Five share lead at Nabisco Championship
Inkster, a two-time champion at Mission Hills Country Club, the course that has played host to this event since its inception in 1972, posted a 70 along with Penny Hammel, Liselotte Neumann, Carin Koch and 1998 Nabisco winner Pat Hurst.
Two-under-par 70 is the highest score for an opening-round lead at the Nabisco since the tournament was designated a major in 1983.
Dottie Pepper, the Nabisco winner in 1992 and 1999, recorded the fourth hole-in-one of her career on her way to finishing the day one shot back with a one-under 71. She is tied with Alison Nicholas, Michele Redman, Lorena Ochoa, Tina Barrett, Laura Diaz and Laura Davies.
Annika Sorenstam is among 10 players at even par, while defending champion Karrie Webb is three strokes off the pace after carding two birdies and three bogeys for a 73.
Inkster was two-under when she reached the tee of the par-three 14th. After she found herself between clubs at the 148-yard hole, Inkster decided to hit a soft seven-iron but pushed her ball right into the water hazard guarding the green. She wound up with a double- bogey to drop to even-par on the day.
She chose the seven-iron again for her approach to 16, this time leaving the ball 15 feet from the flag to set up a birdie. At 17, Inkster knocked a six-iron over the pin in the front but rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to climb back to two-under par.
Inkster averted a minor disaster at the last when she sank a clutch par-saving putt after leaving her long birdie attempt 12 feet short.
Inkster, whose win here in 1984 marked her second professional victory and the first of her six major titles, felt that the conditions in Thursday's round were as difficult as she can remember.
'The wind was up, the greens were hard, the rough is up. It was extremely tough to get the right club in your hand,' said Inkster, who also won here in 1989. 'But for a major championship it should be tough, I mean, there is plenty of room to drive it out there. With thewind it just adds that degree of difficulty.'
Inkster, named to the Hall of Fame in 1999, is playing in her 17th Nabisco Championship.
Hammel and Neumann both had three-birdie rounds derailed by last minute bogeys, while Koch saw an early eagle negated by two bogeys down the stretch.
Koch enjoyed a strong start with birdies at the first two holes, then moved into the lead at four-under par when she holed her approach from 140 yards at the par-four sixth.
Although she three-putted for a bogey at the par-five 11th, Koch struck back with a 10-foot birdie putt at the 12th. However, poor tee shots at the 15th and 18th led to bogeys when she too had to tangle with the long grass.
'You just can't hit much more than a short iron out of it,' said Koch. 'I had played 13 holes of the practice round on Monday and then the pro-am yesterday and I hadn't been in the rough off the tee yet. I didn't really know what to expect when I hit it in there.'
Koch, who went 3-0 for the victorious European squad in her first trip to the Solheim Cup last October, is still in search of her first win on the LPGA Tour. She has finished as a runner-up six times since joining the tour in 1995.
Hurst experienced an up-and-down front nine, but was one of only 16 golfers in the 96-player field to birdie the par-five 18th on Thursday.
Pepper managed to put back-to-back bogeys behind her when she knocked a six-iron into the cup for an ace at the 164-yard fifth hole. Although she added birdies at six, seven and 11 to pull herself to up to four-under par, Pepper dropped three shots over the span of five holes on the way in to the clubhouse.
Sorenstam, who fired an LPGA record 59 on her way to winning her second straight tournament of the season at last week's Standard Register PING, needed at least a 69 on Thursday to tie LPGA mark for most consecutive rounds in the 60s with nine.
Webb, still looking for her first LPGA title of the season, cruised to a 10-shot victory over Pepper here a year ago. It was her second win in a major, and she went on to capture last season's U.S. Women's Open for her third major championship title.
Full-Field Scores from the Nabisco Championship
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
Hahn jabs USGA over possible ball rollback
As debate continues to heat up over possible sweeping changes to the golf ball amid distance concerns, PGA Tour pro James Hahn chimed in to question the merits of a potential rollback.
