Clarke leads Johnson, Fowler heading into Sunday

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2011, 2:20 pm

SANDWICH, England – Darren Clarke escaped the worst of the raging weather Saturday in the British Open, leaving him far less traffic on his unlikely road to a claret jug.

Clarke was dressed in full rain gear when he walked to the first tee for a third round that had been crowded with contenders.

When he walked off the 18th green in short sleeves, he was blinking in the bright sunshine over Royal St. George’s after a 1-under 69 gave him a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson. The majority of the field was still drying out from the brunt of such harsh conditions.

There were 44 players within five shots of the lead going into the third round.

Now there are 12.

“If somebody had given me 69 before I was going out to play, I would have bitten their hand off for it,” Clarke said. “Saying that, we did get very fortunate with the draw. Sometimes to win any tournament, the draw can make a big difference. But in The Open Championship, it makes a huge difference. We got very lucky.”

He also was very good.

Clarke missed only two greens in regulation, and was one of only three players who managed to break par. It was his third round in the 60s, and it put him at 5-under 205 and into the final group of the British Open for the first time since 1997 at Royal Troon.

Fewer contenders doesn’t make it any easier.

Johnson, the powerful 27-year-old American, managed to make six birdies on his way to a 68 that puts him in the final group for the third time in the last six majors. The other two aren’t exactly glorious memories – an 82 to lose a three-shot lead at the U.S. Open last year, a two-shot penalty on the last hole of the PGA Championship when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker.

“I’m going to be pretty comfortable out there tomorrow because I know what to expect, I know how to approach it, and I know what I do in those situations,” Johnson said. “So hopefully, I can go out tomorrow and play some solid golf like I’ve been doing the last few days.”

Only four other players were under par, and while U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy isn’t one of them, in his place is another 22-year-old who plays without fear and makes it look fun. And no one played better than Rickie Fowler on this wild day of weather.

Fowler was soaked, zipped up in a cream-colored rainsuit for two-thirds of his round, yet it never seemed to bother him. He hung around par during the worst of the conditions – a remarkable feat – and when the rain went away, he took off to higher ground. Fowler made three birdies over the last six holes for a 68 and was two shots behind, along with Thomas Bjorn (71).

Lucas Glover, a U.S. Open champion who played in the final group Saturday, made 10 straight pars early in his round only to lose his way, but not his hopes over the final hour. Glover missed two birdie putts inside 6 feet on the back nine, and made two bogeys. He shot 73, but still was within four shots. He was tied with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who didn’t make a birdie in his round of 72.

Also still in the mix is Phil Mickelson, who has only contended once in the British Open. He rallied when the sun began to break through the clouds and salvaged a 71, leaving him five shots back in a group that included Anthony Kim (68), PGA champion Martin Kaymer (73) and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, who tied for fourth at Royal St. George’s in 2003 and had a 72 to stay in range.

But it starts with Clarke, a 42-year-old from Northern Ireland who has been watching the youngsters from Ulster celebrate golf’s biggest events, from Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach last summer to McIlroy at Congressional last month.

Is it his turn at this stage in his career?

“Did I ever doubt I would get myself back in this position? No,” Clarke said. “Did I know it was going to happen? No. Did I hope it was going to happen? Yes. But did I ever doubt? No.”

Once he finished his own Q & A, Clarke headed to the home of agent Chubby Chandler to “stuff his face” and try not to have too much to drink.

A big day awaits Sunday, perhaps the biggest of his career.

And the forecast isn’t very friendly.

Typical of the weather in this part of the world, anything goes. There’s supposed to be a mixture of sunshine and passing showers that could be heavy but won’t stick around for long. The constant is the wind, which again is likely to gust upward of 30 mph at times. A one-shot lead is nothing on Royal St. George’s in calm conditions, and anyone at par or better figures to be in the mix.

No other major championship depends so largely on the weather, and that was never more clear on Saturday.

Those who played early, such as five-time Open champion Tom Watson, caught the worst of the nasty stuff – gusts so strong they flipped umbrellas inside-out, a light rain that soon turned into a driving rain, and scores that soared through the gray sky.

Of the first 41 players who teed off, no one could even match par. Trevor Immelman had one of the better rounds at 72, and his strong effort left him nine shots behind.

“It was like going 18 holes with the heavyweight champion of the world,” he said.

Watson, the 61-year-old magician on the links, must have been smiling inside when he saw how bad it was. He worked his way around the front nine in wind so strong that he twice had to hit driver for his second shot, yet he didn’t make a bogey and was drawing a huge crowd looking for a repeat of Turnberry two years ago, when he nearly won.

He, too, had a 72 and most likely is too far behind.

“We got lucky,” Mickelson said. “I think the guys that played late got really lucky, myself included, that it went away right around the turn for me. And we went from really fighting for pars on every hole to thinking about birdies on some.”

Until Fowler broke through with his 68, the 41 players before him had an average score of 76.36. The next 29 players after him, who played most of the round without the rain, had an average score of 72.96.

“The way I was playing, I would have loved to have seen the weather stay the same throughout the day,” Fowler said. “But that’s the beauty of the playing in The Open Championship. It’s not always the same all day. It can change any minute.”

It wasn’t just the weather. Clarke and Johnson stood out against the others, keeping their mistakes to a minimum. Clarke might have done even better if he could have made some more putts. After a 15-foot birdie on the opening hole, he had good looks at birdie on the next six holes without making any of them. But he never lost the lead, either.

Now he has to keep it together for one more round. It’s only a one-shot lead, but it’s not a bad place to be.

“Nineteen times I’ve failed to try and lift the claret jug, and tomorrow I have an opportunity,” Clarke said. “But at the moment, it’s just an opportunity because the weather is going to be very windy again tomorrow, and there’s a long way to go still in this championship.”

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."