Karine Icher takes two-shot lead at LPGA Corning

By Associated PressMay 22, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2006 Corning ClassicCORNING, N.Y. ' Karine Icher isnt used to this. She would be happy to make it a habit.
 
The 30-year-old native of Chateauroux, France shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to gain a two-shot lead over Hee-Won Han of South Korea after two rounds at the LPGA Corning Classic.
 
Karen Icher
Karine Icher has 13 birdies, one eagle and one bogey through two rounds. (Getty Images)
Icher, the first-round co-leader at 8 under with Hee Young Park of South Korea, was at 14-under 130. That broke the 36-hole record for the tournament by one shot and equaled the best back-to-back rounds in Corning history.
 
Seon Hwa Lee (67), Soo-Yun Kang (69) and Na Yeon Choi (68) of South Korea were tied for third at 10 under with Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden (67), Sandra Gal (69) of Germany, and Sarah Kemp (68) of Australia.
 
Park (73) was seven shots back and the cut fell at 3 under (the tournament record was 1 under in both 2003 and 2007) as the players again took advantage of the near-ideal scoring conditions.
 
You can go low 60s out here, said Parmlid, who has never finished higher than 10th in five-plus years on tour. If you have a good iron day ' Oh my gosh! ' you can light it up.
 
Icher certainly did. She eclipsed the 36-hole record of 131 held by Michelle Estill (2004) and Beth Bader (2007) and matched the lowest back-to-back rounds set by Juli Inkster on the final two rounds of her 2003 Corning triumph.
 
If the other players can make birdies, I can do it, too, said Icher, whose best career finish was a second in 2005 at the Corona Morelia Championship. I know you learn more from your mistakes. I did a lot in the past. I was short to win some tournaments in 05 and 06. I hope right now its going to help me go forward and I dont make the same mistakes.
 
Icher had only one slip-up Friday, at the par-4 first hole, statistically one of the most difficult on the 6,223-yard Corning Country Club course. She drove the right rough, then hit into a greenside bunker and two-putted for her lone bogey of the tournament.
 
Icher averaged nearly 260 yards off the tee and continued to excel with her short game on the narrow, tree-lined layout. Of her seven birdies, four came on putts inside 10 feet, and she also displayed a deft stroke from a tough lie. Her final birdie putt was uphill on the undulating green at the par-3 seventh hole, and she smiled broadly when the ball curled into the hole on its final rotation.
 
Over the two rounds, Icher hit 32 of 36 greens and 19 of 28 fairways, did not have a three-putt green, and needed just 56 putts.
 
My driving was not so good as yesterday, I missed some fairways, said Icher, who hit 8 of 14 on Friday. But I had good putts. Right now what is working is my driving and my putting. If you drive in the middle and you putt well, youre going to make some birdies. This is the key. But this course still demands a lot of thinking. You can be five feet from the hole and be dead.
 
Han (67), who won at Corning three years ago, continued to take advantage of the four generous par-5s. Over the first two rounds, she had six birdies and two pars on those holes and briefly tied Icher at 14 under with a birdie at the par-4 sixth hole before dropping back with a pair of bogeys on her final three holes.
 
It was pretty important, Han said of her scoring on the par-5s. But there are lots of good players out there. Someone tomorrow can come out and go 10 or 11 under.
 
This is the final Corning Classic, and Lee is accustomed to playing in this atmosphere. She won the final Shoprite LPGA Classic in 2006, the final HSBC Womens World Match Play Championship in 2007, and the final Ginn Tribute last year.
 
I didnt think about that, Lee said. If I win, its another.
 
The summerlike weather continued, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, and attendance swelled. Parking lots adjacent to the course were full by 10 a.m. and another downtown at the Corning Museum of Glass also was full as fans were being encouraged to park at a nearby mall and take shuttle buses.
 
The Corning Classic, the smallest event on the LPGA and the only one thats had the same title sponsor and been staged at the same venue every year since its inception (1979), will not be staged next year. Tournament officials announced in April that they could not afford to renew their contract with the LPGA because of financial problems after title sponsor Corning Inc. pulled out.
 
Divots: Kristy McPherson aced the par-3 third hole with a 4-hybrid from 189 yards. It was her second career ace and 21st in the history of the Corning Classic. Sun Young Yoo, Hee-Won Han and Meena Lee each eagled the par-4 10th hole and Cristie Kerr eagled the par-4 13th hole with an 8-iron from 139 yards. Rookie Michelle Wie, who tied for third a week ago at the Sybase Classic, rebounded from her opening 73 with a 5-under 67 to make the cut.
 
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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.