Els streak reaches 18

By Associated PressJune 16, 2010, 4:03 am

2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It doesn’t feel like Ernie Els has been playing in U.S. Opens for nearly two decades.

Yet, this week’s Open is the 18th straight for Els, the longest consecutive streak of any player in the field, one ahead of Phil Mickelson and two better than Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

But other than his second place finish 15 shots back of Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach, the Open has become just another week for Els. While most players would be thrilled with 10 top-25 finishes in 17 U.S. Open starts entering this week, Els’ opinion of his U.S. Open performances is always tempered by the titles he won in 1994 and ’97 that instantly raised his own expectations.

Major championships – and U.S. Open titles in general – went from being a great accomplishment, to an expected result.

“(In) 2000 came here, and finished second, although I was never really in the ball game. And I haven’t really done too much since then. I might have had a couple of top-10s or top-5s since then, but not really something really spectacular,” Els said. “You know, I had a great start to my major campaign. And as I say, I’ve won two, won another Open Championship, but I haven’t really capitalized on the chances I’ve had.”

Els has played well this season at times, inconsistently at others. He won back-to-back titles at Doral and Bay Hill in March, but wasn’t able to translate that into a strong showing at The Masters, where Els finished in a tie for 18th. Els has played only three times since Augusta – missing the cut twice, sandwiched around a third place showing at the Texas Open.

When Els arrived at Pebble Beach on Sunday, it was his first visit since the 2000 Open, he said. His preparation for this week included a trip to Pine Valley with his dad and a practice round at Pebble when he arrived on the Monterey Peninsula.

“As a venue I don’t think you can get a better venue any place in the world,” Els said. “So it’s great to be back.”


CHILL IN THE AIR: It was chilly enough as Tiger Woods played his practice round on Tuesday. As he waited for two groups ahead of him on the 10th tee, it got even cooler.

The gallery parted, and Tom Watson stepped onto the tee.

Watson made small talk with some of the players, the gallery and Roger Maltbie, but made no effort to speak to Woods, who was sitting on the bench. Woods never made eye contact with Watson or any attempt to speak to him.

Watson was critical of Woods earlier this year, saying that along with needing to show more humility after his downfall, he needed to clean up his language on the course.

Both are U.S. Open champions at Pebble Beach and Stanford alumni.


CAN’T LET IT GO: Though they’re covering golf, not soccer, members of the British media at Pebble Beach were still focusing on the big news of the week in their country: The goal Robert Green gave up in a 1-1 tie against the United States at the World Cup on Saturday.

It has been widely regarded as one of the worst goals ever allowed, and two British newspapers used the headline “Hand of Clod” – a riff on the famous “Hand of God” goal by Diego Maradona in 1986 that ousted England from the World Cup.

British reporters asked for Lee Westwood’s take: “Mistakes happen,” he said. “I’ve made them on the golf course, at spectacular times. You’re not trying to do it, it’s just one of those things.”

And Tiger Woods: “It was a gift. Certainly was a gift. That was a nice little gift on the goal there,” Woods said. “I hope he gets a chance to play and is not finished.”

As for the of vuvuzelas that have become the soundtrack of the tournament, Els said he wouldn’t mind hearing the constant buzz at the U.S. Open.

Well, maybe just during the practice rounds.

“I think it’d be cool,” the South Africa native said. “(But) I don’t think the USGA would ever allow it on the grounds. Maybe practice rounds, that would give a bit of more spirit to things. Those things are really loud, though.”

Els said he’s hoping to make it back to South Africa for a game later in the tournament and was impressed by the performance of his home country in their 1-1 tie against Mexico to open the tournament.

“With all the noise going on there, I think it’s a real great atmosphere for the players down there,” he said.


HARRINGTON SURGERY: Former British Open champion Padraig Harrington arrived at the U.S. Open just three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery.

Harrington, who missed the cut at last year’s Open and was in a tie for fifth in the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, said his knee has responded well to the eight-hour surgery.

“It’s responded well, I’m comfortable,” Harrington said. “While it needs a certain amount of minding and I have to look after it, it’s not posing any problem to me playing golf.”

Harrington has made 11 PGA Tour starts this season with his best finish a tie for third at the CA Championships. He finished in a tie for 16th at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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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.”