Annika Pak Among Open Leaders

By Sports NetworkJune 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Annika Sorenstam, a two-time winner of this event, shot a 2-under 69 on Friday and is among the leaders after the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at Newport Country Club.
 
Se Ri Pak, who won the LPGA Championship in a playoff earlier this month, also shot a 69 and joined Sorenstam, Pat Hurst and amateur Jane Park atop the leaderboard.
 
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak is in search of her second consecutive major title.
Michelle Wie played very well on Friday and shot a 1-under-par 70. Amateur Amanda Blumenherst, Sung Ah Yim, Gloria Hee Jung Park and Becky Morgan are tied for fifth with the 16-year-old star.
 
The opening round finally went off without a hitch on Friday. Not a single shot was struck on Thursday as a dense fog never left Newport Country Club. The plan is to complete the second round on Saturday and play 36 holes on Sunday.
 
Wie collected her first birdie of the round at the par-3 fifth when her tee ball stopped a foot from the hole. She tapped that in, but then dropped a shot at nine when she missed the fairway, then a 4-footer for the save.
 
Par is a good score at U.S. Opens and Wie collected them on the back nine. She parred every hole on the second nine until she hit her approach 15 feet right of the flag at the closing hole. Wie rolled in the birdie putt to break par in the opening round.
 
'I felt like I had a very solid round today, lots of pars. That's what the U.S. Open is. You have to have pars when you're in trouble,' said Wie. 'I know that it's going to get better and better. And I think that's a good opening round.'
 
Not as good as Sorenstam's.
 
The No. 1 player in the world, who has only one victory this season, collected her first birdie on the par-4 third. Sorenstam hit a 5-iron to 17 feet and ran home the birdie putt.
 
She dropped a shot at the sixth after her 7-wood approach sailed over the green. Sorenstam chipped to 20 feet, but two-putted for the lone bogey on her card.
 
At the ninth, Sorenstam used a 4-iron for her second shot and drained the 12-footer. Throughout her round, Sorenstam had a lot of birdie chances from that length, but failed to convert.
 
Sorenstam, the only co-leader who teed off in the afternoon groups, finally caught the leaders at the par-5 16th. The Swede hit a sand-wedge to 8 feet and stroked that home as she tries to win her third U.S. Open title.
 
'It was a great start, and hopefully I can continue this,' said Sorenstam. 'I feel like I've come a long ways the last few days, and today I really showed that, so it was good.'
 
Rain has also been a problem in the Newport area as 13 inches of water inundated the course in the last six weeks. That meant a lot of casual water rulings and much slower pace of play.
 
'I'm hitting it here and somebody else is hitting it there, so the rules official has a lot of work to do,' said Pak. 'There is so much water on the golf course still, but we can't do anything about it.'
 
Pak, who estimated she took close to 30 drops on Friday, started on the 10th tee and birdied the 12th, but dropped a shot at the par-3 13th. She birdied the par-5 16th to make the turn at 1-under-par 35.
 
She bogeyed the third hole, but reclaimed the lost stroke with a long birdie putt from the fringe at six. Pak added another birdie at the next hole to reach 2 under par.
 
'I just so much enjoyed it out there all day long and am so much more comfortable and the confidence in myself, it helped me out with a good round,' said Pak.
 
Pak had fallen off the golf radar with poor play and injuries over the last several years. When she dramatically defeated Karrie Webb in a playoff for the LPGA Championship, it signaled a return for Pak, who proclaimed herself 'back.'
 
'I'll always be here if anyone forgets about me,' joked Pak. 'Actually I feel great to be back. At the same time my game is back, too. I feel so great, I feel so much confidence in my game right now. The last couple weeks have been perfect.'
 
Hurst also began at 10 and mixed four birdies and two bogeys on her opening nine. At the par-3 fourth, Hurst hit her tee ball to 4 feet to set up birdie and reach 3 under par. Unfortunately a bogey at the eighth thanks to an errant drive dropped her into a tie for the lead.
 
'I basically try to go out and do the best I can, and wherever that takes me, great,' said Hurst. 'I know if I give it 100 percent that's all I can ask from myself.'
 
Park played the course from the first and recorded two birdies through her first seven holes. She dropped a shot at eight, but got back to 2 under with a birdie at the 10th.
 
Like Wie, Park made all pars from there, but squandered a chance at the final hole. She knocked her second 10 feet over the flag, but missed the birdie putt that could have separated herself from the field.
 
'I haven't been in this kind of atmosphere here for a year,' said Park. 'I really missed this. I haven't been in a professional tournament in a year. It's great to be out here again, seeing all these people and the people I look up to. It inspires me to play my best and be my best.'
 
The leading money winner on the LPGA Tour, Lorena Ochoa, opened with a respectable even-par 71. Reigning Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer, Silvia Cavalleri, Jee Young Lee, Kim Saiki, Brandie Burton and Shi Hyun Ahn joined Ochoa in a tie for 10th.
 
Webb carded a 2-over-par 73 on Friday and along with Cristie Kerr, is part of a group tied for 28th.
 
