Duvals Return to Action Still a Mystery
So, the wait continues.
The former British Open champion and last player other than Tiger Woods to be No. 1 in the world ranking, Duval has not played on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut in the Las Vegas Invitational in October. He tried to play the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in late November, but withdrew with a back injury.
The date of Duval's return has been a mystery.
He is said to be playing a lot of golf at his new home in Denver and working on his game.
Duval entered the U.S. Open (he is exempt through 2006 because of his British Open victory), although his absence from the Memorial raises questions about whether he will play in two weeks at Shinnecock Hills. Duval also beat the May 27 deadline to enter the British Open to ensure a spot in the field if he decides to return at Royal Troon.
Still, the best guess is that Duval won't return to the PGA Tour until the International the first week in August.
U.S. OPEN UPDATE
John Huston did not play the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, and it wound up costing him a free spot in the U.S. Open.
Joakim Haeggman closed with a 67 to finish third in the Volvo PGA Championship on the European tour, earning enough points to finish at No. 50 in the world ranking -- .03 points ahead of Huston. The top 50 after last week are exempt for the U.S. Open.
John Daly failed to crack the top 50 and has said he won't qualify for the U.S. Open, but the two-time major winner has one shot left. Daly, Tommy Armour III, Heath Slocum and Rory Sabbatini can become eligible by winning the Memorial, which would give them two PGA Tour victories in the last 12 months.
GIRL AMONGST MEN
The exemption into the U.S. Women's Open allows Michelle Wie to attempt qualifying for the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links in two weeks, part of a master plan to try to get into the Masters.
It also could be the first of several chances to compete against the boys.
B.J. Wie, her father, said the 14-year-old would try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur next year. He also said she likely would try to play other prominent men's amateur events, such as the Western Amateur and the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS ...
Charles Barkley said he turned down a chance to play golf with Tiger Woods in Las Vegas so he could appear on The Tonight Show'' with Jay Leno last week.
He was going to work on my game, but I didn't know how to break it to him,'' Barkley said. I said, ... 'You shouldn't be trying to help anybody.' He needs to be working on his own game.''
Woods has won only once this year, the Match Play Championship, although he finished one shot out of a playoff his last two tournaments. Some have suggested that Woods has lost his focus since getting engaged to Elin Nordegren.
No, I don't think it's her,'' Barkley said. Every man needs to be out of focus like that. ... I just think there's no sport you can really control all the time. His expectations are so high. That's probably what the problem is.''
After all the kind words, Barkley went on to predict that Woods will win the U.S. Open.
Then again, he also predicted the Los Angeles Lakers would sweep Minnesota.
WEE ICE FIJIAN
Vijay Singh has been compared with Ben Hogan in terms of work ethic, and finding the secret to the swing by digging it out of the dirt.
Nick Price went one step further in the comparisons.
I'll go out on a limb because I never played golf with Ben Hogan,'' Price said. I've played a lot of golf with Vijay the last year and a half. If Ben Hogan ever hit the ball as well as Vijay does week in and week out, I'd be amazed. I really would.''
Price is impressed with the shotmaking, but more with the way Singh drives the ball.
Vijay does hit every now and then a couple of pulls and pushes,'' Price said. But watching him pound ball after ball after ball ... he's such a great driver of the ball, it's ridiculous.''
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Michelle Wie says playing in the Masters is her No. 1 goal in golf, higher than playing on the PGA Tour or winning an LPGA major.
After she raved about how beautiful the golf course looks on television, Wie was asked if she could settle for playing at Augusta National even if it wasn't the Masters.
Well, it's like you can eat a chocolate brownie or ice cream,'' she said. I love them both, but if you put them together, it's the best thing that ever happens to you. I would love to play Augusta National. Even if it's not the Masters, it still tastes good. But you're missing the ice cream.''
A 13-year-old Portuguese girl has become the youngest to pass the Royal & Ancient's rules test. Maria Joao Montenegro Moreira da Silva decided to study the Rules of Golf after being given an incorrect decision during a competition. She was among 56 delegates taking part in a rules seminar near Lisbon. ... Jack Nicklaus' annual golf calendar has the wrong dates for his Memorial Tournament. The calendar has it being played last week. ... Nick Price prefers to play at least once between the U.S. Open and the British Open, usually at the Western Open. But he's going river rafting with his kids and three other families, a trip that has been planned for more than a year. It ends on Wednesday of the Western Open. Instead, he will play in the John Deere Classic. ... Along with getting the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, Kiawah Island might get the UBS Cup this fall. The Ryder Cup-styled exhibition during the silly season made its debut at Kiawah Island in 2001, but switched to Sea Island the last two years.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Scott Drummond of Scotland became only the second player in the 50-year history of the Volvo PGA Championship to win on his first try. The other was Arnold Palmer in 1975.
I get up in the morning and turn on CNN. They turn on MTV.'' -- Elizabeth Janangelo, on what it's like playing on a Curtis Cup team with three girls still in high school.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back
CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.
A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.
The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.
Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.
Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.
Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement
AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.
Just like that other tournament, right?
Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.
But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.
After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.
Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.
“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”
The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.
It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.
Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.
Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.
“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”
But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.
While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.
“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”
But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.
Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.
Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.
Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title
BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.
Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.
The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.
First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).
Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson
AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.
In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.
After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”