Pettersson leads tightly packed PGA leaderboard

By Associated PressAugust 9, 2012, 11:42 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – The breakthrough moment Thursday wasn't just the sun shining over Kiawah Island. It was Carl Pettersson breaking 70 for the first time in 21 tries at the PGA Championship to take the lead, Rory McIlroy flashing that boyish smile and bashing tee shots.

And yes, even John Daly showing there might be another cycle left in that up-and-down career.

Pettersson, a winner earlier this year in South Carolina down the coast at Hilton Head, got the best of the weather on a steamy day on the Ocean Course and didn't waste the opportunity. He made three birdies in four holes, never dropped a shot and wound up with a 6-under 66.

'There really wasn't much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up,' Pettersson said. 'The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play. So it was a great day for me.'

It was a good day for Tiger Woods, nothing more.

Despite having to get up-and-down for bogey on three holes, he made enough birdie putts for a 69, a reasonable start as he tries to end the longest drought of his career in the majors. This is his 14th major since he won his last one in 2008, and the last one of an otherwise good season.

'Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship,' Woods said. 'And I'm right there.'

He had plenty of company, some players who had not been heard from in a while, others that were all too familiar.

Gary Woodland, who started the season with a new coach (Butch Harmon) and injured himself working too hard on the changes, is feeling better and hitting it longer than ever. He opened with a 67, as did McIlroy and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

'I drove the ball the best I've driven it all year,' Woodland said, one of the most powerful players in the game. 'And when I drive it like that, I'm playing a game that most guys can't play out here.'

Daly made an eagle on the par-5 11th hole and was in the group at 68 that included former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and defending PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who had a birdie-eagle start before he settled into his round.

Adam Scott, in his first major since throwing away the British Open with four bogeys on his last four holes, quickly got back into the mix with a 68, one of the better scores from the late starters.

The flags started to ripple in the afternoon, though not enough to make Kiawah as frightening as it can be. With so much rain over the last week, including storms that limited practice time before the championship began, the greens were soft and fairways slow.

Those were the kind of conditions McIlroy had when he shattered the scoring record at the U.S. Open last summer at Congressional. More than soft conditions, though, was that bounce in his step while walking down the fairway after blistering his tee shots. He hit 10 drivers, most of them were he was aiming.

McIlroy was bogey-free, and while he failed to make birdie on a couple of the par 5s, he picked up a shot on the field at the 249-yard 14th hole, which features severe slopes off every corner of the green. Leave it to the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland to hit a towering 3-iron that settled 12 feet from the flag, one of only six birdies on the par 3 in the first round.

McIlroy has been a disappointment in the majors this year - much of his season has gone the wrong direction since he briefly rose to No. 1 in the world after winning the Honda Classic in March - but got a pep talk from putting coach Dave Stockton and has spent more time playing instead of practicing technique.

Perhaps some luck is starting to come his way, too.

Last month at the British Open, he drilled a young kid in the head and the ball bounced out-of-bounds. On Thursday, he badly pulled his tee shot on the scary par-3 17th. The ball could have gone anywhere except that it hit a woman on the hip and bounced toward the green into a bunker. That led to a simple up-and-down for par, one of the few nervous moments McIlroy had all day.

'It's becoming a habit hitting people in the majors, so try not to do that again,' McIlroy said.

Sure, he missed some birdie opportunities, though he was more interested in some of the birdies he made and was satisfied with his start.

'It was a fair reflection of how I played,' he said.

There was no doubting that Thursday might have been the best chance to post a score. More storms are in the forecast for later in the week, and just enough wind could make it more difficult to find birdies.

'I'm expecting this to be the best day of the week,' McIlroy said. 'I think everyone is. So we know that there's going to b e a bit of wind coming in and maybe a bit of bad weather. It's just something that you're going to have to deal with, and I'm just happy that I got off to a great start.'

Equally thrilled was Daly, who showed up 21 years ago as the ninth alternate in the PGA Championship and introduced his 'grip-it-and-rip-it' style to win by three shots at Crooked Stick. Daly hasn't had his full PGA Tour card in more than six years, though he is starting to show some form. He tied for fifth last week in the Reno-Tahoe Open, his highest finish on the PGA Tour since 2005.

'To just free wheel it is the only way I can get my confidence back instead of worrying about bad breaks and worrying about this and worrying about what somebody else is doing,' Daly said. 'I only need to worry about what I'm doing and go out and attack and play golf and enjoy it.'

There was plenty to like in the opening round. Stifling heat, sure, but this is the South in August. Sweat was pouring off the faces of players as early as 8 a.m. Splendid views of the Atlantic over the dunes made it tolerable, as did the number of birdies available.

Three of the last four major champions used belly putters, and Pettersson kept that topic alive with a long putter that he anchors to the chest. He has been using a broom putter since he was a sophomore in college, and he is opposed to the idea of banning any putter that anchors to the body.

If it were that easy, he reasons, everyone would be using them. That's not to say he wouldn't adapt if the putters were ever banned, a possibility as early as 2016.

'Well, I'd have to,' said Pettersson, a Swede who moved to North Carolina as a teenager and became an American citizen last year. 'I've got a high school diploma. What else am I going to do?'

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Man bites off finger during golf course brawl

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:45 pm

PLYMOUTH, Mass. – A man has bitten off another man’s finger during a fight at a Massachusetts golf course.

WCVB-TV reports a 47-year-old man was arrested at the Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth Friday after he apparently got into a fight with another golfer and bit off a part of his thumb.

The station reports the victim’s thumb had been bitten off to his knuckle and he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The incident happened around sunset.

The attacker was arrested and charged with mayhem. A police dispatcher declined to comment Saturday and Chief Michael Botieri didn’t immediately return a call seeking more information.

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Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.