Americans lead after delayed opening fourballs

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2010, 12:55 pm

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – There’s a surprising candidate for Ryder Cup rookie of the match. Heck, Jeff Overton might just be MVP if the Americans manage to hold on to the Ryder Cup.

Overton made his pairing with fellow rookie Bubba Watson look like a stroke of brilliance, rolling in one putt after another to lead the Americans to an early edge at a rain-delayed Ryder Cup that turned sunny on Saturday.

Tiger Woods also won – with a big hand from Steve Stricker, whose brilliant touch with a wedge at No. 18 clinched another U.S. point and kept them unbeaten as partners.

The Americans held a 2 1/2 -1 1/2 lead after the morning fourballs, which finished nearly 24 hours behind schedule because of Friday’s torrential rains at Celtic Manor. The teams faced a busy weekend with a mishmash of a schedule that officials rigged up in hopes of avoiding the first Monday finish in Ryder Cup history.

The tenuous lead boded well for the visiting team, which is trying to retain the Cup after winning at Valhalla two years ago to break Europe’s dominance in the series.

Only twice since the current U.S.-vs.-Europe format began in 1979 has a team that won the opening session gone on to lose.

Overton and Watson – but mainly Overton – provided the first full point for the Americans with a 3-and-2 win over the heavily favored team of Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

Having calmed his nerves by rolling in a long putt from behind the bunker at the first hole Friday, Overton ripped off four straight birdies over two days beginning at No. 9 to push the Americans out to a 3-up lead. He drove the green at the 15th, a short par-4, for a birdie that protected the advantage, and finished off the match with a conceded par at 16.

“It’s pretty awesome out here,” Overton said.

U.S. captain Corey Pavin raised plenty of eyebrows when he sent out the two rookies to anchor the opening session. But it sure paid off, especially after the powerhouse duo of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson was beaten 3-and-2 by Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in the leadoff match.

The Northern Irish team of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy roared back from two holes down with six to play, halving the match with Americans Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.

Overton and Watson appeared to be having a grand ol’ time, and Pavin kept them together for the second session: six alternate-shot matches that began just 12 minutes after the first session ended.

Asked if he wanted Overton as a partner, the freewheeling Watson quipped, “I don’t even like him. He’s ugly.”

The Indiana native looked beautiful on the green, making enough big putts to hand Donald his first Ryder Cup loss in team play.

“His putter got hot this morning,” Watson said. “Now I love him as a partner.”

Donald came in with a 4-0-1 record in fourball and alternate-shot, but he was basically a one-man team playing with Harrington, who was taken with a captain’s pick over Paul Casey and Justin Rose, the more successful players this year. The Irishman hasn’t won a sanctioned tournament since the last of his major titles, the 2008 PGA Championship, and he left captain Colin Montgomerie open to criticism by failing to produce even one birdie over 16 holes in his opening round.

But the 21-year-old McIlroy gave the Europeans a big boost, including a 35-foot birdie putt at the 17th to square his match.

The youngster was of no help at the par-5 final hole, knocking two balls in the water after he went for the green in two. Cink tried the same thing – and wound up with the same result: two balls in the drink – so the match came down to Kuchar vs. McDowell.

“I’ve got you covered,” McDowell told his partner. “It’s all right.”

The U.S. Open winner cut it close, his third shot hitting the green and spinning back toward the water before stopping at the fringe. Kuchar missed a 15-footer for the win, but par was good enough to equal McDowell and give each team something to smile about.

“We’re just happy to steal a half-point from that because we looked to be in trouble,” McDowell said.

Cink did most of the heavy lifting for the Americans, using a hot putter to make five of their six birdies, but Kuchar’s safer play at the end ensured they didn’t lose.

“I finally got my chance help out this team,” he said. “I only helped out on like two holes. That was not an easy putt at all. It had a big break and a lot of speed going down there. It just came up a couple of revolutions short.”

Mickelson and Johnson appeared to have the momentum in their match when play was called Friday evening, having cut the deficit from three holes to one. But they couldn’t do anything right Saturday, the match with Westwood and Kaymer ending at No. 16, where Johnson flew the green with a wedge and Mickelson missed a 10-footer for par to extend the match.

“It’s always nice to get that first point on the board,” Westwood said.

The early European lead didn’t hold up.

Woods, playing third rather than his usual leadoff or anchor roles, remained unbeaten in his partnership with Stricker.Player Name: First | Lastnts Cup they won all four of their matches, the first team in 30 years to do that in a major team competition.

Stricker brought ‘em home this time, coming through with four birdies on the back side to hold off Poulter and Fisher for a 2-up win. Woods flew his second shot at No. 18 far left of the green, then flubbed his chip. But Stricker, who had laid up short of the water, came up within 6 feet of the cup from 86 yards with his third swing. When Poulter and Fisher both missed longer birdie tries, they conceded Stricker his putt and the match.

Mixed in among the mostly European crowd were a couple of fans wearing cheeseheads, supporting the 43-year-old from Wisconsin.

“The atmosphere here is unbelievable,” Stricker said. “Pro Europe, of course, but it’s still great to be a part of it.”

Neither Pavin nor European captain Colin Montgomerie had any more decisions to make about who to play: all 24 players had to be on the course for the remaining sessions to have any chance of finishing on time.

The second session will be followed by the last two alternate-shot matches, plus four more fourballs. Even if the weather held – and it was warming up nicely after a bit of a chilly morning – the third session will likely have to be finished Sunday morning.

