Shinnecock Open to Another First-Timer

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- First-time major winners are on quite a roll. From Rich Beem to Phil Mickelson, the last six majors have been used to induct new members into the exclusive club. So, is there room for one more at the U.S. Open?
Certainly, it's not out of the question that another neophyte will hoist the trophy Sunday as the sun sets on Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
The list of non-major-winning contenders starts with Sergio Garcia, the consensus choice to inherit Mickelson's former title of Best Player Never to Win a Major.
But also keep an eye on players such as Chad Campbell and Padraig Harrington, who seem poised for a major breakthrough.
'Chad Campbell could easily win this week,' said Lee Janzen, a two-time Open winner. 'He swings fearlessly and he plays fearlessly. Those are two good things to have at this tournament.'
These days, it doesn't hurt to be a guy who's never won a major. It's happened six times in a row, an unprecedented streak in golf history.
The list can be divided into two very distinct groups. There's Mickelson (2004 Masters), Jim Furyk ('03 U.S. Open) and Mike Weir ('03 Masters) - top players who figured to win a major at some point in their careers. Then there's Shaun Micheel ('03 PGA Championship), Ben Curtis ('03 British Open) and Beem ('02 PGA Championship) - largely unknown players who pulled off fluky upsets and haven't done much since.
Maybe that latter group didn't feel the intense pressure that accompanies players such as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els at every major. Maybe that will help another upstart who's gone through three days of practice without drawing much attention.
'I always feel that when I play a major, I really need to be in contention over the weekend,' Els said. 'Maybe other players just like to come in and not really have any expectations and just enjoy the week for what it is.'
Garcia is hardly unknown, already making a couple of strong runs at his first major. He finished second to Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship and was fourth at the U.S. Open two years ago.
Only 24, the Spaniard has enough ability and experience to win a major, but he is still young enough that he's not burdened the way Mickelson was before he captured the green jacket in April.
'I'm pretty comfortable with my game,' Garcia said. 'I've been getting quite consistent throughout these past years. I really feel like I have a bit more confidence in myself to try to do something here.'
Garcia seems to be peaking at just the right time. He's won twice in the past five weeks, taking the Byron Nelson and last week's Buick Classic at Westchester.
Still, history is working against him. The last European to win the Open was England's Tony Jacklin in 1970, though the issue has become less significant as more players from across the Atlantic - Garcia included - play regularly on the PGA Tour.
'It would be great to get a European guy to win here,' he said. 'But the field is so strong, and the players nowadays, everybody can play so well. Everybody has their chance. Hopefully we can get some Europeans up there and at least threaten.'
Campbell is a popular dark horse this week, on the verge of being recognized as an elite player in just his third year on tour. He'll get a chance to shine at Shinnecock, playing in the group with Woods on the first two days.
The 30-year-old Texan was runner-up to Micheel at last year's PGA Championship, won the Tour Championship to end 2003 and captured his second career victory in March at Bay Hill.
Off the tee and in the fairway, Campbell's game is certainly major quality. He ranks fifth in total driving and ninth in reaching greens in regulation.
'He just gets up there and hits the ball,' Janzen said. 'He doesn't seem to spend much time on the technical part of the game. That's a very good way to be.'
There are still questions about Campbell's short game, which will be especially critical on the slick greens and sloping run-offs of Shinnecock Hills.
'The short part is not the best part of his game,' Janzen said. 'And you've got to be able to chip and putt around this place.'
Furyk said Campbell's perceived weaknesses are overblown.
'A lot of times, you look at someone who has a good short game and it's because they don't hit it very good,' Furyk said. 'Chad is a very solid ball striker. Maybe his short game is not at the level of his ball striking. ... But if he wasn't a well-rounded player, he wouldn't have had the consistent success he's had over the last year, year and a half.'
Harrington is one of the top players on the European Tour and usually plays well at the U.S. Open, finishing in the top 10 three times since 2000. Last week, during a tuneup at Westchester, he lost to Garcia in a playoff. The Irishman's experience on links-style courses should serve him well at Shinnecock.
'There is a lot of difficulty out there. Sometimes, experience and the fear you have from experience will hamper you on this golf course,' Harrington said. 'You could definitely see someone without the experience winning this week. Yeah, no problem.'
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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

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    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.