Creamer Hoping to Save Season

By Sports NetworkNovember 9, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Mitchell Co. Tournament of ChampionsMOBILE, Ala. -- Paula Creamer fired an 8-under-par 64 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead over Lorena Ochoa after the opening round of the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions.
Creamer, who is looking for her first win of the season, leads after one round for the first time in her brief two-year career on the LPGA Tour.
Ochoa, who is trying to capture Player of the Year honors, shares second place with Joo Mi Kim and Liselotte Neumann at 6-under-par 66. Marisa Baena, Juli Inkster and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc are one stroke further back at minus-5.
Thursday's round was played under lift, clean and place rules after heavy rain soaked the course earlier in the week.
Creamer jumped out of the gate by sinking a 15-footer for birdie on the first. After a pair of pars, she two-putted for birdie at the par-5 fourth. Creamer again took advantage of a par-5 with a birdie on the sixth.
The 20-year-old, who won two times in 2005, rolled in her fourth birdie putt on the eighth at Magnolia Grove Crossings Course, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Trail.
Creamer moved to minus-5 when her 6-foot birdie putt at the 10th found the bottom of the cup. She grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on 12. Creamer remained there with pars on the next two holes.
At the par-4 15th, Creamer sank a birdie putt to take the lead. She made it two in a row with a two-putt birdie at the 16th. Creamer closed a bogey-free round with consecutive pars.
'I hit the ball really well, tee to green I played great,' said Creamer. 'I gave myself a lot of chances out there for birdies, and I missed a lot, but at the end of the day I played really solid and I'm very pleased with my first day.'
Ochoa leads Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb in the race for Player of the Year honors. Sorenstam (eight) and Webb (two) have combined to win 10 of the last 11 Player of the Year awards, but neither is in the field this week.
'No, no. I don't even think on that,' said Ochoa of winning on Sunday, which would lock up Player of the Year honors. 'You cannot be thinking of winning a tournament. It's only Thursday. I'm just trying to put myself in a good position for Sunday. And Sunday will be a different story depending on how the conditions are and how I am in the field.'
The 24-year-old Ochoa collected three birdies over her opening six holes. She parred her next four holes around the turn before tripping to a bogey at the par-4 11th.
Ochoa responded with a birdie run from there. She drained a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th and came right back to birdie 13. Ochoa continued to make birdies as her 7-foot birdie putt on 14 fell into the cup.
The Mexican made it four straight with a birdie on 15 from 9 feet out. She closed with three consecutive pars to finish two back.
'I think it was an easy front nine,' Ochoa admitted. 'I made a couple of birdies, especially on the par-5s. I think it's important to birdie the par-5. I think the key today was the good adjustment of clubs and the good distance control with my irons.'
Kim birdied the first to get her round going. She sank back-to-back birdies from the fifth, then holed out for eagle on the par-4 seventh to jump to minus-5. Her 8-iron from 151 yards dropped into the hole for the eagle.
The Korean parred the next five before making eagle on the par-5 13th to move to 7 under. After four pars, Kim three-putted for bogey at the last to share second.
Neumann was hot late on both nines. She was 1 under through six holes, then converted consecutive birdies from the seventh. Neumann got to minus-4 with a birdie at the 13th. She sank a birdie putt on 16 and made it two in a row with a birdie on 17 to finish at 6 under.
Stacy Prammanasudh, Sung Ah Yim and Jee Young Lee share eighth place at 4-under-par 68. Karen Stupples and Hilary Lunke, both former major champions, are among six players tied for 11th at minus-3.
Defending champion Christina Kim carded her lone birdie on the par-4 18th. That left her at 6-over-par 78, one stroke out of last place.
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    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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    Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

    While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

    The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

    "I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

    Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

    According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

    "I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

    Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

    Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

    "I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

    Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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    Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

    Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

    “It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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    Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

    “I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”