In Westchester, LPGA takes a big stage

By Randall MellJune 10, 2015, 11:57 pm

HARRISON, N.Y. – Sometimes the actor is inspired by the stage.

Sometimes the stage can even define the actor.

Women in professional golf have a special appreciation for how a great stage can help define a great performance because they’ve been relegated to Off Broadway productions in too many of their major championships.

“We’re `On Broadway’ this week,” Christina Kim said Wednesday, admiring the grandeur of Westchester Country Club on the eve of the inaugural KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “We have five major championships a year, and it’s important they’re played on courses that are on par with that. We need the stage to match the ability of the players out here.”

Westchester is just such a stage, and the pros teeing it up this week are optimistic the PGA of America will continue to deliver classic venues for them to showcase their skills. The women relish getting the chance to play the same celebrated courses the men play.

“Westchester is such a scenic, beautiful, tough-as-nails golf course that we deserve to be on as a tour,” two-time major championship winner Cristie Kerr said. “We are great players, and it’s great to be on a venue that has this much history to it.”

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Seve Ballesteros have won PGA Tour events played at Westchester. Ben Hogan played his last competitive round on the course that Walter Travis built back in 1922. Howard Hughes, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan were once members of the club. It’s a big, broad-shouldered beauty of a course winding through hills and woods.

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“It’s spectacular,” said Morgan Pressel, winner of the 2007 Kraft Nabisco. “And it makes demands on every part of your game. Courses like this elevate the prestige of our majors.”

The PGA of America hasn’t announced future venues, but LPGA pros are buzzing over what they’re hearing as possibilities. With expectations KPMG and the PGA will rotate the event in the Northeast, players are speculating about getting to play Bethpage Black, Shinnecock Hills, Oak Hill and other classic venues. There’s hope Westchester is part of a rotation.

“I'm wowed, but at the same time, I feel this is what we deserve,” two-time major championship winner Suzann Pettersen said. “We work as hard as the guys. I don't see why we shouldn't have events like this.”

Women have played classic venues in the distant past. The U.S. Women’s Open was played at Baltusrol’s upper and lower courses. It was played at Oakmont, Winged Foot’s East Course, at Hazeltine and NCR, but the women are beginning to enjoy a lot more opportunities with the Women’s British Open and Women’s PGA joining the USGA in seeking more classic venues.

Lorena Ochoa won the Women’s British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews in 2007, Paula Creamer won the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont in 2010 and Stacy Lewis won the Women’s British Open again at St. Andrews in 2013. Mo Martin won at Royal Birkdale last year and Michelle Wie won an epic U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, an eye opener for women who got to play the course a week after the men played the U.S. Open there.

“I think seeing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and seeing what the guys get at a major, and then probably what every tournament is like for them, it was kind of like, `Why don't we have this?’” two-time major championship winner Lewis said. “That's something that the LPGA Championship has been lacking the last few years, that big major feel.”

Lewis believes majors should be showcases in every way for the women.

“Our tour, we get the most media, the most eyeballs, five weeks out of the year,” Lewis said. “So those five weeks need to be our biggest and our best.”

Women are taking advantage of those big stages when they get them. Wie put on a terrific show holding off Lewis’ charge to win at Pinehurst. Lewis birdied the iconic Road Hole with a spectacular 5-iron to win at St. Andrews in 2013. Creamer tamed an Oakmont setup many feared might embarrass the women.

“Our majors are supposed to be played at big venues, big-name courses,” Creamer said. “When we’re not on them, it’s a shame. I think we’ve shown we can put on a great show on these courses.”

Creamer made news earlier this year pushing for Augusta National to start a women’s version of the Masters. She believes it would be the ultimate sign women’s golf had arrived.

“Everybody can have a dream,” Creamer said.

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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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.