle priorities.

It’s daunting stuff for this hard-nosed competitor and former Rolex world No. 1.

“I've got a new addition to my life that has kind of changed my perspective on golf and everything, really,” Lewis said. “So there's going to be some adjustment time, and I'm still trying to figure it out. It's going to take a little time.”

There is head-spinning change to sort out for this 11-time LPGA winner and two-time major championship winner.

Gazing one way, Lewis looks ahead, eager to build her new life with Chadwell. Gazing another, she looks back, trying to make sense of how she can be so committed and yet rack up nine second-place finishes since she last won two years ago.

As Lewis finds contentment in her personal life, she still wrestles trying to find it in her professional life. She wants peace inside the ropes, too.

“It's 100 percent affected my game,” Lewis said. “It's gotten to the point where I've just had a lot going on and instead of just thinking about playing golf, I'm thinking about all these other things I have going on and I’m not 100 percent focused on what I’m doing. Whether that's doing an interview or signing autographs or playing golf, I'm always thinking about the next thing, instead of being 100 percent where I need to be. That's what I've been trying to work on the last couple weeks, and that's what's going to be the goal this week.”

Lewis knows the rap on her, that she looks tortured too much when she’s playing. She joked about how her switch to a “Happy Putter” two weeks ago was received.

“I’ve gotten a lot of grief for that,” Lewis said.

Lewis loves the game, the way it challenges her, and so these perceptions disappoint.

“Don’t always judge a book by its cover,” Lewis said. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve. You can tell what I'm feeling probably 99 percent of the time, and that's something that's hard for me. Maybe I don't look that happy out there, but maybe I'm actually enjoying it. And maybe there's something else going on in that person's life that is affecting what they're doing on the golf course.”

Lewis’ news conference Wednesday was full of revelations.

Just 16 months ago, Lewis was the Rolex world No. 1. Today, she’s No. 4, no longer the top American with Lexi Thompson at No. 3.

Lewis said she may have to re-evaluate how much trying to be No. 1 still matters to her.

“It's not necessarily the goal – being No. 1 – like it used to be, because I know what it takes and what goes into that,” Lewis said. “You have to play a lot of tournaments. You have to travel a lot. You have to play around the world. It's a lot of sacrifice to be No. 1 in the world. And that's what I learned being in that position. Right now, that's not necessarily a goal of mine, because I have goals off the golf course that are more important, sometimes.

“Right now, I want to win majors and contend in majors, and that's my focus.”

But, again, Lewis is still working this all out.

“Can you be No. 1 in the world and not play 30 events a year?” Lewis asked. “Probably. I want to see if I can do that, or not.”

Lewis says she looks back at the big picture of her career, seeing how she emerged from spinal surgery and a back brace coming out of high school, and she is overwhelmed. Doctors weren’t sure if she would ever play again before they fixed a rod and five screws into her backbone as a remedy for scoliosis, and yet she went on to become the first American in 20 years to sweep the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the money title. And yet too often, Lewis says, her focus is on what isn’t working in her game.

And that’s another thing Lewis is working on changing.

“I think it's just because of the expectations I've already set,” Lewis said. “It's because of the things I've accomplished, that you set these high expectations for yourself, and, sometimes, you need to put them in perspective. That’s what I'm trying to do.

“I'm trying to enjoy it out there a little bit more. I'm trying to find the things that make me happy out there. That's really what I'm trying to do, because, honestly, the golf is there.”

This is part of the challenge Lewis seeks in finding the kind of peace inside the ropes that she’s finding outside.

“I have other things in life, which is a good thing for me,” Lewis said. “It's a great thing, because golf has been my life for five or six years. I love it that I have something else to go home to and to be excited about. It's just it's an exciting time in my life, and it's caused some adjustments on the golf course.”

It has caused Lewis to rethink how this new life of hers should work.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.