Choi leads Norman at Royal Birkdale

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- Greg Norman turned back the clock. So did David Duval. And K.J. Choi found himself in a familiar position'leading the final group of the British Open heading to the weekend.
 
Three weeks after marrying tennis great Chris Evert, Norman kept up the honeymoon at Royal Birkdale with his second straight par 70 on Friday, leaving him one stroke off Chois lead.
 
Norman won the Open twice in his prime but never thought it was still there for the taking at age 53.
 
My expectations were almost nil coming in, he said bluntly. I hadnt played a lot of golf.
 
K.J. Choi
K.J. Choi muscled his way into the lead with a pair of closing birdies. (Getty Images)
Talk about low expectations. Theres no way Duval could have expected much, not after missing the cut 10 of 11 times on the PGA TOUR this year.
 
Suddenly, hes playing like the guy who won the 2001 British Open and seemed ready to challenge Tiger Woods as the worlds best player. After that, injuries and erratic play sent his career into steep decline.
 
Duval shot a 69'his first round in the 60s at the British Open since he won at Royal Lytham & St. Annes'and was three shots behind Choi in a large group that included defending champion Padraig Harrington.
 
The Irishman wasnt even sure he could play because of his sore wrist, yet Harrington looked just fine in playing the final four holes 4 under for a 68 that gave him a chance to become Europes first repeat winner of the British Open since 1906.
 
Choi finished with back-to-back birdies for a 67, rolling in a 20-footer at No. 18 to push his two-round total to 1-under 139. He was the only player in the field under par.
 
Im very surprised, the South Korean said.
 
He shouldnt be. A year ago, Choi was just two strokes off the lead at the 36-hole mark, playing in the final group Saturday with Sergio Garcia. He couldnt keep it going and tied for eighth.
 
With two days to go, Norman still considers himself the longest of long shots, and hes got players half his age'such as 26-year-old Camilo Villegas, who shot the best round yet with a brilliant 5-under 65 Friday'poised to challenge.
 
Still, it was amazing to see Normans name atop the leaderboard at a tournament he won in 1986 at Turnberry and then again in at Royal St. Georges seven years later'especially since hes trying to be the oldest player by far to win a major.
 
Julius Boros was 48 when he captured the PGA Championship in 1968.
 
You feel like youre stepping back in time, Norman said, his bride watching from the back of the room after following him around the links course. My expectations are still realistically low. I havent been there for a long time.
 
Normans focus has certainly been elsewhere in recent years as he cut back on his golf, turned to his myriad business interests and endured a messy, costly divorce. Recently, he was more concerned about planning his wedding to Evert than prepping for the Open, one of the rare golf events on his schedule.
 
The two got married in the Bahamas less than three weeks ago, then kept the honeymoon going once they headed across the Atlantic.
 
The least of my worries was getting out there and practicing, Norman conceded. My mind has really been elsewhere.
 
With no offense to Normans steady play, no one was hotter Friday than Villegas, who started his round with two bogeys but closed with five straight birdies'rolling in putts of 16, 6, 16, 3 and 20 feet.
 
I obviously played unbelievable, the Colombian said.
 
Villegas, dubbed Spider-Man for his unique, crouching style of reading putts and one of golfs most noted fashion plates, has come across as more flash than substance. Hes never won on the PGA TOUR, but put himself right in contention at a tournament known for unlikely champions, including Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton.
 
The Colombian had eight birdies overall. He capped his amazing run at the end by striking the flagstick with his approach at No. 18, then sinking the putt after the ball ricocheted onto the fringe.
 
Golfs oldest major began in miserable weather, but conditions improved dramatically Friday. Despite a grim forecast, the rain largely held off and the breeze off the Irish Sea remained relatively calm by Birkdale standards.
 
Others in the logjam at 2-over 142 were Rocco Mediate (73), Graeme McDowell (73), Jim Furyk (71), Robert Allenby (73) and Alexander Noren (70).
 
Garcia, looking to make up for a devastating playoff loss to Harrington at Carnoustie, rolled in a 75-foot birdie at No. 4 but ran into trouble after the turn. He bogeyed the 10th and double bogeyed the next hole on the way to a 73, leaving him six shots behind going to Saturday, instead of holding the lead.
 
Several big names flirted with the cut line. Ernie Els followed an opening-round 80 with a 69, but slammed his putter to the ground after missing a short par putt at No. 18. Vijay Singh, who also started with an 80, looked to be heading home after shooting 71.
 
Phil Mickelson appeared safely through to the weekend after rebounding with a 68'11 strokes better than he shot in the soaking rain and howling wind on Thursday. Lefty was eight strokes behind Choi.
 
Playing in the morning, Norman had a two-stroke lead on the field until he made a mess of No. 17. He put two shots in the rough and another in a backside bunker, but rolled in a 12-footer for bogey that limited the damage.
 
After a perfect drive on No. 18, Norman walked up the fairway twirling his club and taking in a huge roar from the British gallery, which knows him as a two-time Open winner, not the guy who squandered numerous chances to win majors in the States.
 
Norman was in danger of another bogey after he powered a long putt 20 feet past the cup. But he made the par saver, giving the slightest hint of a fist pump, then a tip of the cap as his caddie patted him on the shoulder.
 
That was quite an ordeal last few holes, Norman said. I felt like it was getting away from me a little bit.
 
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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.