PGA Tour Players Going Lower Than Ever

By Associated PressJanuary 15, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The PGA Tour already runs commercials to explain, 'These guys are good.' It doesn't need record scoring every week to drive home the point.
Ernie Els became the latest poster boy for low scoring when his winning score at the Mercedes Championships -- 31-under par -- shattered the TOUR record and left him so stunned that he sounded more like Yogi Berra than the Big Easy.
'I've had some good weeks in my career, but to shoot 31-under par, I obviously haven't done that,' he said.
Then the light came on.
'Nobody's done it,' he added with a laugh.
Winning the first tournament of the year means more, especially considering that records don't last very long on the PGA Tour.
'It will be nice to tell Samantha and Ben one day,' he said, referring to his young children. Then he paused and knocked on the wooden table holding his trophy.
'If it holds up,' he said to more laughter. 'At least I held the record for a while.'
How long is anyone's guess.
The Sony Open in Hawaii begins Thursday, and all bets are off if the conditions are so calm that the skinny palm trees at Waialae Country Club don't even budge.
The new motto on the PGA TOUR: Go low or go home.
'Par doesn't mean anything anymore,' Vijay Singh said. 'Shooting 6 under and losing ground is no fun.'
This is no time to panic.
Wind is the best defense on any golf course, and there was hardly any for four days on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The results were predictable:
-- Eleven players finished at 20 under or better. David Duval (26 under in 1999) was the only player in the previous four years to do that (stats powered by ShotLink).
-- The average score was 69.14. The average score for the final round was 68.33.
-- Rocco Mediate finished at 23 under. It was his best score in relation to par since he was 20 under at the 2001 Phoenix Open. Both times, he finished eight strokes behind.
'What happened to par? Where did it go?' Mediate said.
It went to the majors and The Players Championship.
Eliminate those five tournaments, and it has been nearly two years since a regular PGA Tour event was won at single-digit under par -- the '01 Nissan Open (9 under) and the '01 BellSouth Classic (8 under). Both events had a combination of wind, rain and cold.
Low scoring is not all bad.
'You don't want 40 U.S. Opens,' Jeff Sluman said. 'Guys would be in a rubber room by the end of the year.'
Of course, 40 weeks of low scoring also can send players into therapy.
David Toms was 47-under par in consecutive PGA Tour events last year. All that got him was a tie for sixth (21 under at the Disney Golf Classic) and a runner-up finish (26 under at Callaway Gardens).
The solution lies with how the golf course is set up. If these guys are good -- and no one doubts that -- then maybe it's time for them to prove it.
'These are the best players in the world. This should be the toughest tour we play,' Singh said. 'I've played in Europe. Which is the tougher tour? I don't know.'
What the PGA Tour needs is a balanced diet of tough conditions that put a premium on par, and shootouts that require birdies just to keep up.
It's not just about length. Several players suggested firm, fast greens; tucked pins accessible only by well-struck irons; narrow fairways; and 'flyer' rough that makes it difficult to control distance.
'If we're not going to play tougher courses, we should make the courses we play a little bit tougher,' Justin Leonard said.
Only the most challenging courses separate great players, which is why the major championships rarely get fluke winners. That might help explain why there were a record 18 first-time winners on tour last year.
'I think there is something to that,' Charles Howell III said. 'It's a shootout every week. I won Kingsmill at 14 under, and that was probably one of the higher scores.'
Throw out the majors, The Players Championship and The Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola, and 28 of the 41 tournaments were won at 15 under or better last year.
Kapalua was an anomaly. The wind typically blows hard off the coast of Maui, and even Els remarked after the first calm round, 'It can't stay like this. It's impossible.'
It did, and there wasn't much the PGA Tour could have done.
'You put us on the hardest golf course in the history of the world -- with no wind -- and we'll destroy it,' Mediate said. 'That's what happened here.'
Had they made the greens roll like linoleum and had wind suddenly kicked up, the Mercedes Championships might have looked more like the Australian Open, where the first round was canceled because balls wouldn't stay on the green.
Nobody wants that, either.
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.