2003 Tour May Offer Surprises

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The signs leading to the Plantation Course at Kapalua remind everyone that the PGA Tour Starts Here.''
The trick is trying to figure out where it will lead.
Last year was an unusual trip that took Tiger Woods to two majors and even more dominance in golf. Along the way, a record 18 players won tour events for the first time, while David Duval, David Toms and Davis Love III didn't win at all.
The British Open had its first sudden-death playoff. The PGA Championship was won by a former car stereo salesman (Rich Beem). And the slogan for the Masters ' a tradition like no other'' ' took on a new meaning because of the debate over its all-male membership.
What does 2003 hold?
It's going to continue to get crazy,'' Rocco Mediate said. It's not going to slow down. There's going to be a lot of things happening, like 18 first-time winners. There might be 20 of them this year. But we need Tiger to get healthy.''
The crystal ball is as clouded as ever, particularly with Woods starting the year on the sidelines because of knee surgery that will keep him out for at least the first five weeks.
Still, a look at the top story lines for the new season starts at the top:
When Woods returns from the longest layoff of his career, he will resume his bid to break Byron Nelson>'s record for the longest cut-making streak in PGA Tour history.
He ended the '02 season having made 96 in a row, dating to the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Nelson made 113 straight cuts over eight seasons in the 1940s, and Woods could set the new mark at the end of the year, possibly the Tour Championship.
That depends on how well he plays when he returns.
Even if he does break the record, there might be an asterisk. Woods already has played in 22 tournaments that didn't have a cut.
In Nelson's era, making the cut meant making money. And except for the majors and a few other events, no more than the top 20 finishers got paid.
One record no could debate would be Woods' fifth straight PGA Tour money title. No one has ever won more than four in a row.
Woods also has another streak on the line. He has gone four straight years winning at least one major. The record is six in a row by Walter Hagen, from 1924-29.
The Masters: The buzzwords for Augusta National used to be green jacket,'' azaleas'' and Amen Corner.'' Now they are point of a bayonet,'' Martha Burk'' and demonstrations.''
The focus has shifted from Woods going for a record third straight title to whether Augusta National will admit a female member.
Club chairman Hootie Johnson already has said there won't be one by the Masters, or anytime soon. Burk and Jesse Jackson plan to stage protests of the club's membership policy.
This has been going on for six months,'' Jeff Sluman said. Everyone has been asked questions. Everyone has been quoted. I don't see anything new coming out of that. I think there will be demonstrations. But once we get inside Augusta, it will be Augusta as usual.''
The Presidents Cup: The biggest question for the U.S. team is who will want to travel halfway around the world to South Africa in late November.
Woods is said to be leaning toward playing, but Phil Mickelson might take a pass. Lefty doesn't like playing that late in the season, and his sloppy performance during rare appearances in the silly season the last two months made him doubtful.
If I'm playing like this, then there's no point in me going. I wouldn't be doing my team any favors,'' Mickelson said in December. But if I don't go, I'll get ripped. You can bet that decision won't be made until the last week.''
Youth is served: Five players 25 or younger won on the PGA Tour last year, but the spotlight is on Charles Howell III.
The former NCAA champion won for the first time at the Michelob Championship, and he finished the season as the runner-up to Vijay Singh in the Tour Championship.
Howell's goal is to be No. 1, a tall order considering the man at the top. He at least has time on his side ' at 23, he's four years younger than Woods ' but has to start producing multiple-win seasons, and contending in the majors.
Whither Duval?: Starting with his rookie year in 1995, Duval never finished lower than 11th on the money list, and he is the only player besides Woods to be No. 1 in the world in the last five years.
But last year was a disaster.
His best finish was a tie for fourth. His best week of golf was in a losing effort (the Ryder Cup). He wound up 80th on the money list.
Duval was home in Florida on Monday, wishing he were at Kapalua. Four long years ago, he won the Mercedes Championships by nine strokes.
The difficult thing is to not let one bad year damage seven good years,'' he said. I plan on beating up on those guys again.''
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.