Watson Three Back at Senior British

By Sports NetworkJuly 25, 2002, 4:00 pm
NEWCASTLE, Northern Ireland -- Noboru Sugai carded a 4-under-par 67 for the lead after Thursday's opening round of the Senior British Open in Northern Ireland. The unheralded Japanese Tour regular finished one stroke ahead of Scotland's Russell Weir.
Only four other players finished under par at stunning but demanding Royal County Down. Two other Scots, John Chillas and Peter Kerr, posted 69s for joint possession of third place at 2-under, while England's Tony Allen shot 1-under 70 to share fifth with five-time British Open champion Tom Watson.
'Most of my shots were a bit off,' said Watson, who is making his first appearance in a Senior British Open. 'It's annoying because I felt the golf course was there for the taking.
'When we went out, the wind wasn't blowing all that hard. It was very benign by Royal County Down standards so I feel as if I have let an opportunity slip.'
Watson kicked his round off in spectacular fashion with an eagle at the 522-yard, par-5 first hole, only to give a stroke back with a bogey at the second. Although he made three more bogeys the rest of the way, Watson was able to immediately answer each dropped shot with a birdie.
The 52-year-old Watson is coming off a disappointing showing in last week's British Open, where he missed the cut by 13 strokes with rounds of 77-78 at Muirfield, the site of his 1980 Open triumph.
He came out on the short end of a better stick a month ago after an exciting playoff loss to Don Pooley at the U.S. Senior Open at Caves Valley near Baltimore.
Sugai, whose resume includes four wins on the Japan PGA Tour and three more on the Japan Senior Tour, birdied the first two holes Thursday and added another at the ninth to make his way out in 32. A bogey six at the 479-yard, par-5 12th knocked him back to 2-under, but Sugai forged ahead with birdies at the 203-yard 14th and 375-yard 17th.
'The key was good putting and good approach shots,' said Sugai, 52. 'I like this course. Two years ago, on my first visit, I finished 18th and I have felt very comfortable ever since.'
South Africa's John Bland, the runner-up in the Senior British Open in 1997, '99 and 2000, was part of an eight-way tie for seventh at even-par 71. Japan's Seiji Ebihara, who successfully defended his Irish Seniors Open title in May and captured the Wales Seniors Open earlier this month, was knotted with nine players at 1-over-par.
Ebihara's 72 included a three-bogey, one double-bogey 40 on the front nine and a 32 on the back made up of an eagle, three birdies and one bogey.
Christy O'Connor, Jr., seeking his third victory in the Senior British Open, double-bogeyed the 18th for a 2-over 73.
'It was a horrible way to finish,' said the 53-year-old Irishman, who won the title in 1999 and 2000 but had to skip last year's championship after breaking his ankle. 'I have got to admit that I am mad at myself. I played superbly but my putting was filthy. I'm going to have to go home and give myself a bit of a talking to.'
Defending champion Ian Stanley of Australia made a brief appearance on the leaderboard with a pair of birdies to open his round but struggled in the windy afternoon conditions. He carded two double-bogeys later on the front side and finished with three bogeys over the last six holes to complete a 4-over 75.
'It's a bit disappointing but at least it is over and done with,' Stanley said. 'Today, we probably got the worst of the weather but tomorrow it might be different. Who knows, you are never quite sure on a links.'
England's Tony Jacklin, winner of the British Open in 1969 and the U.S. Open in 1970, was one of 32 players to post rounds in the 80s.
Full-field scores from the Senior British Open
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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal 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 upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”