Love Losing Grip on Hall of Fame Career

By Associated PressFebruary 28, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)CARLSBAD, Calif. -- No one was sorry to see Tiger Woods leave, least of all Davis Love III.
No one understands better than Love that any number of players can be dressed up like Tiger Woods in the Match Play Championship, where anyone in any round can get a hot hand.
'I'm not wishing Tiger was here,' Love said on the eve of his 36-hole championship match against Geoff Ogilvy. 'I'd love to play him again, though.'
Love might have wished he were around Sunday at La Costa to ease the sting of losing.
Getting beat by Woods would have been understandable, because Love has a history of that. Woods was 20 when he won his first PGA Tour event by beating Love in a playoff in Las Vegas with a par. He beat him in the Grand Slam of Golf when it was match play, and twice trounced him in the Match Play Championship.
Losing to Ogilvy only exacerbated Love's failures.
It brought into focus even more that Love, a world-class player with 18 victories and a major, has gone without a victory in six of his last eight seasons on the PGA Tour.
There is no such thing as an upset in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
But there is such a thing as perception, and this was a match everyone expected Love to win.
This was Love's best chance to capture a World Golf Championship, and a victory might have caused people to change the way they look at an otherwise sterling record. Along with his 18 victories and that rainbow-colored PGA Championship at Winged Foot, Love twice has won The Players Championship and only once in the last 16 years has failed to make the Tour Championship.
It doesn't matter that when Australians talk about their best talent, conversations usually don't get very far without Ogilvy's name being mentioned. He showed his resolve all week at La Costa, winning four consecutive matches in extra holes and building momentum by whipping up on Tom Lehman in the semifinals.
'It's always better to not run up against the world No. 1,' Love said, 'but Geoff Ogilvy is playing great.'
No doubt.
The 28-year-old Aussie was 3 under in the morning round and was 4 under through 16 holes in the afternoon, and he hit a 4-iron from 227 yards into 6 feet for a conceded eagle on the par-5 11th that swung the match in his favor.
But this was as much about Love's shortcomings as anything Ogilvy did.
Love knew from experience that you're supposed to get your opponent down and then step on his neck. He failed to do that in 2004, and Woods came back from lunch to beat him.
This time, Love had a birdie putt to win on seven of the first 10 holes in the morning round against Ogilvy and didn't make any of them. He won his first hole with a birdie at No. 11 -- more a product of a poor bunker shot by Ogilvy -- and was ready to seize control at the 14th with a delicate bunker shot that left him a 3-foot par putt to go 2 up.
It caught the right lip and spun away.
No one should have been surprised what followed. Love sent a 3-wood into the right rough, hit too strong over the green into a bad lie in the bunker and made double bogey. And when Ogilvy made birdie on the 16th, the Aussie went from on the ropes to 1 up and never trailed the rest of the way.
Love had one last chance, battling back from a three-hole deficit in the afternoon with a tremendous par save out of deep rough on the fifth to halve the hole, then winning the next two to close the gap to one.
And when Ogilvy stuck out his chin, Love swung and missed.
Love was in the fairway at No. 9, knowing a par would almost certainly square the match. He aimed his 6-iron 20 feet left of the pin, and hit the shot 20 feet into the gallery and made bogey. On the next hole, Love had a 15-foot birdie putt that he left short.
Then came the roundhouse 4-iron from Ogilvy, and a 5-iron into 8 feet for birdie at No. 12, and the match was over.
Love remains without a victory since the 2003 International, and his loss Sunday at La Costa invited more skepticism about his game.
'I did everything good except for five or six iron shots, really,' Love said.
Even with back and neck problems that have made it difficult for Love to find a flow in his playing schedule, his picturesque swing and power are a lethal combination. But for whatever reason, pictures of Love posing with the trophy are about as rare as pictures of Woods relaxing on his yacht.
Not that Love hasn't had his chances.
He was tied for the lead with Phil Mickelson going into the final round of the PGA Championship last year at Baltusrol, then bogeyed four of his first five holes. Two behind with four holes to play, including two par 5's at the end, Love never made up any ground.
Love will be 42 the week after the Masters and still has time left to change the perception of his career from a good one to a great one. But the window is closing.
He is on the PGA Tour ballot for the Hall of Fame, although he isn't worthy of a vote just yet.
At the end of 2004, when he thought a winless season was an aberration, Love was asked how he looked at his career. He was two wins away from lifetime membership on the PGA Tour. He was two majors away from what he considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
And he still is.
'I have a chance to have a great career,' he said that day. 'The next five or six years you'll either say, 'OK, I've done it.' Or you realize I haven't.'
He won't get many chances like he had Sunday, especially with Woods nowhere to be found.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.”