Notes Youth on center stage at Oakland Hills

By Associated PressAugust 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' This was the time for American players on the bubble for making the Ryder Cup team to make a statement. It wasnt what Hunter Mahan had in mind.
Mahan is 10th in the standings ' only the top eight qualify after the PGA Championship ' and he got off to a rugged start with a double bogey. It didnt get much better. He had a triple bogey on the fourth hole and shot 42 on the front nine. His round ended with one last bogey for an 81, the highest score of his career.
Woody Austin, who is at No. 9, went out in 40 and only three tough pars at the end allowed him to shoot 79.
D.J. Trahan (No. 11) opened with a 72, while Zach Johnson (No. 13) had a 76. The most impressive performance came from Sean OHair, who won in Tampa earlier this year and is No. 14 in the standings.
OHair was atop the leaderboard most of the morning and finished with a 1-under 69.
Its in the back of my mind, OHair said. I really want to play on the team, but thinking about it would get in my way. It almost would make me try too hard to get on the team. So if I just focus on what gets me to play well, it will me get on the team. And if I do get on the team, it will help me play well in the Ryder Cup.
Rocco Mediate, who was at No. 12 and has captain Paul Azingers attention as a possible pick, opened with a 73.
Azinger will select four players as captains picks.
Among the more interesting groups for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship were Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, three young players with increasing appeal.
It was a big gallery for a Thursday tee time, Kim said.
Garcia and Kims popularity comes more from their performance, Villegas more through marketing.
Garcia is a 28-year-old Spaniard who won The Players Championship this year and is considered by some as the best to have never won a major. He was solid in the first round, with two birdies against one bogey for a 69. Kim has the swagger of L.A., where he grew up, and the 23-year-old came of age this year with victories at the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National. He shot 70.
Villegas is a 26-year-old from Colombia, who still hasnt won on the PGA TOUR. But he is famous for his Spider-Man routine when reading putts, model looks and natty clothing. He stayed with his more accomplished peers for much of the round until playing the final five holes in 5 over for a 74.
It was great, Garcia said. Anthony is a great guy. Obviously, Im good friends with Camilo. I think this is the first tournament round I played with Anthony, and its very impressive.
Paul Goydos found Oakland Hills to be as tough as any test in golf. But his exam wasnt over after he made par on his final hole for a 74. Two officials escorted him to the locker room for a drug test.
Drug testing on the PGA and European tours began in July, although this was the first time at a major championship.
Moments later, Anthony Kim was escorted to the clubhouse for his drug test after a 70.
I was ready. It took 10 minutes, Goydos said.
Goydos is among those who accepts drug testing as a way of the sporting world, although he was intrigued by the philosophy.
In this case, youre guilty until proven innocent, he said. And now I have 10 days to prove Im innocent.
He was referring to the time it takes to get results, although it might be a little longer. Charles Howell III was among the first to be tested at the AT&T National last month at Congressional, and he received an e-mail 20 days later from the PGA TOUR saying he passed.
Having parted ways with his caddie, Steve Strickers plan for the summer was to use veteran looper Jimmy Johnson for a couple of tournaments, then use wife Nicki at the PGA Championship. A good player, she caddied for him early in his career before having children.
But then Stricker wound up in the hunt for the Ryder Cup, and everything changed. Johnson is still on the bag.
She pulled herself out, Stricker said of his wife. Ive been on that Ryder Cup bubble, and she thought the last thing we needed was for her to come here on the bag and be a story and take away from all that. She did it. She said this was not a good time for it.
Stricker needed a good round, and he got one with a 71. He is No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, the last spot for an automatic berth, and his hopes start with making the cut.
Robert Allenby thought it was strange to see glass around the back of his courtesy car on his way to the PGA Championship on Thursday. Seconds later, he realized someone had broken into his car.
I walked out and said, Whats all that glass? Allenby said after opening with a 76. Then I saw a half-dozen cars just like it.
Allenby said nothing was missing from his car, but that wasnt the case for what he estimated to be 10 other courtesy cars that were parked at the Southfield Marriott about 5 miles from Oakland Hills.
Other victims included K.J. Choi, who had his 5-wood in the back. That was left alone, but the navigation system was torn out.
My navigation system was still there, Allenby said. But the others, they took the center console out of every car. I dont know why they didnt take mine. Maybe I had it on the wrong channel.
Nathan Green had planned to stay home in Dallas this week until he learned that two players had withdrawn from the PGA Championship since Monday, and he was the first alternate.
Green arrived in the Detroit area Wednesday night, and had to be at Oakland Hills in time for the 7:30 a.m. start. He waited through the morning batch of tee times, had breakfast, hit balls, then waited some more.
Alas, no one else withdrew, and it was time for the Aussie to go back home to Dallas without ever seeing the course.
I thought it was a bit of a long shot, he said. But I had to be here just in case.
Green said he once spent all week as an alternate at the Australian Open, but never at a major. He didnt play in the 1996 U.S. Open here, and he didnt go through U.S. qualifying for the British Open at Oakland Hills last year.
He didnt seem the least bit bothered by such a quick trip.
I wasnt doing anything this week, anyway, he said.
Along with an eclectic group of players under par, there were a few surprises in the first round.
Jay Haas, the 54-year-old who got into the field as the Senior PGA champion, made eagle on the second hole and shot a 73. The last time Haas played as the senior champion, he made the cut at Medinah in 2006.
And of the 20 club pros in the field, Frank Esposito Jr. led the way with a 71. Esposito is the head pro at Brooklake in New Jersey.
Sean OHair was being interviewed when former Masters champion Zach Johnson walked by and posed as a reporter. Can you tell me about your shot on 18 and what you did there on your approach shot? What happened? Did you miss it left or right, please? OHair smiled and replied, You tell me how you won the Masters and Ill answer the question. Among those at Oakland Hills was Morgan Pressel, the youngest LPGA major champion in history. She was visiting family, had dinner planned with Davis Love III and wanted to walk a few holes with Adam Scott. Temperatures topped 100 degrees in the first round last year at Southern Hills. As the afternoon groups were teeing off Thursday, it was 75 degrees.
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    Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:31 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.

    Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.

    Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.

    “It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”

    The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.

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    “I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.

    A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.

    “I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.

    He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.

    “It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”

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    Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:18 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.

    Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.

    “It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”

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    The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.

    He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.

    Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

    “I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”

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    Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

    Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

    Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

    With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

    All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

    “This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”

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    Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

    “It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

    Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

    “Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

    Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

    “My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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    Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

    We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

    Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

    If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

    It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

    Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.