Trio of major champs to duke it out at Wegmans

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2014, 1:00 am

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen have no shortage of fuel for their run at chasing down Brittany Lincicome Sunday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Park and Pettersen both left the Ricoh Women’s British Open last month disappointed they couldn’t close out chances to win.

Lincicome has her own full tank of motivation as she seeks to claim her first victory in three years and extend the Americans’ bid to sweep all the women’s majors this year.

With a 1-under-par 71 Saturday, Lincicome battled to hold off her hard-pressing challengers. At 10-under 206, she is one shot ahead of both Park (69) and Pettersen (67).

“It means the world to me,” Lincicome said of this chance.

This looks like it will come down to the trio of major champions topping the leaderboard. Lincicome, 28, won her first and only major at the Kraft Nabisco in 2009. Park, 26, has won four majors, including a historic run winning the first three last year. Pettersen, 33, has a pair of majors, including the Evian Championship at the end of last year, when she put on a ball-striking clinic.

Park and Pettersen left the Ricoh Women’s British Open hungry for another chance.

Park took a one-shot lead into the final round at Royal Birdale and built it into a two-shot lead making the turn, but in windy, tough conditions, she could not hold on as Mo Martin posted early with a spectacular finish to prevail.

Park and Pettersen both found themselves needing to hole out from the same greenside bunker at the last hole at Royal Birkdale to tie Martin and force a playoff, but they left watching Martin hoist the claret jug.

“I kind of still think about it, especially when I see Mo,” Park said. “Yeah, it’s tough to forget.”

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Park ended up fourth behind Martin at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

“I think it'll be good to actually recover from my mistakes at the British Open and play well in the final round,” Park said. “I think that's going to be great key going into the last half of the season.”

Pettersen’s road through the majors hasn’t been easy since she won at Evian last year. Stricken with a back injury in late March, she was laid up and unable to play this year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco. She was stricken again before the year’s second major, the U.S. Women’s Open, but she came back to play it, missing the cut.

“Ever since the U.S. Women’s Open, my back and my body have been great,” Pettersen said. “Arkansas [the week after the U.S. Women’s Open] was probably the first tournament back where I felt like that was the real me, back in contention, back where my game should be, and ever since it's been good.  It's been solid.”

Pettersen started the year looking like she was poised to reach the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career, but an aggravated disc in her back laid her up for nearly a month. A workout warrior, she has cut down her regimen and says she’s actually gaining distance and feeling better than she ever has about her game.

“My good right now has never been this good,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen has finished T-4 or better in five of her last seven major championships starts. She won five times around the world last year, but she's seeking her first title since winning the LPGA’s Sunrise Taiwan Championship last October.

Lincicome is trying to make it four straight major championship titles for the Americans this year. Lexi Thompson opened the year winning the Kraft Nabisco, Michelle Wie followed winning the U.S. Women's Open and Martin won the Ricoh Women's British. Lincicome has proven she can close out as a five-time LPGA winner, but she acknowledged battling nerves Saturday after going three seasons without a victory. She was pleased she battled to hold on to her lead.

“Nervous was probably an understatement,” Lincicome said of waiting for her late afternoon tee time. “I was fine all morning. I got my 10 hours of sleep. I watched `Puss In Boots’ on TV. I watched kids' movies, was doing fine, and then when it came time to eat lunch, it just wasn't happening. And then on the course, I took some stuff to calm my belly.  I did have a banana, a few bananas actually.

“I think because I haven't been in this position in a while, it just kind of all caught up with me.  Just tried to take multiple deep breaths out there. I don't think I calmed down until, really, the back nine, probably.

“Hopefully, going into tomorrow, it's kind of out of my system. I kind of know what it feels like to be in this position, to kind of dominate again.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.