Kerr, Lincicome, Salas lead U.S. Women's Open

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2012, 1:28 am

KOHLER, Wis. – Although plenty of athletes have used sports to lift themselves up from difficult backgrounds, Lizette Salas' path to the pros isn't the sort of story that's often heard in golf.

The 22-year-old Salas shot a 3-under 69 in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday, grabbing a share of the lead along with fellow Americans Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Open winner, and Brittany Lincicome.

Salas is the daughter of Mexican immigrants from Azusa, Calif., a city with a history of gang issues outside Los Angeles. With help from her family, she used golf to earn a scholarship to USC – and now, a spot on the LPGA Tour and a share of the Open lead.

With her family on hand to cheer her on this week, Salas sees her play as a tribute to her parents.

''My dad still works long hours out on the golf course, my mom also,'' Salas said. ''So this is just my way of repaying them for all their sacrifice and all their work they've done for me.''

Third-ranked Ai Miyazato, the Japanese star coming off a victory Sunday in the LPGA Tour event in Arkansas, was a stroke back along with 17-year-old Lexi Thompson, Jennie Lee and Beatriz Recari. Seven players – including No. 5 Na Yeon Choi and No. 6 Suzann Pettersen – shot 71 in the nearly 100-degree heat and high humidity that turned Blackwolf Run, a challenging 6,944-yard course in central Wisconsin, into a boiler.

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu finished with a 74. Se Ri Pak, who won the Open at Blackwolf Run in 1998, shot a 72.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng shot a 74. She would become the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this weekend.

Michelle Wie also opened with a 74, and second-ranked Stacy Lewis shot 77.

Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods' niece, had a 75.

Salas began playing at age 7 thanks in large part of her father, Ramon, who is the head mechanic at a golf course and offered to do odd jobs for a local pro if he was willing to teach Salas how to play.

''He didn't have that much money to pay for lessons because they're really expensive,'' Salas said. ''I didn't have golf shoes. I didn't know how to dress, nothing like that. They worked out a deal where my dad did handyman favors for them. My dad fixed cars on the side, and that's how I got started. Just been swinging ever since. Haven't stopped.''

As Salas began playing in tournaments, she and her father would drive long distances and sleep in the car to save money. Even now that Salas is a professional, the family still sometimes travels the country in its high-mileage 2006 Toyota Tacoma.

''We like that truck,'' Salas said. ''It's red and it has 'USC dad' on it. I think it has over 90,000 miles on it. We've had some great memories, laughed and shed tears in that truck. And I often slept in it. It's been a good, it's been a fun adventure, and just going to keep going and making more experiences.''

Salas' hard work, and the sacrifices her family made, paid off when she earned her spot on the LPGA Tour by winning a nine-way, three-hole playoff for the final qualifying spot.

''My dad is like, 'It's OK, it's OK.' But my mom is like, 'No, no, no, no. You're going to go out there and you're going to get that card,''' Salas said. ''And just birdie, birdie, birdie. That 18-footer on the last hole, I knew where I stood. I knew I had to make it. It was probably the slowest putt of my life, but it was great. All the emotions of all the hard work we've done as a family and all the sacrifice my dad has done and my mom. It was just a great moment for us.''

Salas began with a birdie on the 348-yard, par-4 first hole, with a 9-iron approach that left her with a 7-foot putt. It was one of her four birdies on the day. Her only bogey came on the 375-yard, par-4 11th.

The other leaders have an edge in terms of experience.

Kerr is a 14-time winner on the LPGA tour and the 2007 Open winner. But she was winless in 2011 after winning at least one tournament in each of the previous seven years.

Kerr, who birdied three of her first seven holes and made it through the day without a bogey, feels a different level of energy at the Open.

''This is where I want to perform,'' she said. ''This is the stage I want to perform on.''

The long-hitting Lincicome has five career LPGA tour wins, including a major win in the 209 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Going into this week, breaking par didn't seem possible at Blackwolf Run.

''Obviously today shooting 3 under I have to kind of rethink my strategy, and obviously under par is very doable,'' Lincicome said. ''If you can keep it in the fairway, hit it in the right spot on the green and I made a couple long putts today which was nice.''

Beyond the challenges posed by the course's layout, plus the heat and humidity, players also had to stay focused during rounds that took as long as six hours to complete.

''Maybe just the heat, and it was slowing a few people down,'' Thompson said.

Several players said the heat affected their concentration.

''You're not thinking 100 percent clearly all the time,'' said Paula Creamer, the 2010 winner who had a 73.

Meena Lee, in the group at 71, acknowledged that the heat was getting to her.

''It was just too hot for me,'' Lee said, through a translator.

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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.”