For Kaymer, Sawgrass is the home of the brave

By Rex HoggardMay 12, 2014, 1:49 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There is no Comeback Player of the Year Award on the PGA Tour any longer, it was traded in last season for the Courage Award, which honors “a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness.”

While Martin Kaymer’s plight doesn’t dovetail into that definition, his play through four days at The Players was, by any measure, courageous.

Or, maybe brave would be a more apt description.

“You need to hit brave shots,” he said after Thursday’s course-record tying 63. “Even if you screw up once in a while, it's OK, everybody does that once in a while, but at least you play brave, and that's good playing and that's not playing like a wimp, just trying to get it over with.”

Playing brave like at the par-3 13th hole when the German challenged every drop of water and Pete Dye’s particular form of punishment with a tee shot to 15 feet for a two-putt par.

And at the iconic 17th hole after he endured an hour-and-a-half icing when Mother Nature rained on Mother’s Day.

Two holes earlier Kaymer had made a mess of No. 15 after the weather delay, driving into the trees left of the fairway and mis-hitting a chip on his way to a double-bogey 6 to drop his lead to a stroke over Jim Furyk, who had already completed his round.

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The only way to describe the rest of Kaymer’s round was brave, although far from brilliant. An unlucky bounce at the 17th hole left him 64 feet from the pin, but he rolled in a 28-footer with 6 feet of break for par and pounded his drive into the heart of the 18th fairway.

“The way he played all day was brave,” said Kaymer’s caddie, Craig Connelly. “But 18 was a brave shot.”

Furyk watched Kaymer’s dicey up and down at the last from the players’ locker room, for the second consecutive week a bridesmaid on the PGA Tour.

Still, the veteran posted his second runner-up showing of 2014 on a golf course that hasn’t always had a friendly confines feel. In 19 starts he has just four top 10s at TPC Sawgrass.

“I've struggled at this golf course,” said Furyk, who closed with a 66 to finish one shot back. “My results haven't been nearly as good as I would have liked. I was on a roll coming in here and I wanted to continue it, but it's fun to play well in front of friends and family.”

There were other contenders. Sergio Garcia’s 70 was good for a third-place finish, giving him a win (2008), place (2007) and now show at the Tour’s flagship stop; and young Jordan Spieth (T-4) added another solid week to his burgeoning resume, although another Sunday swoon after his Masters miss may haunt him for a few days.

But after Kaymer, it was Justin Rose who had the most interesting Sunday. The Englishman had been assessed a two-stroke penalty on Saturday when a video review revealed his ball moved before hitting his third shot at No. 18.

But an hour before Rose teed off for his final round he was informed by Tour officials that the penalty was rescinded under a new decision dealing with high-definition rulings, making him the first player to essentially begin a round 2 under par.

“Overnight I read an article that explained the (new) rule, and I kind of thought it applied to my case,” said Rose, who closed with a 69 to tie for fourth place.

But there was no need for a high-definition review for Kaymer, whose performance was decidedly high-powered. He scorched the softer Stadium Course on Thursday with nine birdies and no bogeys and finished with rounds of 69, 72 and 71.

“There was a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, and even though I was trying to talk about it in a way that it was only the first day, only the second day, but somewhere deep down you hope that you can bring it home,” said Kaymer, who won on the Tour for the first time since the 2010 PGA Championship.

It was the culmination of a long climb back for Kaymer, who had swooned from first in the world in 2011 to 61st and had failed to win anywhere in the world for 17 months.

But as impressive as Kaymer’s performance was, a quartet of would-be kings wilted in the humid heat. Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson all had the chance to overtake Tiger Woods, who has been on the indefinite DL since back surgery last month, atop the Official World Golf Ranking. That group was a combined 6 over par on Sunday.

The consolation prize for Scott, who tied for 38th after a closing 73, is that he will overtake Woods next week from his couch, the byproduct of divisors and lunar pull . . . or something like that.

“I think it’s a nice feather in the cap probably,” Scott said. “I mean, if I was never world No. 1 when I’m this close, I’d be disappointed, but I’d also much rather win the U.S. Open and not be No. 1 at all this year. That’s what it comes down to. There weren’t rankings back in the day, and guys won a lot of majors and that’s how they were remembered. I guess that’s still somewhat true as well.”

Kaymer, of course, has both, having climbed to world No. 1 in early 2011 and claimed the Wanamaker Trophy at Whistling Straits. Now he can add to that legacy a courageous comeback.

It was a brave performance, even more so considering the emotional cloud that hung over Kaymer on Sunday, Mother’s Day.

In 2008, Kaymer’s mother, Rina, died of cancer, and he said not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about her but added that at TPC Sawgrass, “I was just alone.”

Alone and courageous every step of the way.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

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Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”