Amateur Up Early at US Open

By Sports NetworkJuly 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 U.S. WomenSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- An amateur leads during the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at Orchard Golf Club.
It's not the one everyone expected.
Brittany Lincicome, an 18-year-old from Florida, fired a 5-under-par 66 on Thursday to lead in the clubhouse as the first round was suspended due to darkness.
Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old sensation who played with the men of the PGA Tour in Hawaii this year, opened with an even-par 71. She eagled the final hole to reach even-par but Wie, who lost in the final of last week's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, is still confident despite her fellow amateur stealing the spotlight.
'I only missed three greens today, I think that's pretty good out here, since the greens are pretty small,' said Wie. 'I didn't really quite play my A-game, I think I played B-plus, it could get better.'
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc posted a 4-under 67 and is alone in second place. Beth Daniel is 3 under par through 12 holes.
There were two weather stoppages on Thursday. The first lasted only 30 minutes but the players were only on the course for 15 minutes before a thunderstorm stopped play again. This suspension lasted three hours and the action continued until 8:05 p.m. (ET) when darkness settled in.
Players will return in position to Orchard Golf Club at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. The second round is scheduled to begin one hour later.
Annika Sorenstam, who won the McDonald's LPGA Championship three weeks ago, leads a pack at 2 under par. She is through 15 holes, as is Jennifer Rosales. Audra Burks is 2 under through 14 holes while Jessica Lewis is at the same score and had just made the turn before the horn sounded.
Wie was given a special exemption into the U.S. Women's Open and several players voiced their opinions. Some said how unfair it was that she did not have to qualify but Lincicome did it the hard way, passing through sectional qualifying at the Country Club at Heathrow, just outside Orlando.
Lincicome struggled out of the gate on Thursday but held it together with a six-foot par save at the first. She could not escape trouble at the next hole when she three-putted for bogey.
She rebounded at the third when she knocked a pitching-wedge to 4 feet to set up birdie. Lincicome mixed a bogey and a birdie over the seventh and eighth holes to make the turn at even-par 36.
The par-3 10th hole played close to 180 yards and Lincicome roped a 5-iron 10 feet over the flag. She canned the birdie putt and added another at No. 11 with a kick-in putt that was the result of a spectacular pitching-wedge shot.
Lincicome missed the green with her 5-wood second shot at the par-5 13th. She hit a flop shot over a bunker to five feet and drained the birdie putt to go to minus-3.
The best shot of the first round came from Lincicome at the par-4 15th. Her drive landed near the trees on the left side so she elected to bump a 7-iron up the fairway, hoping to land short of the hole. Lincicome's shot ran on to the putting surface and into the hole for an eagle two.
'After I made it and it went in, I looked at my dad and started bawling,' said Lincicome, whose father Tom is carrying the bag this week. 'I could not stop. I walked all the way to the green, my mom started crying, and then I started crying even more.'
Lincicome parred her final three holes to grab the clubhouse lead.
'Coming in I just wanted to make the cut and now I'm going to try to be top three, maybe, try to win it, I don't know, might as well,' said Lincicome. 'I'm excited, it hasn't set in, maybe it will after I go home. I'm still in shock.'
Lincicome is a surprise leader, not just because she is an amateur. She missed the cut last week at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
'I don't think I was focused, getting ready to come here and everything that was going on,' said Lincicome, who will turn professional after the U.S. Women's Amateur. 'I just wanted to come here and do a practice round and see what was going on.'
Meunier-Lebouc, who won last year's Nabisco Championship, was even on her first nine, the back side at Orchards Golf Club. She parred her first five holes on the second nine but caught fire coming into the clubhouse.
At the sixth, Meunier-Lebouc hit an 8-iron to tap-in range to go 1 under. She ran home a 20-footer for birdie at the seventh, then collected her third straight with a 25-footer at No. 8.
Meunier-Lebouc drained a 6-foot birdie putt at her last to close with four birdies in a row.
'I played very well today,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who returned to the tour in April after the birth of her first child. 'I had a lot of opportunities, and before I started that big roll, I had two long putts that just stayed short on line, short of the hole. And I felt it's okay, it's coming.'
Kim Saiki, who won last week's event in Rochester, carded a 1-under 70 on Thursday. She was joined there by Katherine Hull, Michelle Ellis, Candie Kung and Michele Redman. Se Ri Pak and former champion Liselotte Neumann headline a group at minus-1 still on the course.
Grace Park, who won this year's first major at the Nabisco Championship, and two-time U.S. Women's Open winner Juli Inkster joined Wie at even-par 71.
Defending champion Hilary Lunke, who defeated Kelly Robbins and Angela Stanford in an epic playoff, kicked off her first title defense with a respectable 1-over-par 72.
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  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    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 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 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.