Garcia takes three-shot lead into Sunday at WGC

By Associated PressAugust 2, 2014, 9:20 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Sergio Garcia was in the trees left of the 18th fairway, looking through a gap in the branches to find a way out. Ahead of him was Rory McIlroy, giving his 35-foot birdie putt a little body English before it fell for birdie.

Garcia never lost command of the Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday, even after a storm delay of just over three hours. He started with a three-shot lead, stretched it to six shots at one point and closed with three good pars for a 3-under 67, three shots ahead of McIlroy.

The Spaniard just lost a small measure of comfort.

McIlroy, coming off a wire-to-wire win in the British Open, might be the last player anyone wants to see right behind.

''I've got to keep doing the same thing, make sure that I have good confidence in myself, that I play nicely, and then see what happens,'' Garcia said. ''If Rory comes out, or whoever is behind us comes out, and get crazy like I did on Friday, then it is what it is. But hopefully, I'll be able to play well again and be all the way up there tomorrow.''

Garcia, who seized control with a career-best 61 on Friday, was at 14-under 196.

McIlroy birdied his last two holes for the second straight day for a 66, and he got his wish – a spot in the final group.

Sunday is set up as a replay of The Open – only with the roles reversed.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

McIlroy had a six-shot lead going into the final round at Hoylake. Garcia, playing in the group ahead, made a spirited run at McIlroy and got within two shots late in the round until he faltered and Boy Wonder pulled away.

''Obviously, Rory is playing great, and we get along nicely as of right now,'' Garcia said. ''I think we're both excited about it. We're definitely going to play hard. It will be nice to see if I can do the same thing he did to me a couple of weeks ago. So we'll see.''

This time, it's McIlroy who has to chase.

''My goal today was to try and get in the final group,'' McIlroy said. ''Sergio didn't quite have that luxury of seeing what I was doing on the last. It will be nice to play alongside him tomorrow and at least keep an eye on what's going on. Try to apply a bit of pressure when I can, but just really looking forward to getting in there and having another chance to win a tournament so soon after what happened at Hoylake.''

Rickie Fowler also was in the hunt at Hoylake, though he took himself out of the picture on the final hole. He went from the left trees to a plugged lie in the bunker, having to brace his right good against the side of a hill. He left it in the bunker and wound up with a double bogey for a 72, putting him 10 shots behind.

This isn't a two-man race for a World Golf Championship title.

Marc Leishman shot a 68 and sits five shots behind, while Adam Scott returned from the rain delay carrying only his long putter, the only weapon he needed to convert one last birdie for a 65 that at least left him with a slim chance. He was six shots behind, along with Keegan Bradley (68) and Justin Rose (70).

The race won't feature defending champion Tiger Woods. The eight-time winner at Firestone made only one birdie on Saturday – he failed to birdie a par 5 for the second straight day – and shot 72. He was 15 shots behind.

Garcia, who won the Qatar Masters this year, has been building toward moments like this. Two weeks after his runner-up finish to McIlroy at Hoylake, the Spaniard has performed so solidly at Firestone that he went 37 consecutive holes without a bogey. Along with four birdies in 11 holes to start his third round, he built a six-shot lead for a brief moment until missing the 14th green long and failing to convert a 5-foot par putt.

Three pars at the end helped keep in front.

He pulled his lay-up shot on the par-5 16th into deep rough, which felt even thicker after the rain delay. Garcia managed to judge it perfectly to clear the water. He hooked his tee shot on the 17th hole and hit 8-iron safely onto the green. The biggest challenge was the 18th, where he had to clear trees with a shot from the rough. He opened up the face of a 7-iron to play a big cut with such elevation, and it cleared the back bunker, leaving him 75 feet away.

''Where I hit it, I couldn't really do much more than that and hope to make a good two-putt,'' he said.

He lagged it down to 5 feet, and lightly pumped his fist when it fell. Every shot matters, especially with someone like McIlroy right behind him.

''The one on 18 is the one that felt the best,'' Garcia said, ''because it was probably the toughest to make par.'' 

Getty Images

Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

Getty Images

Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

Getty Images

DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

Getty Images

Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.