Lytham may be perfect place for a new beginning

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2012, 2:25 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – With a modicum of creative license one could say it all began here on the Lancashire coast for Tiger Woods.

No, the 1996 Open Championship was not his first start in the game’s oldest soiree – that would have been a year earlier at St. Andrews – but it was here on the Irish Sea where the rail-thin prodigy posted a 5-under 66 on Day 2 on his way to a tie for 22nd and low-amateur honors.

“That was a pretty great accomplishment,” said Woods on Tuesday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes without a hint of hyperbole. “From that it pushed me towards turning pro versus going back to college.”

The rest, as they say, is a rewritten history book. Fourteen majors, three claret jugs and an affinity – at times unrequited but always there – for links golf followed.

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So it is that without much prompting one could imagine a new beginning this week at Lytham, at least in major championship terms. Woods is 0-for-his-last-12 Grand Slam starts since his historic 2008 U.S. Open triumph, but given this week’s “English summer” forecast Lytham seems as appropriate a place as any to stem the drought.

What better place to pick up his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors than the same bouncy ground that filled Woods with confidence and prompted him to bolt Stanford early?

Not that Woods seems fixated on No. 15, particularly after three PGA Tour victories this season and steady, if not solid, performances at the year’s first two majors (T-40 at the Masters and T-21 at the U.S. Open).

“If I continue to put myself there enough times then I’ll win major championships,” said Woods, dismissing the idea that there is a growing sense of urgency to get off the Grand Slam schnied. “I had to go through that whole process and just being healthy again. Being banged up and missing major championships because of it in a couple-year stretch there wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”

For the first time in some time Woods’ words ring without a hint of false bravado. No more is the Sean Foley-inspired action a work in progress. Although there is a lack of consistency that once defined his greatness – in his last nine Tour starts he has three ‘Ws,’ two missed cuts, including his last outing at the Greenbrier Classic, and a withdrawal – there is an undercurrent of success that suggests he’s closer to championship competency than he has been in some time.

But the most telling sign he’s closer to the end of the developmental process than the beginning can be found in the World Ranking math. For the first time since the 2011 Masters Woods arrives at a major with a chance to reclaim the top spot in the ranking.

That said major is on the type of links layout that historically brings out Woods’ creative best can only feed his inner Michelangelo.

Consider Woods’ answer when asked which of Lytham’s ubiquitous bunkers should be avoided this week, “all of them.” That would be 205 pitted round killers, to be exact, which immediately conjures memories of Royal Liverpool and the 2006 Open, which Woods won with clinical precision.

Hitting just one driver all week at Hoylake, Woods bunted his way around and over all but a single bunker on his way to claret jug No. 3. Although he quickly dismissed the comparisons, pointing out how wet Lytham is for this week’s championship, the wheels were clearly turning for the inner tactician.

“It’s not exactly the same game plan,” Woods said when asked to compare Hoylake to Lytham. “You have to hit probably a few more 3-woods and drivers here. This is different. The bunkers are staggered differently here. There’s some forced carries to where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt past them.”

Woods referred to this plan as a “plod,” which would be an apropos take on where he is in his quest for major No. 15. If age and injury are beginning to weigh on him it’s not showing.

Even with a 36-year-old knee that is going on 66 Woods remains content with the long view, and for good reason. This slice of English coast is, after all, where the seeds of stardom received a competitive B12 injection back in ’96.

“That (second-round 66 in 1996) gave me so much confidence that I could do it at a high level . . . I could play against the top players in the world on a very difficult track,” he said.

A perfect place for a new beginning.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.