Trump is center of attention at Women's British Open

By Randall MellJuly 30, 2015, 6:45 pm

TURNBERRY, Scotland – Donald Trump’s shadow engulfed the Ricoh Women’s British Open Thursday morning.

Amid a buzz of helicopter blades, whirring camera shutters and reporters shouting unvarnished questions, Trump brought the chaotic, edgy energy surrounding his presidential bid to this championship. He stepped out of his aircraft and into a hornet’s nest. 

From a swarm of media jockeying for position behind security in front of the Trump Turnberry hotel, a reporter barked a request for Trump to come over for a few questions.

Trump obliged, moving close enough for reporters to read the words on his red cap: “Make America Great Again.” The questions came at him machine-gun style.

Why are you here? Won’t your presence detract from the tournament? Are you a racist?

Welcome back to Scotland, Mr. Trump.

Never has a major championship turned so frenetic so early, and never quite like this.

There was more media outside the gates of the Turnberry Ailsa course than inside for the start of this championship. Two dozen photographers parked themselves at the foot of the hotel awaiting Trump’s arrival. The assembled media corps was dominated by British press, with just a few American reporters.

Even the TV cameraman perched above the 18th green to televise the action there wheeled his camera around to point it at Trump’s helicopter as it landed. Out on the course, players in the heat of competition knew exactly when the billionaire businessman-turned-politician had arrived.

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Lydia Ko was climbing the leaderboard with a strong start when she heard the distant buzz of Trump’s helicopter circling overhead. She was in the lead and on the 16th when she looked skyward.

“I was like, `Man, that’s a really nice helicopter,’” Ko said. “I would love one.”

With Trump encircled by media in front of the hotel, Lee Ann Pace stepped out the hotel’s front door. She was setting out to make the long walk to prepare for her opening tee shot. She must have felt as if she were stepping into a movie set. The media’s chaotic reception of Trump made for a surreal gauntlet to navigate.

What was Pace thinking when she opened the hotel door?

“Well, this is weird,” she said.

Why was Trump here? He had an answer ready.

“Because I love Turnberry, and we’re doing a lot of work on Turnberry, and we have the Women’s British Open here,” he said. “It’s going to be a really exciting weekend.”

Does he think his presence will detract from the event?

“Everyone’s asking me to be here,” he said. “The tour has asked me. The world’s asked me to be here, and I have a big stake in this land.”

Trump made a major investment purchasing the iconic golf course and hotel overlooking it, and he’s making another major investment in a renovation scheduled to begin later this year.

“We have this great piece of land, a thousand acres right on the ocean,” he said. “It’s just a spectacular place.”

Is Trump a racist? Trump didn’t have time to answer that question before another question was hurled at him, this one about Lizette Salas, the LPGA pro who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

“Don’t know who she is,” Trump said.

Trump would meet a slightly less frenzied media contingent a couple hours later in an elegant new ballroom in his hotel. Before that, though, a smaller but equally aggressive media swarm relocated in scoring behind the 18th green, waiting for Salas to finish her round.

With Trump’s remarks last month about Mexico and illegal immigration creating a controversy, Salas’ opinions on immigration were suddenly newsworthy. They’re especially relevant in the women’s game, where Trump fired back at LPGA commissioner Mike Whan after Whan issued a statement three weeks ago suggesting his tour would have preferred the Women’s British Open not be played at Trump Turnberry.

Salas was busy dealing with her own challenges on the course. She was putting together a solid sub-par start to the championship before three-putting the final green to shoot even-par 72. She wasn’t happy about the finish. She slammed her putter against her bag, leaving the 18th unaware what awaited her outside scoring.

After signing her card, Salas was engulfed.

A barrage of pointed questions came machine-gun style again, including one asking if she thought Trump was a racist. Salas was gracious, thoughtful and patient.

“I’m not a politician,” Salas said. “My job is to win golf tournaments. I’m just happy to be here competing.

“Everyone has a right to say what they feel. That’s what is great about living in the United States. I’m happy to be the child of Mexican immigrants, and I’m proud of my heritage.”

Salas, No. 29 in the Rolex world rankings, was asked if she felt Trump was disrespectful saying he didn’t know who she is.

“I don’t blame him for not knowing who I am,” she said. “I’m pretty sure he has better things to do than know who I am.”

What did she think of Trump making an appearance?

“We all kind of expected him to be here,” she said. “It’s nice of him to come out and support the tour and this competition.”

All the while Salas was being interviewed, Hyo Joo Kim stood in a corner opposite her, fielding questions from three reporters. Kim, by the way, opened with a 65 and led the championship.

Reporters eventually made their way back to a ballroom at Trump Turnberry hotel, where they found a more civilized news conference setting. Under shimmering chandeliers, media was ushered past a table full of extravagant appetizers.

“I’ve never been at a press conference where sushi was served,” one reporter cracked.

When Trump arrived, about 20 photographers were poised just off the stage. Cameras whirred with his arrival. He got started introducing Martin Ebert, the architect who’s overseeing Turnberry’s multimillion-dollar renovation. Almost comically, when Trump stepped off the stage, just about every lens turned with his every moment, with a cluster of photographers following Trump to the back of the room and ignoring Ebert.

Trump would eventually answer a few golf questions before tackling an onslaught of political questions.

Did Trump speak with Whan after the commissioner received Trump’s pointed letter?

“He apologized to me,” Trump said. “He was very nice and very respectful. I said `You know, I don’t mind if you apologize to the press.’ He said, `You think I could do without it?’ I said you can do without it. You can do whatever you want. But he did call me, and he did apologize.”

An LPGA spokesman said Whan was traveling back to the United States, but the tour was focused on the Women’s British Open and the commissioner would not be giving any official response.

Trump ended the news conference saying he was also ready to focus on golf.

“I want to go watch the Women’s British Open, is that OK?” Trump said.

And then Trump was off to Turnberry to walk his beloved course in one of the most unusual first rounds in the history of the Women’s British Open.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.