Getty Images

Lexi among big names chasing Lindberg at ANA

By Associated PressMarch 30, 2018, 1:53 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Lexi Thompson is smiling and having fun again at the ANA Inspiration.

A year after a rules violation cost her four strokes in regulation in an eventual playoff loss, Thompson shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to finish three strokes behind leader Pernilla Lindberg.

''I don't know if I would say it's a relief,'' Thompson said. ''I was just really looking forward to just playing this week. I love coming here.''

Thompson also again overpowered Michelle Wie on a hot afternoon at Mission Hills, four years after routing her in a final-round showdown for her first major title.

Wie fought dizzy spells on the front nine in a 75 that left her in danger of missing the cut.

''I had the mad spins,'' Wie said. ''I just got really dizzy. I don't know why or how. I don't know.''

Wearing a black dress in the mid-90s heat, she birdied the second hole, then dropped five strokes in four holes with two double bogeys and a bogey.

''I fouled five balls out there on the front nine,'' said Wie, the Singapore winner four weeks ago. ''One that I whiffed in the rough.''

She felt much better on the back nine, but still couldn't keep up with Thompson. The distance disparity was particularly pronounced on the par-4 12th when Thompson cracked a 348-yarder 72 yards past Wie.

''Probably my farthest,'' Thompson said. ''This golf course definitely sets up for my game off the tee. I get to just aim up the right and fire away.''


Full scoring from the ANA Inspiration

ANA Inspiration: Articles, photos and videos


That got her in trouble on the par-5 ninth - her 18th - when she drove into the left trees and made her lone bogey.

Lindberg birdied her final two holes for a bogey-free 65, playing in the last group to finish the round. The 31-year-old Swede is winless on the LPGA.

''I often get the question, favorite tournament, favorite golf course, and I always say this event and this course,'' Lindberg said. ''I like this place and I always feel good playing here.''

Beatriz Recari and Ayako Uehara were a stroke back, and Jessica Korda, Ha Na Jang and Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela shot 67. In Gee Chun and Cristie Kerr were at 68 with Thompson, Chella Choi, Sung Hyun Park and Brittany Altomare.

Recari had a bogey-free round , saving par on the par-3 17th with a 10-footer. The 30-year-old Spaniard has three LPGA Tour victories.

''I've always felt very comfortable here,'' Recari said. ''I felt like if I was going to win a major, it was going to be on this course.''

Uehara birdied her final two holes. The Japanese player credited instructor Ted Oh for her strong play. ''Now I have confidence,'' she said.

Korda birdied the 18th after bogeying 16 and 17. She birdied the first four holes and was 6 under after 11.

''A couple of weird shots there, especially on 17,'' she said.

The winner last month in Thailand in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery, Korda reached the par-5 ninth with a driver from the right first cut. She hit driver off the deck twice two weeks in the Founders Cup.

''I actually caught way more air than I expected,'' Korda said. ''That's kind of what I'm just trying to do is have fun out there, hit shots that normally I would probably not hit in a tournament.''

She's traveling with a mini Goldendoodle puppy named Charlie.

''It's so nice to have a puppy with you to distract you,'' Korda said. ''He's so cute.''

Playing partner Lydia Ko, the 2016 winner, had a 70. She closed with a double bogey after finding the water fronting the green from the fairway bunker.

Jang birdied the final three holes for the last of her nine birdies.

''Any golf course straight ball is very important, but Mission Hills is more important,'' she said.

Jang left the LPGA in the middle of last season to return home to spend more time with her mother, left alone when she and her father were away. Her mother is visiting the U.S. for the first time this week.

''I'd like to play the LPGA again, but my mom's more important than myself,'' Jang said.

Valenzuela topped the seven amateurs in the field.

''I love this course,'' Valenzuela said. ''I feel really comfortable on it.''

Valenzuela'a autistic brother Alexis is working as the Swiss Olympian's caddie.

''I love having him on the bag,'' she said.

Stacy Lewis had a 72 in her return from a rib injury sustained practicing before the Thailand event. She won in 2011 at Mission Hills and lost a playoff to Brittany Lincicome in 2015.

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu failed to make a birdie in a 75.

DIVOTS: Laura Davies shot an 81, two weeks after tying for second in the Founders Cup at age 54. She played the first five holes in 5 over with a triple bogey on the par-4 seventh. Fighting left Achilles and calf problems, she withdrew last week Carlsbad after an opening 82. ... Iceland's Olafia Kristinsdottir had a hole-in-one on the 181-yard 17th in a 72. She used a 5-iron.

Getty Images

Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

Getty Images

Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

@kharms27 on Instagram

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.

Getty Images

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.