Notes From Russia with Love

By Associated PressJune 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Maria Kostina walked 100 yards away from the scoring tent to have a moment alone with her sister, distraught after making her U.S. Women's Open debut with an 89 at Pine Needles.
It was a momentous occasion Thursday, and it had nothing to do with her score.
Kostina, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Monday, became the first Russian to play in the U.S. Women's Open.
'To be honest, I felt very nervous,' Kostina said. 'I didn't feel very comfortable at all the first three holes, and then I was trying to limit the mistakes in my swing. I wanted to play better than this.'
Her 22-year-old sister, Anastasia, became the first Russian in the U.S. Women's Amateur two years ago, although she failed to advance to the match play portion of the tournament.
Both attended Washington State, and both now play on the Futures Tour.
How they got both places is amazing, especially considering they were born before Moscow even had a golf course.
The first 18-hole course in their country was built about 10 minutes from their home, in the Moscow suburb of Nakhabino. Although there was a program that allowed juniors to play for free, Kostina said there weren't many takers.
'I always liked to try new sports,' she said.
She started by hitting balls on the range, not realizing there was more to golf than that. But when she played her first round, from tee to green, she was hooked.
'We fell in love with it,' Anastasia Kostina said. 'We wanted to play every day. We stopped going on our summer vacations, because the summer is not very long, and we didn't want to miss a chance to play golf.'
Playing on a national team led Maria Kostina to Washington State, where she was an honorable mention on the All-Pac 10 team and an Academic All-American for two years. Anastasia followed her to Pullman, Wash., and both earned degrees in psychology.
On the Futures Tour, they get financial support from Russian friends who live in the United States, chasing their dreams. Even though it was a bad start at Pine Needles -- Maria took a 10 on the 17th by hitting two balls out-of-bounds -- she already has learned from her first trip to the Women's Open.
For one thing, she has never seen so many fans on a golf course.
'I like it when people watch me,' she said.
She is one of six players with the surname Park at Pine Needles, but Angela Park has a history that sets her apart. Although her heritage is South Korean, she was born in Brazil, and she grew up in California, where she learned to play golf.
'I have citizenship in Brazil right now,' she said. 'When people ask me, 'Are you Brazilian, Korean, American,' I think I'm three of them all mixed up together. I'm not fully Korean. I speak English very well. I'm very accustomed to your American culture. But I was also born in Brazil. I speak the language, and I have family in Brazil. So I kind of mix and match everything.'
Park, 18, contemplated college after her sophomore year of high school but decided that summer she wanted to turn pro.
She's a rookie on the LPGA Tour this year, having finished fifth at Q-school. Already she has led after the first round at two tournaments, including the LPGA Championship. Perhaps more amazing for a rookie, she has yet to miss a cut and is 13th on the money list.
'That was one of my goals coming into this year, not missing any cuts at all,' she said.
It was an itsy-bitsy spider, but it caused Morgan Pressel plenty of concern.
She saw what looked to be a small black ant on her ankle, but it turned out to be a spider. The bite caused her ankle to swell so much that the LPGA Tour's youngest major champion in history walked with a limp Wednesday and had to cut her practice round to nine holes.
Much to her relief, the swelling subsided.
'It's still a little swollen, but it's gone down a lot, and I had no pain when I was swinging,' Pressel said. 'So that's good.'
Pressel opened with a 71 on Thursday, six shots better than the score she posted in her first U.S. Women's Open six years ago when she was 13, at the time the youngest qualifier.
Cristie Kerr is starting to putt better, even though it took money out of her pocket.
Kerr was in South Korea six weeks ago when she got so frustrated with her putting that she visited a pro shop, tried four or five putters and bought the one that felt the best. She shot a 3 under the next day, then returned to the LPGA Tour and finished third at the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina.
'I went to the Ping representative and said, 'Does it look like it sets up for me? Because it feels pretty good,'' Kerr said after opening with an even-par 71. 'I'll buy every putter if I putt that well with it.'
Lorena Ochoa always gets plenty of support whenever she plays, but this week she can recognize faces in the crowd.
'My family is here watching me play, and I think it was very special for my mom to be there, too,' Ochoa said.
She said her mother, two aunts and three close friends from Mexico are at Pine Needles, and her brother, Alejandro, was due to arrive Thursday afternoon. Her mother attends about 10 tournaments a year.
Maybe it's a good omen.
Karrie Webb's mother made the trip from Australia in 1999 and was at the du Maurier Classic when Webb won her first major.
Related Links:
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    Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

    By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

    SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

    Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

    Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

    ''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

    Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

    Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

    Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

    ''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

    Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

    Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

    Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

    The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

    Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

    As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

    "Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

    Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

    "We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

    Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

    "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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    Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

    There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

    No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

    On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

    The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

    "It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

    It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    "My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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    Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

    Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

    Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

    What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

    Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

    Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

    Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

    Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.