Gulbis Tied Annika One Back

By Associated PressJune 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 McDonaldHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- Annika Sorenstam turned her head and studied the large leaderboard behind the green on her last hole Thursday in the LPGA Championship, seeing her name in a familiar position at the top. It didn't stay there long, but it was never far away.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is going for her third straight McDonald's LPGA Championship victory.
Natalie Gulbis rose to the occasion playing with Sorenstam by closing with five straight birdies, including an 18-foot putt on the ninth hole for a 5-under 67. She shared the lead with big-hitting Laura Davies, who bullied the par 5s at Bulle Rock and nearly reached the 596-yard 11th hole in two, and with Laura Diaz.
 
Bulle Rock delivered plenty of excitement in sauna-like conditions, with a celebration for Karrie Webb as the newest member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and a celebration of youth. Eighteen-year-old Paula Creamer birdied four straight holes late in her round for a 68, and 15-year-old Michelle Wie overcame a sick stomach for a 69.
 
Still, Sorenstam was never far from anyone's mind.
 
Davies could get into the Hall of Fame with a victory at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, although she knows the tournament doesn't really start until Sunday, and she was well aware of who was right behind her.
 
'There's a certain Sorenstam out there that will be hard to beat,' Davies said.
 
Sorenstam made it look easy, as always, giving herself ample birdie opportunities and only twice needing to save par from delicate spots from off the green.
 
She wound up with a bogey-free 68, breaking her own LPGA Tour record with her 12th consecutive round in the 60s. And it was just the start she was looking for as she goes for the second leg of the Grand Slam.
 
'Today is probably 10 percent of the whole tournament,' Sorenstam said. 'It's such a long way to go. I've got to be patient, If you prepare for months and months and set high goals, the last thing to do is come to a tournament and get in my own way. That would ruin it for myself.
 
'There's two people in me - one calm and one totally excited. The calm won today.'
 
Gulbis, the calendar girl whose next project is a reality show on TV, put some focus on her game with a terrific finish. She was a bystander for most of the day until she hit a 6-iron to 10 feet and holed the birdie putt on No. 5. She followed that with two more approach shots inside 10 feet, and hit her best shot of the round, a 5-wood that stopped 25 feet away on the par-5 eighth for a two-putt birdie.
 
Suddenly, she walked side-by-side with Sorenstam up the ninth fairway, tied for the lead, but not for long. Gulbis hit a 9-iron that landed a foot in front of the flag before rolling back to 18 feet, and she ended her round in style.
 
The LPGA Championship moved to this Pete Dye design after 11 years at DuPont Country Club, and no one was quite sure what to expect of a course that requires precision to various targets.
 
'My caddie and I thought 8 under would win this,' Gulbis said. 'I thought pretty much anything under par would be a really good round.'
 
There were plenty of scores like that.
 
Creamer, coming off her first LPGA Tour victory and then high school graduation, found a groove with her irons and didn't have to make a birdie putt longer than 6 feet coming in.
 
Wie, playing her first tournament since a tie for 14th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, was lucky to finish. Despite a beautiful flop shot within 3 feet at the par-5 eighth and another solid wedge from a severe downhill lie in the rough on the ninth, she looked as though she would rather be anywhere than on the golf course.
 
Then, play was suspended nearly an hour because of storms in the area.
 
'I feel really stupid saying this,' Wie said. 'I ate too much. It caused a little indigestion. Every time I breathed, it felt like barf was coming out.'
 
The break recharged her, and she played the back nine in 32.
 
Davies charged up the galleries with her aggressive style, especially on the par 5s. The 596-yard 11th hole is believed to be the longest ever in women's golf, and Davies pounded her tee shot beyond the 300-yard mark. She opted for another driver, probably not the smartest shot, but 'I just wanted to see if I could get there.'
 
She wound up about 30 yards short on the rain-softened fairways, but pitched to 3 feet for an easy birdie. She had eagle putts on two other par 5s, hitting a 7-iron for her second shot on the 481-yard eighth hole.
 
But the most important club in her bag, as always, was the putter.
 
Davies hasn't won in four years on the LPGA Tour, remaining two points shy of the 27 points needed for the Hall of Fame. Her putting began to turn around when she had her caddie start lining up the head of her putter, and a 62 last week gave her a shot of confidence.
 
Webb was never more happy shooting 74.
 
She earned Hall of Fame points five years ago when she won the U.S. Women's Open, and needed to put in 10 years on tour. She got there Thursday, when her round marked her 10th official event of the year.
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”