Eagle Gives Kim Share of State Farm Lead
Solheim Cup hopefuls Emilee Klein (67) and Nancy Scranton (68) joined Shani Waugh (67) and Laura Diaz (67), who is in second place on the American Solheim Cup points list, at minus 12.
Kim had only 104 yards to the flag at the par-4 17th and chose an 8-iron. She knocked it short of the hole and after two bounces and a little roll, the ball fell in for an eagle and gave her a share of the lead at 13-under-par.
'It was dead on line, one or two hops, then right in,' said Kim's caddie Chris Birdseye. 'It kind of rolled in.'
The eagle capped a brilliant back nine for Kim, who earlier fell down the leaderboard with three front-nine bogeys. At the 10th, Kim hit a pitching wedge inside a foot for the tap-in birdie. She made it back-to-back birdies at 11 when she hit a 7-wood to five feet.
Kim duplicated her approach from 11 at the 13th, where once again a 7-wood shot stopped five feet from the hole to set up a birdie to reach 10-under-par. The South Korean took advantage of the par-5 15th when she reached the green in two and two-putted from 20 feet for birdie.
'On the front nine, I wasn't hitting good,' said Kim, a two-time winner on tour this season. 'Then at the turn, my caddie said just be patient. So I just tried to be patient. Then on number 10, tap-in putt. So I was feeling very good.'
While Kim was torching the back nine, Meunier-Lebouc was hanging on as her driver let her down. She held sole possession of the lead after a pair of birdies at 10 and 12 but it went downhill after that.
At the par-4 14th, Meunier-Lebouc drove right, nearly against a tree. Her only play was a punch 6-iron because of her low back swing and she advanced the ball toward the hole, but remained in the rough. She played her second 12 feet from the hole but missed the par save to drop to 13-under-par.
Meunier-Lebouc's driver let her down at the par-5 15th as she found the rough on the right side. She could not reach the putting surface in two but her third shot from 47 yards failed to get up a ridge in front of the pin. Meunier-Lebouc rapped her birdie try eight feet past the hole but converted the clutch save to stay at minus 13.
The dangerous par-3 16th tested Meunier-Lebouc as she avoided water right of the hole but found a greenside bunker left of the putting surface. She blasted out to eight feet and holed that par putt to keep pace at 13-under-par.
She parred the remaining two holes to stay even with playing partner Kim and is now in position for her first LPGA Tour title.
'I had a lot of tension and I think I was into the reality today,' said Meunier-Lebouc, a member of the 2000 European Solheim Cup team. 'Maybe a little bit too much. I was not able to get out of the game, get my head into the clouds like you say. It took a lot of energy today to play golf.
'I'm still there. That's why I think I kept trying. You know, somewhere inside, I told myself to stay trying hard to stay in there.'
Akiko Fukushima, who played in Saturday's final group with Kim and Meunier-Lebouc, was tied for the lead on the 18th hole but stumbled with a double-bogey. She carded a 1-under 71 and is tied for seventh with Angela Stanford (68), Pat Hurst (68) and Cristie Kerr (69) at 11-under-par 205.
Full-field scores from the State Farm Classic
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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course
ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.
McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.
“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”
This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.
A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.
McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.
“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”
As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.
“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
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.”
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.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
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.
“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.”