Defending champ Lexi shares Round 1 lead at Meijer

By Associated PressJune 16, 2016, 10:50 pm

BELMONT, Mich. - Defending champion Lexi Thompson shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday for a share of the Meijer LPGA Classic lead, with Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn close behind.

The 21-year-old Thompson played the front nine - her final nine at Blythefield - in 6 under. After parring the first nine holes, she holed out from 71 yards with a lob wedge for eagle on the par-5 first and birdied Nos. 3-5 and 8 - playing the three front-nine par 5s in 4 under.

''I had a slow start for my first nine there on the back, but hit it very well and then got on a birdie run there on my second nine,'' said Thompson, ranked fourth in the world. ''It's definitely playing a little bit softer, so the greens are more receptive than last year. It was a lot firmer last year. The course was playing tough at one point because it got pretty windy.''

She was tied for the lead with 52-year-old Laura Davies, Sei Young Kim, Carlota Ciganda and Paula Reto. U.S. Women's Open champion In Gee Chun was at 66 along with So Yeon Ryu, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Jaclyn Jansen, Alena Sharp and Amelia Lewis.

Henderson, coming off a playoff victory Sunday over the top-ranked Ko in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship outside Seattle, matched Ko with a 67.

Henderson had five birdies and a bogey. The 18-year-old Canadian, up to No. 2 in the world, has 10 top-10 finishes this season. She also won last year in Portland, Oregon.



''It was a pretty solid day,'' Henderson said. ''Four under, I'll take it. Only two back from the lead right now, the leaderboard's pretty crowded with the top names and a ton of really good scores. I'm excited for the rest.''

Ko had three of her four birdies on the back nine in her bogey-free round.

''It was a pretty consistent day,'' Ko said. ''I had a few putts where it was close to going in but didn't fall. You've got to commit to your lines and put a good stroke on it. But I'm happy to start with a 67. Especially, that front nine and those first few holes were tough because the wind was getting up and it seemed like the skies were getting dark, too.''

Jutanugarn, third last week after winning her previous three starts, bogeyed the last two holes for a 68. She played alongside Henderson.

Thompson won the Honda LPGA Thailand in February for her seventh LPGA title. The long-hitting Floridian also won a Japan LPGA event last month. She rallied to win last year at Blythefield, finishing at 18 under for a one-stroke victory.

''A lot of great memories,'' Thompson said. ''I just replayed a lot of the shots I hit basically the last round. I remembered a lot. There was actually a lot of Sunday pins from last year today.''

Davies had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I've been playing well recently, but I haven't been holing any putts,'' said Davies, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. ''Today, I holed some putts, so that's what I put it down to 100 percent. I did drive it well, but the putter was the reason.''

The long-hitting English player won the last of her 20 LPGA titles in 2001.

''I have a very natural game,'' Davies said. ''I don't have to rely on coaches and that sort of thing. It's just all feel for me, and that's why it's so frustrating to play as well as I've done over the past few years and get nothing from it. So, I'm not saying I'll get anything from this week, but it's a nice start.''

Kim, the Founders Cup winner in Phoenix in March, birdied her final two holes. She had eight birdies and two bogeys.

''I shot pretty steady,'' Kim said. ''The greens are really holding, so it should make birdie opportunities very easier.''

Reto, from South Africa, had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on her opening nine, then added birdies on No. 3 and 9 - holing an 18-footer on the last. The former Purdue player is winless on the tour.

''I told myself, 'If it goes in, it goes in. I'm going to put a good stroke on it,''' Reto said. ''I was really happy that it did go in.''

Ciganda had six birdies in a bogey-free round. She's winless on the tour.

''The way it's playing, a little wet, it reminds me a little bit of my home course back in Spain,'' Ciganda said. ''I played very solid today, six birdies, no bogeys. My putting was good, too.''

Michelle Wie had a 71. She had a double bogey on the par-4 16th, four birdies and two bogeys. Wie is winless since the 2014 U.S. Women's Open and hasn't had a top-10 finish in 37 events.

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”