Defending champion Birdie Kim has a lot of work to do if she is going to be the first repeat champion since Webb in 2000-2001. Kim struggled to an 8-over-par 79 on Friday and is tied for 122nd place.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Women's Open
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open
  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: Who's got next?

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    The sprawling legacy of the Class of 2011 can be traced to any number of origins, but for some among what is arguably the most prolific class ever, it all began in June 2009.

    The 99-player field that descended on Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., for the AJGA’s FootJoy Invitational included Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and so many others, like Michael Kim, who up to that moment had experienced the weight of the ’11 class only from afar.

    “It was that year that Justin won the FootJoy Invitational and that got him into [the Wyndham Championship]," Kim recalled. "That was my first invitational and I was like 'these guys are so good’ and I was blown away by what they were shooting. I remember being shocked by how good they were at that time.”

    Tom Lovelady, who like former Cal-Berkeley Bear Kim is now on the PGA Tour, remembers that tournament as the moment when he started to realize how special this particular group could be, as well as the genesis of what has become lifetime friendships.

    In the third round, Lovelady was paired with Spieth.

    “We kind of hit it off and became friends after that," Lovelady recalled. "The final round I got paired with Justin Thomas and we became friends. On the 10th hole I asked [Thomas], ‘Where do you want to go to school?’ He said, ‘Here. Here or Alabama.’ My first reaction was, ‘Don’t go to Alabama.’ He’s like, ‘Why?’ I wanted to go there. I knew the class was strong and they only had so many spots, but that’s where I really wanted to go.”

    Both ended up in Tuscaloosa, and both won an NCAA title during their time in college. They also solidified a friendship that endures to this day in South Florida where they live and train together.

    While the exploits of Thomas, Spieth and Daniel Berger are well documented, perhaps the most impressive part of the ’11 class is the depth that continues to develop at the highest level.

    To many, it’s not a question as to whether the class will have another breakout star, it’s when and who?



    There’s a good chance that answer could have been found on the tee sheet for last week’s RSM Classic, a lineup that included Class of ’11 alums Lovelady; Kim; Ollie Schniederjans, a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech; Patrick Rodgers, Stanford's all-time wins leader alongside Tiger Woods; and C.T. Pan, a four-time All-American at the University of Washington.

    Lovelady earned his Tour card this year via the Web.com Tour, while Schniederjans and Rodgers are already well on their way to the competitive tipping point of Next Level.

    Rodgers, who joined the Tour in 2015, dropped a close decision at the John Deere Classic in July, where he finished a stroke behind winner Bryson DeChambeau; and Schniederjans had a similar near-miss at the Wyndham Championship.

    To those who have been conditioned by nearly a decade of play, it’s no surprise that the class has embraced a next-man-up mentality. Nor is it any surprise, at least for those who were forged by such an exceedingly high level of play, that success has seemed to be effortless.

    “First guy I remember competing against at a high level was Justin. We were playing tournaments at 10, 11 years old together,” Rodgers said. “He was really, really good at that age and I wasn’t really good and so he was always my benchmark and motivated me to get better.”

    That symbiotic relationship hasn’t changed. At every level the group has been challenged, and to a larger degree motivated, by the collective success.

    By all accounts, it was Spieth who assumed the role of standard-bearer when he joined the Tour in 2013 and immediately won. For Rodgers, however, the epiphany arrived a year later as he was preparing to play a college event in California and glanced up at a television to see his former rival grinding down the stretch at Augusta National.

    “Jordan’s leading the Masters. A couple years before we’d been paired together battling it out at this exact same college event,” he laughed. “I think I even won the tournament. It was just crazy for me to see someone who is such a peer, someone I was so familiar with up there on the biggest stage.”

    It was a common theme for many among the Class of ’11 as Spieth, Thomas and others emerged, and succeeded, on a world stage. If familiarity can breed contempt, in this case it created a collective confidence.

    Success on Tour has traditionally come slowly for new pros, the commonly held belief being that it took younger players time to evolve into Tour professionals. That’s no longer the case, the byproduct of better coaching, training and tournaments for juniors and top-level amateurs.

    But for the Class of ’11, that learning curve was accelerated by the economies of scale. The quality and quantity of competition for the class has turned out to be a fundamental tenet to the group’s success.

    “Since the mindset of the class has been win, win, win, you don’t know anything other than that, it’s never been just be good enough,” Lovelady said. “You don’t think about being top 125 [on the FedExCup points list], you think about being as high as you can instead of just trying to make the cut, or just keep your card. It’s all you’ve known since you were 14, 15 years old.”

    It’s a unique kind of competitive Darwinism that has allowed the class to separate itself from others, an ever-present reality that continues to drive the group.

    “It was constantly in my head motivating me,” Rodgers said. “Then you see Jordan turn pro and have immediate success and Justin turn pro and have immediate success. It’s kind of the fuel that drives me. What makes it special is these guys have always motivated me, maybe even more so than someone like Tiger [Woods].”

    The domino effect seems obvious, inevitable even, with the only unknown who will be next?

    “That’s a good question; I’d like for it to be myself,” Lovelady said. “But it’s hard to say it’s going to be him, it’s going to be him when it could be him. There are just so many guys.”