Women eager to contribute to Turnberry's history

By Randall MellJuly 29, 2015, 7:47 pm

TURNBERRY, Scotland – The sun broke through the clouds spectacularly Wednesday morning at Trump Turnberry with the best in the women’s game making their way around the venerable course in their Ricoh Women’s British Open practice rounds. 

With the gloom that pressed down in Tuesday’s rain lifting, the real beauty of the rugged coast of the Firth of Clyde shone through for all those players making their first appearance here to marvel over. The giant rock island Ailsa Craig and the iconic lighthouse emerged formidably from the gray mist as the signature backdrops for those who couldn’t quite make them out in the murk earlier in the week. 

There’s an aura to this place, from Scotland’s ancient traditions to the history made on this golf course, and there are 144 players here who want to be part of it.

Come Sunday, a champion will add another chapter to Turnberry’s story.

“Just for us to be playing on this venue, where it’s in the men’s traditional rotation, it’s huge,” said Stacy Lewis, the 2013 Women’s British Open champion. “It’s a place we should be playing. I’m excited for the challenge, just to be part of the history here.”

Given fewer chances to play the game’s most celebrated major championship venues, the best in the women’s game are eager to be part of the stories of all of golf’s iconic venues.

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Karrie Webb became a part of Turnberry’s story in 2002, when she won the Women’s British Open the first time it was played here. Before her, the men made their marks with Tom Watson winning in 1977, Greg Norman in 1986, Nick Price in 1994 and Stewart Cink in 2009.

Watson beat Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in that brilliant battle dubbed “The Duel in the Sun,” and then nearly won it again in ’09, falling to Cink in a four-hole playoff. Norman was an idol to fellow Aussie Webb, and Price was one of her favorite players growing up.

“It’s wonderful to be back and relive some of the memories,” Webb said.

Webb won the “Super Slam” at Turnberry, with the Women’s British Open the fifth different major she claimed in her career.

“I just wanted to win here on such a great course,” Webb said. “I just loved it as soon as I got here.”

While the U.S. Women’s Open occasionally visits classic venues loaded with history the men’s game created, the Women’s British Open now regularly rotates its venues among the sites the men use. From St. Andrews to Carnoustie to Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the women are becoming part of the stories those clubs tell.

Michelle Wie said playing Turnberry is one of her “bucket list” items. The course originally opened in 1901.

“I’ve kind of been in awe of the place the last couple days,” Wie said.

This week also offers a rare links test for LPGA pros who don’t see these courses and conditions on the rest of their schedule.

“I love this tournament,” Lewis said. “I love the challenge of it. I like that the weather is going to be nasty all week.”

Webb is among 11 players in this week’s field who also played in the Women’s British Open at Turnberry in ’02. Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, Natalie Gulbis, Angela Stanford, Maria (Hjorth) McBride, Candie Kung and Karen Icher are also back.

Turnberry will play as a par-72 layout this week at 6,410 yards. It plays as a par 70 when the men play the British Open here. Webb closed with a 66 in the final round to win in ’02. She finished at 15 under overall, winning by two shots. Webb said the course doesn’t seem to be playing any longer than it did in ‘02, and she’s right. It was listed at 6,407 yards for the Women’s British Open the year she won.

The wind remains Turnberry’s primary defense.

“I shouldn't say it’s the easiest, but the most playable of all the links courses, I think,” Davies said. “The bunkers are there and you know they are there, but you have always got a side you can head for.”

Earlier this year, Donald Trump announced plans to stiffen the course’s defenses, with the Royal & Ancient closely consulted in a design makeover set to begin after the Women’s British Open. The changes will include five new holes (at the sixth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 14th). The new design is intended to take better advantage of coastal views . The course will go from a par 72 for daily play to a par 71 and will feature five par 3s.

“All the par 3s are going to be fantastic, because they are moving all the greens out onto the dunes,” Webb said. “On a bad, windy day, the course will just be impossible, but it will be stunning. It’s a stunning backdrop now, but the lighthouse will be more of a part of 9, 10 and 11 ... I can’t imagine the changes won’t reflect what the course is all about.”

Turnberry’s story promises to continue to change, with the women adding another chapter of their own this week.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.