When that’s done, officials hope to have enough time to get in the 12 singles matches. But there was more rain in the forecast, and any further delays will surely result in a Monday finish.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.

Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.

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Davies sweeps senior majors with Sr. LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second behind Inbee Park in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

''I wish there were more of them to play,'' Davies said about the two senior majors. ''This was a real treat because I've never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think 2 under par was a really good score.''

Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship

Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course. She birdied three of the four par 5s in the final round, making an 8-footer on No. 18.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Davies earned $90,000 for her 86th worldwide professional victory. She won four regular majors.

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For Korean women, golf is a double-edged sword

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2018, 10:30 pm

There is always a story behind the tears.

For In Gee Chun, it’s a story about more than her victory Sunday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

It’s about the other side of the Korean passion that runs so deep in women’s golf and that makes female players feel like rock stars.

It’s about the unrelenting pressure that comes with all that popularity.

Chun explained where her tears came from after her victory. She opened up about the emotional struggle she has faced trying to live up to the soaring expectations that come with being a young Korean superstar.

Her coach, Won Park, told on Wednesday that there were times over the last year that Chun wanted to “run and hide from golf.” The pressure on her to end a two-year victory drought was mounting in distressing fashion.

Chun, 24, burst onto the world stage when she was 20, winning the U.S. Women’s Open before she was even an LPGA member. When she won the Evian Championship two years later, she joined Korean icon Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA titles.

Following up on those victories was challenging, with Chun feeling as if nothing short of winning was good enough to satisfy Korean expectations.

After the victory at Evian, Chun recorded six second-place finishes, runner-up finishes that felt like failures with questions growing back home over why she wasn’t closing out.

“There were comments that were quite vicious, that were very hard to take as a person and as a woman,” Chun said. “I really wanted to rise above that and not care about those comments, but I have to say, some of them lingered in my mind, and they really pierced my heart.”

Chun struggled going from the hottest star in South Korea to feeling like a disappointment. She slipped from No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings to No. 27 going into last week’s KEB Hana Bank Championship. Maybe more significantly, she slipped from being the highest ranked Korean in the world to where she wasn’t even among the top 10 Koreans anymore.

“Some fans and the Korean golf media were hard on her, mostly on social media,” Park wrote in an email. “It caused her to start struggling with huge depression and socio phobia. She often wished to run away from golf and hide herself where there was no golf at all.”

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Socio phobia includes the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others, according to the Mayo Clinic’s definition of conditions.

Though critics of South Korea’s dominance have complained about the machine-like nature of some those country’s stars, we’ve seen quite a bit of emotion from South Koreans on big stages this year.

After Sung Hyun Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in July, the world No. 1 with the steely stare uncharacteristically broke into tears.

“This is the first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said back then. “It’s been a really tough year for me.”

It was the second of her three victories this season, a year in which she also has missed seven cuts.

“A lot of pressure builds up,” said David Jones, her caddie. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.”

While American players admire the massive popularity Koreans enjoy in their homeland, they see what comes with it.

“Koreans really do elevate their women players, but at the same time, they put a ton of pressure on them,” American Cristie Kerr said. “There’s pressure on them to not only be good, but to be attractive, and to do the right things culturally.”

So Yeon Ryu felt the pressure to perform build as high as she has ever felt with Koreans trying to qualify for the Olympics two years ago. The competition to make the four-woman team was intense, with so many strong Koreans in the running.

“This just makes me crazy,” Ryu said back then. “The biggest thing is the Korean media. If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. But if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Ryu didn’t make that team, but she went on to share LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors with Sung Hyun Park last year. She also won her second major championship and ascended to world No. 1.

LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park was under fire going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was coming back from injury and there was growing criticism of her. She was hearing clamor to give up her spot to a healthy player, but she went on to win the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” said Na Yeon Choi, a nine-time LPGA winner who was doing analysis for Korean TV. “Inbee had so much pressure on her.”

After the Koreans won the UL International Crown two weeks ago, there was as much relief as joy in their ranks. Though viewed as the dominant force in women’s golf, they watched the Spaniards crowned as the “best golfing nation” in the inaugural matches in 2014 and then watched the Americans gain the honor in 2016. There was pressure on the Koreans to win the crown at home.

“There were some top Koreans who didn’t want to play, because there was going to be so much pressure,” Kerr said.

Chun got the nod to join the team this year after Inbee Park announced she was stepping aside, to allow another Korean a chance to represent their country. Chun was the third alternate, with Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko saying they were passing to honor previous KLPGA commitments.

Chun went on to become the star of the UL International Crown. She was undefeated, the only player to go 4-0 in the matches.

“In Gee made up her mind to devote herself to the team and played with an extremely high level of passion and focus,” Won Park wrote in an email interview. “She took the International Crown as a war in her heart. She did not play, but she `fought’ against the course, not against the opposing team . . . During all four winning matches, she gradually found her burning passion deep in her heart and wanted to carry it to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank.”

Park explained he has been working with Chun to change her focus, to get her to play for herself, instead of all the outside forces she was feeling pressure to please.

“She was too depressed to listen for a year and a half,” Park wrote.

So that’s where all Chun’s tears came from after she won the KEB Hana Bank.

“All the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up,” Chun said.

Park said Chun’s focus remains a work in progress.

“Although it will take some more time to fully recover from her mental struggle, she at least got her wisdom and confidence back and belief in her own game,” Park wrote. “This is never going to be easy for a 24-year-old young girl, but I believe she will continue to fight through.”