Playing with Paula and Life on the Road

By Sarah Lynn SargentApril 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
First off I want to thank everyone for all the wonderful e-mails. They have been fun to read. I have had a few questions throughout the e-mails and thought I might answer a couple of the common questions.
 
One question I got a lot of last week was, What was it like playing with Paula Creamer?
 
I am just a rookie who has been out of the spotlight my whole life. I am not someone who people know. It is probably because I was never the best or the stand-out in looks or one of those things that make you a star. I remember one of the producers from the Big Break telling me I was the perfect girl next door. Now I would not go that far, but I do normally stay under the radar. So when I got paired with Paula I knew there would be a few more people watching our group than normal. I would say that I like more rather than less people in a gallery. I am a professional athlete and as I am sure you all have heard before, it sometimes makes us focus more or gets us more excited when there are people watching. So I was looking forward to the prospect of that.
 
I had met Paula a couple of times before in shuttle cars and just in passing but, of course, when it came down to it she didnt remember me. So I get to the first tee and she introduced herself; I did the same and on we were. Although it would make for a great story if she was not great to play with, she was. She was very gracious and complimentary.
 
The best part of the day was when we made the turn and our group was right behind Laura Davies' group. She is by far the most impressive woman I have ever seen hit the ball. Herbie (my husband) and Meghan (the girl Herbie caddies for) had played with Laura the first two days when she had shot a total of 12 under. Herbie told me how incredible it was to watch her and it sure was. One of the tees was backed up because it was a somewhat reachable par-4. I got to the tee just as Laura was about to hit. What she did next was awesome. She took a wedge and made a divot with it. She didnt use a tee; she used the back of the divot and put the ball on that. She then took out her driver and bombed the ball just left of the green but pin high. It was great to watch. I only hope one day to get paired with her and get to watch a whole round!
 
Another question I get often is, What is it actually like traveling for several weeks in a row?
 
There are many business men and women who travel for days or maybe a week at a time, but most of the time they make it home for a few days. I am in Morelia, Mexico this week and it is the first of seven weeks where I will not go home but for two hours, maybe to get my car. This is where I am very lucky to have Herbie, my husband, on the road with me. Not many husbands will put up with not seeing their wives for seven weeks in a row. But as far as everything else goes it is pretty easy once you get into a routine.
 
I am not fully sponsored so because of that I stay in host housing. For those of you who dont know what that is; people open their homes and have girls who dont want to stay in a hotel, for whatever reason, stay with them. I will say that it is a lifesaver. For at least a couple of weeks out of the long trek you feel like you are at home. It is nice because not only do you get to meet great people but also you have access to a kitchen and laundry. These are two things I took for granted before I started playing golf. I love to eat out, but everyday for seven weeks is a little much. I hate to do laundry, but I really hate to do laundry in a laundry mat. I dont know if you guys have ever spent a couple of hours in one but I will tell you I have been to some that I would never step foot in again. Just for example, in Syracuse, NY last year it was about 90 degrees and, of course, there was no air conditioning in the wonderful laundry mat. The dryers were blasting away and so were the mosquitoes all over my body. I determined that night that I just must be so sweet that all the bugs wanted my blood! This is something you dont have to worry about when you are staying in host housing.
 
Another thing that slips through people's minds is the fact that even though you are not home bills still come. Oh, yes, the wonderful bills. Lucky for me I have a mother- and father-in-law who get our mail, take care of our yard and love our dogs while we are gone. So we leave a check book and Linda, my mother-in-law, pays the bills and calls us to let us know the damage! There are just so many things that when you are gone for weeks at a time you forget about.
 
All the little troubles you have to go through when you are on the road for seven weeks (or even longer sometimes), would not make me love the game of golf any less.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.