The ball and distance debate gained traction earlier this week when Jack Nicklaus offered that the ball should be rolled back to the approximate distances achieved in 1995, and he put blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of Titleist. That drew a response from former Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who put the onus back on the governing bodies.
It's an issue that will likely be discussed for months to come, but Hahn took to Twitter to throw a jab toward the USGA and play devil's advocate on some key arguments related to a possible rollback:
Breaking news. In addition to limited flight balls, the USGA plans to ban working out, proper diet and swinging faster than 105mph. They are also planning on removing the 3 point shot in the NBA.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 23, 2018
If we were playing a match, would you rather hit 7 iron to my 9 iron OR hit hybrid to my 5 iron? Oh and by the way, I can still hit par 5s in two with 3 wood. You can't.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 25, 2018
Hahn, who has two career PGA Tour wins and lost in a playoff last month at the Sony Open, ranks 55th on Tour this season in driving distance with an average of 301.2 yards off the tee.
Na fires back over slow play criticism from cricketer
Kevin Na fired back over recent criticism he received about his purported slow play at last week's Genesis Open.
Kevin Pietersen is a retired English cricketer with more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter. He tweeted a video of Na, known as one of the slower players on the PGA Tour, taking more than a minute to line up and hit what he described as a "Tap In" during the final round at Riviera:
SERIOUSLY, Kevin Na?!?!— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) February 18, 2018
That Is A Tap In, MATE! pic.twitter.com/YMmNT6m5H7
He then added another video of himself on a green in Dubai, where he again called out Na and showed how long he believed it should take for a player to brush in a short putt:
Na has faced his fair share of slow play criticism, but this time he decided to defend himself. Na isn't on Twitter, but he took to Instagram to tell Pietersen to "stick to your own sport," pointing out both the length of the putt in question and the stakes that were involved during the final round, when Na went on to tie for second behind Bubba Watson:
@kp24 lets get some facts straight. Shot tracker shows what u call “tap in” 3ft 4in. Since when is 3’4’’ on green speed 12 a “tap in.” FYI 1 shot for me on Sunday was 300k. Difference between T2 and T4. Yes, I did back off because the line didn’t feel right. So what! BTW that was the only putt I backed off all day. Also our group was on pace all day! We waited if anything. @pgatour @golfdigest @golf_com @golfchannel #getyourfactstraight #sticktoyourownsport #everyshotcounts
Pepperell wins his first European Tour title in Qatar
DOHA, Qatar - Eddie Pepperell survived a tense finish to win the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.
The 27-year-old Englishman held off a spirited challenge from compatriot Oliver Fisher, who needed a third successive birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but had his putt from six feet slip past the hole for a par.
Pepperell shot a 2-under-par 70 for a four-day tally of 18 under 270, while Fisher, who started the day tied for the lead, could only manage a 71.
Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (68) finished third at 16-under.
The No. 154-ranked Pepperell made things difficult for himself with a bogey on the 15th hole, but hit a superb wedge to three feet on the next to get back to 18 under again.
Fisher, who appeared to have fallen out of contention with three bogeys starting on the third hole, stormed back with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes.
On the last, Pepperell laid up with his second into the thick rough, made wet and unwieldy by rain in the Qatar capital, but found the green in three and two-putted for the win when Fisher missed his birdie putt.
''I did the things I needed to do, I didn't play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully, I'll have some prettier ones in the future,'' said Pepperell.
''I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. When Oli birdied the 17th, that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys' way because they were struggling a bit and it's sometimes easy to get dragged into that.''
Fisher was disappointed, but saw the silver lining in the way he fought back.
''It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for on the back nine,'' said Fisher, who won the 2011 Czech Open, but recorded his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open.
''I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today, four in total, so you're never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way.''
Italian Renato Paratore (66) had the low round of the day and finished tied for fourth place at 15 under par, where he was joined by the Spanish pair of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal along with Gregory Havret of France.