Couples still hanging around golfs youngsters

By Associated PressDecember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. ' In an elite field at the Chevron World Challenge, which is loaded with players from the top 50 in the world ranking, Fred Couples can claim he belongs because of his age.
 
Hes still only 49.
 
The oldest player at Sherwood Country Club, whose world ranking has fallen to No. 175, the ageless Couples continues to hang around some guys half his age. Even with a mud-ball bogey on the final hole Friday, he had a 3-under 69 to finish three shots behind Jim Furyk and keep in the mix going into the weekend of Tiger Woods event.
 
I can hang around anybody, Couples said. Playing well is a shock.
 
Some might consider Furyks play to be surprising, given his lack of competition. Taking a break from his four-month vacation, Furyk wasnt nearly as crisp but didnt make any mistakes until the final hole on his way to a 71.
 
Furyk was at 5-under 139, two shots clear of Anthony Kim (70), Camilo Villegas (67) and K.J. Choi (71). Couples and Steve Stricker (71) were another shot behind.
 
I hung in there today, Furyk said. Thats the best I can say.
 
Couples has been doing that longer than most. He was a PGA Tour rookie the year before Villegas was born, and he won the first of his 15 tour titles two years before Kim showed up on earth.
 
Couples was No. 1 in the world until his career was slowed dramatically by back problems, and it got so bad last year that he managed to play only three times. Through it all, his raw talent has kept him in the picture.
 
Even playing only 18 times this year, he nearly made $1 million and easily kept his card.
 
I wouldnt consider myself to be a threat too much anymore, Couples said. But I know I can go around this course because of old habit, and Ive played here and I like the course. So that certainly helps me.
 
If there is such a thing as pressure in the silly season, this is it.
 
Woods lobbied to get official world ranking points for his Chevron World Challenge, but he had to make concessions. Starting next year, the sponsor exemptions must be ranked inside the top 50.
 
Ive played so many times on a sponsors exemption, and Tiger came up the other day and he said, Ive got to tell you something, Couples said. I go, Oh my God, what did I do wrong? He said, You cannot play my tournament next year unless youre in the top 50.
 
What am I, 400th right now?
 
With Couples, its never as bad as it seems it should be.
 
He zipped along still soggy Sherwood with an approach to a foot on the fourth, a two-putt birdie on the fifth, a 5-foot birdie on the difficult ninth hole and was climbing the leaderboard until he found a splotch of mud on his ball at the 18th. It squirted to the right, losing velocity along the way, and he was lucky to escape with bogey.
 
For all the free money being handed out this week from the $5.75 million purse, there was still some grumbling.
 
Villegas got into an animated discussion with a rules official Thursday after getting mud on his ball, and he still coped with it Friday even as he fired off three straight birdies, lost his momentum, then put it back in gear with an approach to 8 feet for an eagle on the par-5 11th. He wound up with the lowest score this week, but was still perplexed by the decision to play the ball down.
 
I dont really get what were trying to prove here, Villegas said. I mean, its 16 guys, the end of the year. Its a fun tournament. Youre trying to show them some good shots, some birdies, and sometimes they dont understand when we hit it 50, 60 yards off target. And its just because of the mud.
 
So what was the difference between a 74 and a 67?
 
I was able to judge a little bit better, he said.
 
The good news for Furyk is that he finally made a birdie on a par 5' Sherwood has five of them. It came on the 16th hole, which he reached in two and lagged nicely to tap-in range to reach 6 under.
 
It only took me 10 tries, he said.
 
His lone bogey came with a pulled 5-iron into a bunker, leaving him a lot of green but a long distance away. He blasted out to a ridge that fed the ball 10 feet by the hole, but he missed the par putt.
 
The only complaint Couples has had this week was getting tested for drugs for the first time this year. He was notified after his round Thursday, and having relieved himself on the 14th hole, it took him two hours to complete the test.
 
I told him I thought at that age it wasnt an issue, Furyk said. But I guess it was.
 

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    With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

    He didn’t even make it that far.

    Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

    Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

    Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

    The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

    The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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    China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

    By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

    BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

    Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

    Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

    Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

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    Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

    Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

    She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

    She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

    Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

    She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

    When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

    At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

    “Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

    All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

    “A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

    Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

    Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

    “She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


    Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

    Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

    “You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

    Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

    What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

    “Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

    Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

    Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

    “I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

    Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

    Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

    Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

    Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

    “I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

    Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

    “When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

    Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

    “Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

    Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

    “I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

    Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

    “I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

    Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

    “That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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    Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

    Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

    Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

    Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
    Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
    Texas USC Stanford Furman
    Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
    Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
    Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
    Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
    Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
    Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
    Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
    Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
    BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
    East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
    Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
    Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
    UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
    Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
    Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
    Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
           
    Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
    Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
    Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
    Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
    Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
    Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)