Park opens with 67 in quest for third straight major

By Randall MellJune 28, 2013, 12:18 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – That Inbee Park’s name will hit a leaderboard isn’t as certain as death and taxes, but it’s getting close.

She won the first two major championships of this year, and with a 5-under-par 67 Thursday she finished one shot off the lead at the U.S. Women’s Open in a bid to become the first player in six decades to win the first three majors of the women’s season.

Park, who has won five times in 2013, including the last two LPGA events, carded six birdies and a bogey. She trails fellow South Korean Ha-Neul Kim, who fired a bogey-free 66.

“I do have a lot of confidence in myself at the moment,” Park said. “The way I'm playing, the way things have been going, the way I've been getting the luck, I think I am in the zone. I've been playing my best in my career at the moment. I really just want to enjoy the moment.”

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Babe Zaharias won the first three majors in 1950, the only majors played in women’s golf that year. Park is trying to equal that on her way to an improbable bid to win the grandest of Grand Slams, the new five-legged major championship season in women’s golf with the Evian Masters becoming a major this season.

Park, 24, seems unfazed by the buzz she’s creating chasing history. She plays with a cool equanimity that seems almost unshakeable as she keeps giving herself chances to win. Over the last year, she has finished T-4 or better in a remarkable 16 of 27 LPGA starts.

That run has fueled more confidence than she has ever felt.

“I think I'm just a lot more experienced, and I think I've been in contention a lot of times,” Park said. “So, I don't feel as pressured as before. When I'm in the winning position, I know what I need to do. I just don't get as nervous as before.”

While Park launched her brilliant run in LPGA events last summer, her caddie, Brad Beecher, said the spark really came in the spring of 2012 on a trip to Japan.

Beecher saw the light go on in April of last year when Park went over to play in the Japan LPGA Tour’s first major of that season. Park lost in a playoff to Sun-ju Ahn in the Salonpas Cup, but she bounced back to win the Fundokin Ladies Championship the following week. Beecher said Park’s confidence soared after that.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Beecher said of this run. “It’s been incredible to be alongside her and go through it week in and week out.”

As the Rolex world No. 1, Park played in the U.S. Women’s Open marquee grouping, bettering No. 2 Stacy Lewis (71) and No. 3 Suzann Pettersen (76).

“That was fun,” Lewis said. “It was cool to have that buzz. Just to be included in that group is an honor, and to play with No. 1 in the world, that’s what you want to be doing. You want to see what she’s doing to play so well. Right now, she’s solid. She’s hitting the ball close, she’s making putts.”

Just about every time LPGA pros look up nowadays, Park’s name is on a leaderboard.

“She’s just playing really great golf right now,” Hedwall said. “She's an unbelievable putter. I've never seen anyone hole that many putts. She's obviously striking the ball well, too, but that's what I see makes the big difference, when they start making a lot of putts. That gives you a lot of confidence.”

Park needed just 25 putts on Thursday. She started her round hot – splitting her first fairway and knocking a wedge to 1 foot for an opening birdie. At her second hole, she rolled in a 15-foot putt to save par.

“I don't think I've ever putted this good in my life, ever,” Park said. “I think I'm putting my best in my career at the moment.”

Beecher said Park’s stroke works well on Sebonack’s rolling, devilish greens.

“It’s really solid, especially on greens like this,” Beecher said. “She’s not hitting putts, she’s rolling them and feeling it.”

If Park keeps feeling it, Sunday could be historic.

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Highlights: Woods shoots Saturday 69 at API

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 17, 2018, 8:40 pm

Tiger Woods made six birdies Sunday, including one at the home hole, to shoot 3-under 69 and move to 7 under par for the week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

When he walked off the golf course, he was four off the 11-under pace set by Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom were still on the course.

"I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help," Woods told Golf Channel's Steve Sands in a post-round interview. "But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first."

Woods didn't bogey the first hole on Saturday like he did the day prior - but he did drop at a shot at the par-3 second when he failed to get up and down from the bunker.

Luckily, it wouldn't take him long to get that stroke back. One hole later, at the dogleg-left, par-4 third, Woods ripped a 2-iron off the tee, hit a less-than-stellar approach long and right, and poured in this 38-footer for birdie to get back to even par on the day.

He followed with another at the par-5 fourth, smoking a drive 313 yards uphill, short-siding himself with his second shot, and playing this deft pitch to set up a tap-in 4.

After a par save from the bunker at 5, Woods missed the fairway right at the par-5 sixth, laid up with his second, spun a wedge to 15 feet with his third, and rolled in this third birdie of the day to move to 6 under for the week.

Woods' momentum was slowed by a bogey at 8, the product of an errant tee shot, and a missed birdie try at 9 left Tiger to make the turn in 1 under-35, minus-5 for the week.

He quickly returned to 6 under for the championship when he hit an approach from 186 to inside 10 feet at the par-4 11th and walked in the putt:

Following four straight pars, Woods for the second day in a row made an unlikely birdie at the par-5 16th after missing the fairway to the right and declining to layup.

Woods would drop one more shot coming in when his ball fried in the front bunker at 17, leading to a bogey, but this closing birdie at 18, his sixth of the day, got him into the clubhouse 3 under for the round and 7 under for the week. It also elicited a rare straight-down fist pump.

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Two-time major champ Pettersen pregnant

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 7:14 pm

PHOENIX – Suzann Pettersen is pregnant with her first child.

Pettersen’s husband, Christian Ringvold, confirmed the news with Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz.

Pettersen, 36, who married Ringvold in January of 2017, is due in the fall. The 15-time LPGA winner and two-time major champion has yet to make her first start this year. She’s an eight-time Solheim Cup veteran.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

It was a 3-under 69 on Saturday for Tiger Woods for a 7-under total through three rounds. We tracked him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.