Yang, Lewis set for Sunday showdown after tight Rd. 3

By Randall MellJuly 12, 2015, 12:43 am

LANCASTER, Pa. – As busy as he was Saturday in the middle of a moving stage they call the U.S. Women’s Open, Travis Wilson enjoyed the show.

While Stacy Lewis and Amy Yang didn’t make a lot of birdie putts storming their way around Lancaster Country Club, they took turns hurling golf shots like thunderbolts at flagsticks to the delight of the giant galleries jockeying for position to see. They put on a ball-striking exhibition.

Wilson is Lewis’ long-time caddie.

“Listening to the way it was out there, the back and forth, two great golfers going at it,” Wilson said. “There was no letup in either one.”

Yang and Lewis couldn’t shake each other in the third round. Yang shot a 1-under-par 69, giving her three consecutive rounds in the 60s to move to 8-under 202, one stroke shy the 54-hole U.S. Women’s Open record. Lewis matched her with a 69. She also matched Yang with three consecutive rounds in the 60s to stay three shots back going into the final round.

With Yang and Lewis paired together again in the final round, this might already be a two-woman event.

In Gee Chun (68) is four shots back. Shiho Oyama (71) is five back.

If history’s any indicator, nobody else has a chance on Sunday. In the 69-year history of the U.S. Women’s Open, nobody has come from six shots or more behind in the final round to win. Lewis almost did it last year, charging from six back with a 66 at Pinehurst, but she ultimately finished second to Michelle Wie by two shots.

“I think it’s is playing even harder than Pinehurst was last year,” Lewis said. “It's a little bit comparable to the Kraft Nabisco in 2011, when I was playing with Yani Tseng, where the two of us kind of separated ourselves from the field. It kind of became a two-man show there at the end. It's similar to that.”

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Lewis came from two behind Tseng at Kraft to win the first of her two major championships.

“I think I've always played better coming from behind,” Lewis said. “So I like where I am going into tomorrow.”

Yang and Lewis are both looking to script better finishes than they endured last year Pinehurst. They were both within reach of the Harton S. Semple Trophy on Sunday, only to see Wie hoisting it in the end.

Yang, 25, was tied with Wie for the lead going into the final round but shot 74. Yang, who has won seven times around the world, twice in LPGA events, keeps showing she has a game built for the U.S. Women’s Open. She just hasn’t been able to win one. She has finished among the top 10 in four of the last five U.S. Women’s Open. This marks the third time Yang has played in a final Sunday pairing in one. She was with Na Yeon Choi in 2012 when Choi won at Blackwolf Run. Yang believes those experiences will prove valuable Sunday.

“It was good experience, the last two,” Yang said. “I’ll go out there and just do my best.”

Yang and Lewis got off to a dizzying start, taking turns on different ends of two-shot swings over the first two holes. Yang opened with a birdie, Lewis with a bogey. Lewis followed with a birdie at the second hole and Yang bogeyed.

There was another two-shot swing at the 14th with Lewis going from four shots back to within two.

All the while, nobody else back in the pack made a move at them.

“I was watching the leaderboards today, waiting for someone to jump up there,” Lewis said. “It just never happened.”

Lewis, 30, ranks second for the week hitting greens in regulation (44/54). Only Chun has hit more. Yang is right behind Lewis, having hit one less green in regulation.

“I felt like I hit some great shots that put a lot of pressure on her,” Lewis said. “And then she just would respond and hit it right in there with me.

“There were multiple times today that it was iffy who was away. We were hitting shots on top of each other. In a sense, it's frustrating, because you're trying to get closer but you really can't get any closer. But it's also what you want to see. I think it's great golf.”

Yang’s caddie, David Poitevent, was also on the bag at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open.

“We started poorly last year, 4 over after four holes, but one of the things I really like about Amy is her attitude,” Poitevent said. “She has a great attitude. She doesn’t get frustrated. She bounces back. She can handle adversity.”

As good as Lewis has been the last year, she has endured her own share of adversity in a year of almosts. She hasn’t won in more than a year, but she has battled into Sunday contention countless times, recording six second-place finishes and two thirds since her last victory. She lost the year’s first major in a playoff with Brittany Lincicome at the ANA Inspiration.

Lewis feels good about her swing, and so does Yang. It bodes well for another shot-making show.

“I expect more of it tomorrow,” Lewis said.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.