Big Day for Surprising Batch of Euros

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Eager to break a seven-year drought in the majors, the Europeans figured this British Open might be their best chance yet to lift a winner's trophy on Sunday.
 
After all, they had 15 of the top 50 players in the world rankings, sufficient numbers to knock off the dominant Americans and hold off pesky countries such as Australia and South Africa.
 
Greg Owen
Greg Owen is one off the lead following a 5-under 67 Thursday.
Well, as the sun set on Royal Liverpool, the home continent -- heck, the home country -- was well represented at the top of the leaderboard after Thursday's opening round.
 
But it sure wasn't the names anyone suspected.
 
Instead of someone such as Colin Montgomerie, little-known Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was holding down the top spot with a 6-under 66.
 
The English cheered on a couple of locals just one stroke back: Greg Owen and Anthony Wall, not higher-ranked players David Howell and Luke Donald.
 
The Spanish chipped in, too, but it's not two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal who shot a 67. That score was turned in by Miguel Angel Jimenez, the cigar-chomping, joke-cracking, ponytail-wearing prankster known as 'The Mechanic' for his love of cars.
 
For those who pay attention to the world rankings, Jimenez is the highest-ranked player of the bunch, way down in the 47th position.
 
Owen is 66th, Wall 89th and McDowell a lowly 103rd. Hardly the sort of players who usually contend at a major tournament, though the leader actually envisioned it happening during the practice rounds earlier in the week, when the names from each group were put on the scoreboard as they came to the final hole.
 
'It was right up there at the top,' McDowell remembered, 'and I was looking up thinking that it would be pretty nice to see that this weekend. And obviously coming down today and seeing my name up there, it's a lot of fun. I know it's Thursday, but it still excites me.'
 
Except for Spain's Sergio Garcia (the world's No. 9 player shot a 68) and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke (No. 23 turned in a 69), the top European players didn't fare especially well.
 
No. 10 Howell and No. 11 Donald both struggled to 74s on a warm, sunny day that provided the sort of prime scoring conditions rarely seen on a seaside links course, which count on pesky rain and bone-chilling wind to provide part of the defense.
 
No. 13 Montgomerie, who hoped to get off to a good start after squandering a chance to win his first career major at the U.S. Open, slogged to an uninspiring 73. So did Olazabal, ranked one spot lower that Monty.
 
Padraig Harrington of Ireland, 18th in the world and another player who made a strong run at Winged Foot last month, was especially disappointing with a 75.
 
But the no-namers made up for it.
 
Especially McDowell, who got some timely advice at a local pub the night before.
 
'I was having a couple of beers last night with some friends,' the Irishman passed along, 'and some local lad came up to me and basically kind of gives me that old, 'Oh, you're Graeme McDowell and stuff.' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, (he wants an) autograph.''
 
Instead, the man mentioned that McDowell appeared a little out of kilter at the top of his backswing.
 
'Get a bit of work done on that, will you,' he told the golfer.
 
'Fantastic, thanks a lot for that,' McDowell replied.
 
'I was kind of joking with the guys I was with: 'If I shoot 66 here tomorrow, I guess I'll be wanting to see that guy on the range Friday morning,'' McDowell said.
 
He'd like to schedule an appointment for 7 a.m. sharp.
 
Owen is best known for throwing away his first PGA TOUR title at Bay Hill this year when he three-putted from 3 feet on the next-to-last hole.
 
'It still hurts now even thinking about it,' he said. 'You know that things happen, a bad bounce here or there or anywhere. I just hope I'll never do it again.'
 
Though he's now a regular on the American-based tour, Owen lives only a couple of hours away from Royal Liverpool.
 
'It's nice to have a few friends and family, because I don't get many in the states,' Owen said. 'It's nice to come back and feel the support.'
 
Of course, the majors are filled with one-day wonders, players who pulled it together for 18 holes but quickly faded back into the hinterlands.
 
Tiger Woods was only one stroke behind McDowell. Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman were two down. And three back was Phil Mickelson, who's won two of the last three majors and would have captured the other one, too, if not for a double bogey on the final hole of the U.S. Open.
 
On the other hand, the British Open has produced some unlikely champions over the years, including Paul Lawrie at Carnoutie in 1999. He watched Jean Van de Velde's historic collapse on the final hole, then beat the Frenchman in a playoff.
 
Lawrie is the last European to win a major, a drought that reached 27 straight events at last month's U.S. Open -- the longest dry spell since the 1970s.
 
'I just want to be up there on Sunday and enjoy myself coming down to the last hole,' McDowell said, speaking for an entire continent. 'It would be pretty nice.'
 
Related Links:
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    Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

    By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

    SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

    Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

    Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

    ''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


    Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


    Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

    Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

    ''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

    Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

    Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

    Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

    The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

    Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

    As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

    Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

    "We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

    Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

    "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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    Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

    There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

    No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

    On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

    The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

    It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    "My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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    Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

    Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

    Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

    What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

    Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

    Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

    Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

    Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.