Making a leap is goal of tightly packed leaderboard

By Randall MellApril 3, 2016, 2:56 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – So who is going to make the big splash on Sunday?

The candidates lining up for a chance to make the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond intrigue with all their star power.

Lexi Thompson moved to the head of the line early Saturday evening with her brilliant finish at the ANA Inspiration, but she has a strong and deep cast of challengers to hold off.

Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun and Ariya Jutanugarn are each one-shot back. Ko, 18, and Chun, 21, are already major champions. Jutanugarn, 20, was a can’t-miss phenom until a shoulder injury derailed her three years ago, but she looks like she’s regaining the form and confidence that made her such a formidable newcomer.

Former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato and young English star Charley Hull are two shots back.

Major championship winners Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Hyo Joo Kim are among 15 players within four shots of the lead.

They all marched past Poppie’s Pond Saturday on the way to the 18th green wanting to make the leap on Sunday.

“The special thing about this event is that you get to jump in there, not only yourself, but with your team, with your parents, with the caddie,” Ko said. “It will be a jump that I would love to take. I don't know if that's tomorrow, or if it's ever going to happen, but if it does, I think it'll be a very special moment.”

ANA Inspiration: Articles, photos and videos

Chun, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, grew up in South Korea on the other side of the world watching the Kraft Nabisco before it became the ANA.

“That small pond looks so attractive,” Chun said. “Before I finish my career, I definitely want to jump in there.”

If Hull wins, we might see the most memorable leap ever.

“I looked at it the other day, and it didn't look that deep to do a dive,” Hull said. “So, I thought `belly flop,’ leave a mark on my face.”

Thompson, 21, is seeking to win the ANA Inspiration for the second time in three years. She took a one-shot lead into Saturday, but her new red-hot Cure putter cooled in the middle of the round. She missed a 5-foot putt for birdie at the fifth, a 4-footer for par at the eighth, a 7-foot birdie chance at the ninth and an 8-footer for par at the 10th. She slipped three shots behind in that stretch only to seize the lead back with a bold, late blitz.

Thompson birdied the 15th and 16th holes and eagled the 18th. With the tees ups to 490 yards at the last, Thompson bombed her tee shot and then carved a 5-iron to 15 feet.

“I was hitting it well, just couldn't get the putts to drop,” Thompson said. “I was just putting a little timid but then hit a few good shots coming in, so I had a few short birdie putts. To knock it in on 18 is always the most amazing feeling here at the ANA.”

Thompson has been working on dealing with adversity in the game. She brought South Florida sports psychologist John Denney onto her team at the start of last year to help her.

“I knew it was something I needed to work on,” Thompson said. “I was just getting too down on myself, and I needed to be more positive out there. It was holding me back, so I needed help. Honestly, he has just helped me be more positive on and off the golf course and just realize that I'm blessed to be playing a game for a living that I truly love, and just to be grateful for my family, my fans and my friends and just enjoy life.”

Thompson showed a resolve on the back nine Saturday that should serve her well in her final pairing Sunday with Jutanugarn. Ko will be playing in the pairing right in front of Thompson. Last fall, Ko and Thompson played together in the final round of the Evian Championship, the last major in women’s golf. Ko became the youngest winner of a major (18 years, 4 months and 20 days old) there. She closed with a 63 and beat Thompson by six shots.

“I'm just trying to focus on my own game,” Thompson said. “All I can control is my attitude, my game on the golf course, and going into tomorrow I'm just going to have the same mindset, be positive, focus on doing my routine on every shot, take it slow, and just try to visualize my shots out there.”

The Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills isn’t Evian Resort Golf Club. Thompson seems built for the course as the LPGA’s longest hitter this year, but this isn’t a two-woman showdown with so many players having a chance.

“There's so much history and tradition behind [this major],” Thompson said. “It’s always an honor to put your name on that trophy. But there's a lot of golf to be played, and you’ve just got to focus on your own game and see where it goes.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.