Weather will have big say in PGA result

By Rex HoggardAugust 12, 2012, 12:46 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Mother Nature 2, PGA Championship 1, with the rubber match awaiting on what promises to be a marathon Sunday.

Through three days Kiawah Island, site of the famed 1991 “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup, has become home to the Duel against Doppler Radar. Weather reports have replaced leaderboards in importance as winds sent scores soaring to a record stroke average (78) on Friday and on Saturday it was a fast-moving storm that did the damage.

It seemed strangely apropos that Rory McIlroy, who won his first major on a saturated layout (Congressional), roared out of the gates with a 4-under 32 front nine to grab a share of the lead with Vijay Singh almost in tandem with a line of thunderstorms that halted play and set up a 29-hole Sunday to decide the year’s final major.

Video: Tiger takes a major tumble

Woods' weekend woes in majors continue

Forecast good for Sunday finish

Singh was playing the par-3 eighth hole when the horn echoed through Kiawah’s dunes at just before 5 p.m., while McIlroy had just made the turn on a course softened further by overnight rains and winds that were on the playable side of Friday’s gale.

Round 3 play is scheduled to resume at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday followed by the final turn, which will feature a two-tee start and threesomes.

McIlroy, who hasn’t finished better than 25th in a major since last year’s U.S. Open, likely would have preferred to play on. The Ulsterman birdied three of his first five holes and pulled into a tie with Singh with his fifth birdie of the day at No. 7.

“It was a great start, the start that I was looking to get off to,” said McIlroy, who bogeyed his last hole (No. 9) and avoided damage at the par-4 third when his tee shot nestled into the branch of what can best be described as a Pete Dye tree. “It’s nice going into the final day, if we get it finished, in a great position.”

If McIlroy ultimately emerges from the wind and rain with his second major, historians will likely remember his stellar Saturday start, but it was his persistence on Friday that should receive equal billing.

Four over through 14 holes, McIlroy rallied in the worst of the Round 2 tempest to post a 75 and keep pace with the leaders. In the not so distant past that start may have caused the worst kind of attitude adjustment but his work with short game guru Dave Stockton Sr. has softened that edge in recent weeks.

“We made a slight adjustment to my routine and my stroke, and it made a huge difference last week. I felt so much better on the greens than I did at the Open,” McIlroy said. “(Stockton) sort of just said to me, ‘You know, just go out there and have fun and enjoy it and smile.’ That's something that I've really tried to do the last two weeks, and it's definitely helped.”

On Saturday Singh wasn’t doing much smiling. With all the congeniality of an unwanted blind date the Fijian and Tiger Woods set out in the anchor match. On the 32 occasions Woods and Singh have been paired together on the PGA Tour Woods holds a 21-8-3 advantage.

Although not a complete game, Singh should add one to the “win” column following Saturday’s abbreviated frame. He birdied the first and seventh, had little to say to his playing partner and held a share of the lead when he was whisked to safety. While Woods missed three makeable putts in his first three holes, hit three fans with errant shots and signed almost as many gloves as Phil Mickelson on his way to a 3-over-par start.

To make matters worse, when players retreated to the clubhouse they were greeted by a re-air of the 2009 PGA, exactly what Woods needed: another poor putting performance to watch.

“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” said Woods, who had an 8-footer for par on the eighth hole and was five strokes back when Mother Nature began turning little puddles into big ones late in the afternoon. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”

Sunday will not be a two-man race, and Saturday’s delay was a timely TO for the world No. 2, but if a player is going to emerge from a high-profile pack to challenge Singh and McIlroy it seems Stevie Williams’ new boss has a better chance.

Adam Scott matched McIlroy with an outward 32 that featured four birdies over his final five holes of the day. If the Aussie is still reeling from Lytham he’s hiding it well.

Since undergoing an extreme Grand Slam makeover at the start of the 2011 season – new putter, new caddie, new attitude for the majors – the perennial also-ran in the game’s biggest events has four top-10 finishes, and two runner-up showings. In the 38 installments before that shift he had a total of four top 10s and no runner-ups.

His Open meltdown last month hasn’t changed that reality, just the subtext surrounding it.

“I did come down (to Kiawah) last Monday, Tuesday before Bridgestone to play here and felt that was really worthwhile,” said Scott, who opened with a 68 and survived Friday with a 75. “That's part of my thing is coming in before and getting a really good understanding of the course before I get here tournament week.”

The only thing we’ve learned about Kiawah through 2 ½ frames is that Mother Nature, more so than the players, will likely have the ultimate say at “Glory’s Last Shot.”

Getty Images

Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

Getty Images

Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro 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. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

Getty Images

Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

Getty Images

Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, 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 ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.