Kerr takes five-shot lead at LPGA Championship
The 14-year tour veteran, and 13-time winner, is two rounds from a resounding victory after shooting a 6-under 66 to take a five-stroke lead at 10 under on the Locust Hill Country Club course. The 2007 U.S. Women’s Open Champion opened the day in a three-way tie for the lead before taking control by scrambling out of trouble several times to produce a bogey-free round.
She birdied four of her last five holes to pull away with the low score of the round, helped along the way by her chipping and near perfect putting.
Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, and Mika Miyazato were tied for second at 5 under after 70s. Brittany Lincicome (69) and Amy Yang (67) were 4 under in a field that has only 17 players at below par in the tour’s second major.
“I played awesome today,” Kerr said. “I don’t think anybody expected anybody to be in double digits after two days. But you know what, keep my head down and keep going.”
Kerr stayed patient while playing out of the rough, and took advantage when in range of the green. She holed a 23-footer for birdie on No. 17, then tapped on 18 for her final birdie in after hitting a 6-iron within a foot.
Park was impressed by Kerr’s score, but wasn’t prepared to concede anything.
“No, not at all. It’s still two days of golf left out there,” Park said. “Anything could happen on this golf course.”
Opening the week ranked fifth in the world, Kerr is proving serious about her objective in taking a run at top spot, which is currently held by Ai Miyazato – 3 over after rounds of 76 and 71.
As the top-ranked American, Kerr is also eager to show that the U.S. contingent on the LPGA can be competitive in the post-Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam era.
Only three Americans have won the past 13 majors and only five of the past 33 tour events – including Kerr winning the State Farm Classic two weeks ago and the Michelob Ultra Open in May 2009.
“I think it’s very important,” she said, noting the cheers she’s getting from the large galleries at Locust Hill. “I can feel they want an American winner just in the way they’re cheering for me.”
Lincicome, from Florida, agreed with Kerr, but with one exception.
“It is important for Americans to win majors,” Lincicome said. “Hopefully, Cristie Kerr is not running away with it, so I can have a chance.”
The cut was at 4-over 148, knocking out several notables, including Se Ri Pak (10 over) and Pat Hurst (11 over)
Jiyai Shin, the No. 2 player in the world, was 2 under after rounds of 72 and 70 in her first tournament since having an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago.
Michelle Wie was 2 over, following an opening 72 with a 74.
Sun and a light breeze made for good conditions at the 6,506-yard course a day after a heavy downpour briefly delayed play. With thunderstorms in the forecast for mid-Saturday, officials have taken efforts to ensure the third round will be completed.
So far, very little has been able to hold off Kerr’s magnificent run. In two rounds, she has made just one bogey. She has been particularly sharp on the back nine, which she has played a combined 8-under 66.
It’s a performance that has Kerr brimming with confidence after a two-round score that was three shots off the LPGA Championship record of 131 set by Karrie Webb in 2001.
“I feel like I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be confident,” Kerr said. “There’s no reason to play with fear any more.”
Kerr showed little fear Friday by putting together a solid score despite hitting only five of 14 fairways.
On No. 11, she two-putted for a par 5 from 30 feet after hitting her tee shot into the right rough, and barely getting her second shot to carry a fairway creek, which left her 200 yards from the green.
Kerr had a bigger adventure on No. 16, when she pulled her tee shot into a tree along the left side of the fairway. She recovered by punching a perfect shot from 135 yards out through an opening and bouncing it onto the green, where she two-putted for par from 20 feet.
“I ended up getting some pretty good lies, some not so good lies, but I managed,” Kerr said. “When you are in the rough, don’t try to be a hero.”
Lincicome got as low as 5 under for the tournament before a bogey 5 on No. 16. She then salvaged her round by sinking a 10-foot par putt on No. 18.
Juli Inkster (74) dropped to 1 over for the tournament, a day after shooting a 71 on her 50th birthday.
Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title
STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.
It’s been that kind of exhausting season.
From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.
So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?
“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”
A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.
Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.
All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.
But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.
On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.
“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.
Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.
“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”
Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.
“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.
It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.
Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.
This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.
They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.
“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.
Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.
It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.
Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.
Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.
“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”
But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.
Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.
And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.
By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.
“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”
Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.
In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.
The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.
“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”
Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf
Arizona's women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.
Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:
• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.
• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.
• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).
• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.
• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.
• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.
High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.
''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''
Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.
''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''
The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.
''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''
In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.
Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.
Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!