Record-equaling round lifts Kerr into second in Lotte

By Associated PressApril 15, 2017, 5:26 am

KAPOLEI, Hawaii – Su-Yeon Jang heads into the final round of the Lotte Championship on Saturday playing bogey-free golf, finishing the third round with a 7-under 65 for a three-stroke lead.

The 22-year-old sponsor invite from South Korea took the lead during the completion of the rain-delayed second round Friday morning and opened a cushion Friday afternoon. She had a 17-under 199 total - two strokes off the tournament record for 72 holes - at Ko Olina Golf Club.

Cristie Kerr and Alena Sharp, the 35-year-old Canadian looking for her first LPGA Tour victory, were tied for second. Kerr had a 62 to tie Lizette Salas' tournament record in 2013. Kerr, who turns 40 this year, played the back nine in 29, with birdies on seven of her last eight holes.

''I was just kind of being myself,'' said Kerr, who had eight putts on her last eight holes. ''Yeah, everybody says being in the zone. I just kind of stayed out of my own way today, which is what I have to do to have a chance tomorrow.

''I stayed in the moment and started walking them in.''

Sharp stayed with Jang, birdie for birdie, until a bogey on the final hole left her with a 66. She was just one back after sinking a 15-footer from the fringe on the 16th.

Sharp has not won in 240 LPGA starts, but is coming off her best year. The only LPGA player with more starts without a win in this field is Becky Morgan (315). She is tied for 10th, seven shots back. Morgan's last Top 10 was in 2009.

Sharp admits ''It's hard to win out here,'' but has never wanted to stop trying.

''I just love playing golf, so I don't think about it as I need to win,'' she said. ''I just love the competition. I love traveling to all the different places we play and the amazing courses we play. I just have a lot of passion for the game itself.''

In Gee Chun, the 2015 U.S. Women's Open champ, was 12 under after a 65.

''I was able to hole some longer putts in my front nine, which is the back nine,'' said Ko, whose 14th - and last - win came in July. ''When you get to hole the putts that you don't necessarily think they're birdie range, it's always nice. It's kind of a bonus.''

Top-ranked Lydia Ko, looking for her first win since July, was tied for seventh at 9 under after a 65. She was eight strokes behind the leader, a shot behind second-ranked So Yeon Ryu (69) and two back of third-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (70).

Jang, who doesn't have a bogey this week, also played in the final group last year at Lotte and finished fifth.

Hawaii has thrown its share of surprises at this year's field. For the third day in a row there was a weather delay Friday. The wind and rain, and thunder and lightning, have made Ko Olina a tropical adventure.

When darkness halted play Thursday, Jang had two holes remaining and a share of the lead at 9 under with Ariya Jutanugarn and In-Kyung Kim. Jang birdied her 17th hole early Friday to claim the second-round lead, then had ''some real good food my dad cooked up'' before teeing off in the third round.

After the leaders played their first hole, play was halted for an hour. Jang came back with four quick birdies and added three in a row on the back nine. She needed just 25 putts.

''Because I had to finish up the second round this morning and play another 18 I was a little bit tired,'' she said through an interpreter. ''But I know I'm so far away from home and I travel so long to play this tournament, so I try to tell myself just to suck it up and have a good time and play a good round today.''

She was brilliant, and has been in nearly every round she's played at Ko Olina the last two years. The exception was last year's final round, when a 71 in the final group wasn't nearly enough to keep up with Minjee Lee.

Instead Jang, ranked 68th in the world, won twice on the Korean LPGA tour last year and finished third on the money list.

''Obviously I've gained a good amount of experience doing that,'' Jang said. ''Hopefully tomorrow I won't get too nervous. I think that experience will help me play in the rest of the round tomorrow.''

The last time a sponsor invite won on the LPGA it was Ko at the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open. Ko turns 20 in 10 days and was born the same year Kerr debuted on the tour.

The cut came Friday morning at 1 under, with 78 golfers playing on. Michelle Wie, the 2014 Lotte champion, made the cut on the number. Lindy Duncan holed out on the 18th early Friday for eagle to make the cut.

Nicole Broch Larsen was also one of the 15 players who came back to finish their second round Friday morning. She had a hole-in-one on her 17th hole (No. 8).

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”