Sergio in Prime Position at Carnoustie

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The cheers grew louder as Sergio Garcia crossed the bridge over Barry Burn toward the 18th green at Carnoustie, a reception so warm it gave him chills. He removed his cap in a steady rain and soaked up the adulation.
 
It was a scene fit for a coronation at the British Open.
 
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia has a little wiggle room heading into Sunday's final round at Carnoustie.
For Garcia, the odds have never been better. He has never played better or felt so confident.
 
Garcia played close to perfection Saturday, a 3-under 68 that gave him a three-shot lead over Steve Stricker, with no one else closer than six shots. And while this will be the third time he has played in the final group at a major, there are two drastic differences.
 
He has the lead this time, and Tiger Woods won't be at his side.
 
'It definitely doesn't hurt,' Garcia said. 'But it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, I only depend on myself.'
 
Garcia finished off his bogey-free round with a 5-iron that never left the flag and sent him chasing after it, screaming out instructions with an intensity that showed he already knew the outcome.
 
'Oh, be good,' he said. 'BE GOOD!'
 
It hopped onto the green and stopped 12 feet left the flag, and the only disappointment was having to settle for par.
 
'I wanted to make the putt on 18 just for them, and to hear the roar, that would have been just out of this world,' said Garcia, who was at 9-under 204 and holding the 54-hole lead in a major for the first time.
 
Stricker might have to match his record round to give Garcia a fight. He ran off three straight birdies at the start Saturday, and was equally impressive with four par saves at the end for a 64, the best score ever at Carnoustie during a British Open.
 
'It was just one of those rounds where everything kind of went right,' Stricker said. 'It was quite a day. It was quite an experience. It was a lot of fun, and it gives myself a chance going into tomorrow.'
 
Whether anyone else has a chance depends on Garcia.
 
The 27-year-old Spaniard has held a 54-hole lead nine times in his career, and he has only converted five of them. Two years ago at the Wachovia Championship, he squandered a six-shot lead in the final round and lost in a playoff.
 
'He's got a lot of things to think about tonight,' Ernie Els said. 'I've been in that position many times. It's not an easy sleep.'
 
Els, a three-time major champion, overcame a triple-bogey 8 on the easiest hole at Carnoustie to shoot a 68, leaving him in the large group at 3-under 210 that included Chris DiMarco (66), Padraig Harrington (68) and K.J. Choi (72).
 
One guy Garcia won't have to think about is Woods.
 
Trying to become the first player in more than 50 years to win the British Open three straight time, Woods beaned a 63-year-old woman in the head. It left her bandaged and bleeding, and Woods queasy at the sight of blood on the links.
 
He wound up with a 69, leaving him eight shots behind at 1-under 212. Woods has never won a major from behind, and only once has he made up an eight-shot deficit on the final day of any tournament -- the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand.
 
'I've got to be playing a little better than I have been, that's for sure,' Woods said. 'But at least I gave myself a chance going into tomorrow. Paul (Lawrie) came from 10 back in '99. Certainly, you can do it around this golf course.'
 
Yes, but Lawrie needed a triple bogey from Jean Van de Velde on the final hole at Carnoustie in 1999. The Frenchman was a newcomer to this arena back then. Garcia has been contending for majors since he was 19, and he looks as though he's about to finally break through.
 
'It's going to be a hard day, but hopefully one to remember,' he said.
 
Garcia was trailing Woods by one shot at Royal Liverpool last year and quickly fell further behind. He was four shots behind Woods in the final group at Bethpage Black in the '02 U.S. Open, and never had a chance.
 
'I'm going to go out there and try to play my own game, just like I've been doing every single day, and just believe in myself as much as possible,' Garcia said. 'That's what I did on Thursday, that's what I did most parts of Friday and that's what I did today. If I'm in control, the way I'm hitting the ball, it's right there for the taking. Hopefully, it will be good enough.'
 
What was supposed to be the nastiest day of the week turned out to be the easiest day, perhaps because Royal & Ancient officials set the pins to account for weather that turned out to be light rain and a moderate breeze.
 
Garcia missed only two shots and escaped with par both times. His approach to the third narrowly avoided the Jockie Burn, and he pitched to 4 feet. On the 17th, he pulled a 4-iron that was headed for deep rough next to a gorse bush, but it struck a photographer behind the left ear and bounced into light rough.
 
Garcia was shaken up at the sight of the photographer lying on the ground as medics worked on him, but he lofted a beautiful chip that stopped 3 feet from the hole. He finished with a 2-iron into the fairway, a 5-iron to the green and beautiful sights and sounds.
 
He couldn't help but notice his name atop the leaderboard for the third straight day, and the ovation was more chilling than the weather.
 
'I got goose bumps at how they were standing up and cheering,' he said.
 
Stricker, who lost his PGA Tour card two years ago, is no stranger to contention. He went head-to-head with Vijay Singh at Sahalee in the 1998 PGA Championship, a duel that turned on the 17th hole in the Fijian's favor. The 40-year-old from Wisconsin also had a share of the lead on the final day at Oakmont last month until consecutive double bogeys to start the back nine.
 
Stricker had two other chances this year, tied for the lead at the Wachovia Championship and the AT&T Congressional, but was still unable to pick up his first victory since 2001.
 
'In one regard I feel very good and very optimistic that I'm going in the right direction,' Stricker said. 'But yet, I haven't finished off some of those tournaments. I've just got to keep moving forward.
 
'Hopefully, one of these times it's going to pay off.'
 
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    Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

    The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

    Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

    The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.



    Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

    "If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

    "Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

    "In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

    "I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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    Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

    PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

    Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

    ''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''


    Full-field scores from the BMW International Open


    Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

    ''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

    Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

    England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.

    Sunghyun Park (left) and Minchel Choi (right). Getty Images

    Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open

    By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

    Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.

    Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.

    This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.

    Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.

    Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season. 

    Both players will be making their first ever major starts.

    “I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."

    “It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."

    The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.

    The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.

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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.