Ochoa Wie trail Miyazato in Mexico

By Associated PressApril 30, 2010, 3:36 am

LPGA Tour _newMORELIA, Mexico – Ai Miyazato has already won two of first four LPGA events this season, and the Japanese star is threatening to win another and spoil the going-away party for Lorena Ochoa.

Miyazato shot 10-under 63 on Thursday – her career-best score against par – to take a two-stroke, first-round lead in the Tres Marias Championship over Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz.

Top-ranked Ochoa, who will retire after this tournament, and Michelle Wie carded 66s.

Miyazato won the Evian Masters last season – her first LPGA victory – and has risen to No. 5 in the rankings. She’s short off the tee – in the 240-yard range – but she may be the most accurate player in women’s golf. She needed only 22 putts on Thursday, most in the 8-to-12 foot range.

“I don’t feel like I’m playing so much better all of a sudden,” Miyazato said. “I feel like this is just one step at a time and building up my confidence. Last year gave me a lot of confidence. Just right now I am showcasing what I can do.”

Miyazato had a 63 two months ago in Thailand in the LPGA’s opening event. That was a 9-under 63.

On Thursday, Miyazato racked up 10 birdies and didn’t drop a shot.

Ochoa asked to be paired with Miyazato and American Natalie Gulbis in the first two rounds. Ochoa grew up in junior golf with Gulbis and described Miyazato “the nicest girl on the tour.”

“I have played with her so many times since I have been on the tour, but today was really special,” Miyazato said. “Natalie and Lorena were really relaxed, so they had an effect on me and I played really relaxed.”

Ochoa, who is stepping away to raise a family and work on her charity foundation, hinted that Miyazato is a candidate to eventually take over her No. 1 ranking. There are many others, too, starting with No. 2 Jiyai Shin, No. 3 Yani Tseng and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen

“I’ve never seen somebody with so much control in her game,” Ochoa said. “It doesn’t matter if she hits long, short, or low or high.”

The surprise near the top of the leaderboard is Munoz, an LPGA rookie who is playing only her second event. But she has experience. She won the 2009 British Women’s Amateur Championship and was the NCAA individual champion in 2008 at Arizona State.

“Maybe I don’t want to feel pressure,” said Munoz, who grew up in Marbella on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. “I know everybody back home wants me to do well, and everyone is following me but I try not to think about it because it is not going to help me.”

Like everyone, Munoz was trying to adjust to Morelia’s altitude of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), where the ball flies about 10 percent farther. And she wants to play with Ochoa over the weekend.

“I know everyone is going to be cheering for her, but I just want to play with her,” Munoz said. “I never got the chance to do it and it’s her last tournament.”

Wie and Ochoa both started with eagles on their first hole – No. 10. The scores were low with quiet morning winds and favorable flag placements. It will change if the wind blows through the canyons surrounding this mountainside course.

“There are a lot of birdies and eagles out there,” said Wie, who picked up her only LPGA victory last season in Guadalajara, Mexico. “It’s a constant grind to keep making birdies, and even if you are making birdies you’re not really above anyone else.”

Ochoa, who won this event last year for the third time, tried to play the round like any other.

“I woke up in the morning and told myself: ‘We’re here, this is the last tournament, let’s enjoy the moment,”’ Ochoa said.

“For sure I tried not to put too much pressure on myself because otherwise I’d be crying early in the day. Once I hit the golf course I tried to focus on my golf round and play a good 18 holes and then probably the emotions will come.”

Ochoa had an eagle on her first hole – the par-5 10th – hitting a 6-iron approach to 20 feet and holing the putt. Wie hit an 8-iron to 5 feet on the same hole.

Ochoa smiled when she was asked if Miyazato might spoil her final event – by winning it.

“No, I put her with me because she is my friend and it’s better to be with somebody who is playing good, believe me.”

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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.