Nicklaus wants to lengthen, strengthen 18th hole

By Associated PressJune 1, 2013, 12:44 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus didn't do anything significant to the golf course at Muirfield Village because all the time (and money) went into the new clubhouse.

His next project inside the ropes appears to be the 18th hole.

Nicklaus thinks it needs to be stronger, and thus slightly longer.

''Every time I look on television, I look down and see all those bunkers along 18 and I don't think it's a pretty look,'' Nicklaus said, referring to right side of the landing area beyond a walnut tree. ''It looks like something I had to do to protect the hole. All the other holes on the golf course are basically played the way they were designed. Eighteen is the only hole where they are able to circumvent the design. They take it over the corner and get it out there.

''To me, the finishing hole needs to be stronger.''

Nicklaus, the founder and host of The Memorial Tournament and Muirfield's architect, is thinking about adding 30 yards or more to the tee, which would require moving some dirt to fill in part of a creek behind it. But it can be done.

Just maybe not for a few years.

''I think we will eventually, he said.

WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN: There were three suspensions of play because of dangerous weather and thunderstorms in Friday's second round of the Memorial Tournament. The first lasted 22 minutes, the second 1 hour, 27 minutes and the third ended play at 7:07 p.m. with 42 players still on the course.

It marked the first time since 2001 that a round had been interrupted as many as three times at the Memorial.

Play will resume at 7:30 a.m. with players completing the second round before pairings are drawn up and the third round begins.

DUKE'S DEUCE: In an otherwise normal day, Ken Duke summoned some magic.

The 18th is one of the most difficult holes on the tour. Duke arrived there after teeing off first at the 10th hole. He was 2 over on the day and headed nowhere.

He banged a 320-yard drive through the fairway and into the left rough. From there he had to muscle an iron shot out of heavy rough. He did fine.

Duke's shot landed pin high and rolled to the back of the canted green before reversing direction, picking up speed, hitting the pin and falling into the cup.

The eagle allowed him to stay right on the cut line. He was even through 12 holes on the day when play was suspended and stood at 3 over.

CALLING SECURITY: Fred Couples was just about to hit his drive on the second tee during Friday's second round when a cell phone went off in the gallery.

The phone rang again. Security officials scrambled around, looking for the offending party.

Then a woman's automated voice could be heard saying, ''Please leave a message.''

Finally, a marshal turned to one of the volunteers in sky-blue shirts who are charged with preventing spectators from taking pictures or calls with their cell phones.

''Is that one of yours?'' the marshal said.

The cell-phone volunteer sheepishly unzipped a fanny pack and pulled out the phone, which had been confiscated from a fan.

A nearby spectator laughed and said, ''Throw him out!''

BLEAK BEGINNINGS: Brandt Snedeker has gotten off to a rapid start on the PGA Tour this year, winning at Pebble Beach and finishing in a tie for second at Torrey Pines. He's second on the money list behind Tiger Woods, with more than $3.3 million in earnings.

But the way he started his round on Friday won't go into his book of memories.

Teeing off on hole No. 10, Snedeker was 1 over for his first four holes and then went triple bogey, bogey, double bogey to get to 7 over on his round through seven holes.

Fortunately for him, he was able to regroup by playing the next eight holes in 1 under, but that still wasn't enough to overcome the miserable start.

DIVOTS: Nick Faldo sat down in the grill room and asked for a lemonade. The waiter came back and regretfully informed the CBS analyst and six-time major champion that they were out of the lemonade. ''Call Jack,'' Faldo said sarcastically. The waiter stared at him. ''Call Jack,'' Faldo repeated, his grin slightly more evident. Didn't work. The kid didn't understand the English accent. ''I don't think we have coljack,'' the waiter said. After all that, he found the lemonade. ... The slump for Geoff Ogilvy continues. He missed the cut for the fourth time in his last five tournaments, adding to a stretch earlier this year when Ogilvy missed four straight cuts. The '06 U.S. Open champion has missed eight cuts this year, the most since he missed 10 cuts in 2003. ... 14-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang had bogeys on six of his first nine holes in a 79 that caused him to miss the cut. ... Players on the main scoreboard in the media center had their national flag next to their name. Branden Grace, from South Africa, had an American flag next to his.

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”