Singh trails Kim Villegas at Honda

By Associated PressMarch 6, 2010, 4:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The temperature climbed, the winds calmed, and PGA National unexpectedly lost a great deal of its bite.

Welcome to the kinder, gentler Honda Classic.

Anthony Kim was one of four players to match the best Honda round shot on the Champion course with a 64, Camilo Villegas shot 66 for the second straight day, and they were tied at 8-under 132 atop the leaderboard after the second round of the Honda, where the only thing that improved more than the weather on Friday was the scoring.

“Trust me, it’s a tough golf course,” Villegas said.

Maybe so, but since the Honda moved to the Jack Nicklaus redesign in 2007, there’s never been an easier day to get around.

Vijay Singh (66) was a stroke back at 7 under, Jerry Kelly (65) was alone in fourth at 6 under, and a fivesome of players – Mike Weir, Matt Every, Graeme McDowell, Chez Reavie and first-round co-leader Nathan Green – all will enter the weekend three shots off the lead.

“I think we got the favorable wind today,” Stephen Ames said.

Everybody did. Thursday was marked by wind gusts over 30 mph; Friday merely had occasionally strong breezes and little else.

It showed in the scoring.

Entering Friday, there had been 1,445 competitive Honda rounds played at PGA National, with just two rounds of 64: Luke Donald in 2008 and Greg Chalmers in 2009. On Friday alone, there were four – with Ames, Paul Casey, Weir and Kim all getting there.

“Probably only about half a club of wind, which was nice at times,” said Ames, who is 3 under entering the weekend. “A lot different than it was yesterday.”

It didn’t start that way. A record low for the date of 39 degrees was recorded Friday morning, and a brisk northwest wind made the air feel downright frosty when play started.

Then the scoring spree began. The nine players within three shots of the lead combined to shoot 37 under – including an even-par 70 by Green and McDowell getting penalized two strokes.

“It’s very, very tough,” Casey said. “Not necessarily enjoyable, but that’s what we require out here.”

Forecasters say wind gusts topping 20 mph are expected for Saturday.

Wind, no wind, Villegas is playing the course the same way anyway.

“There’s not too many birdies out there,” Villegas insisted. “And you have some really tough holes. You’ve just got to be careful.”

He made few mistakes; the most grievous might have been hitting his tee ball into the water on the par-3 15th, and Villegas minimized the damage by rolling in a 15-footer for bogey. He strung together four straight birdies later in the round, getting to 9 under at one point.

Afterward, he held a giant energy drink bottle, possibly for good reason. He flew from Phoenix to Miami to Bogota on Monday, had a nearly nonstop 36 hours of events built around the Nationwide Tour Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open – the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in his home country – before heading back to South Florida for the Honda.

“It’s been a long week but it’s been a good one,” Villegas said. “Having the first Nationwide Tour event in Colombia is awesome. It’s a dream come true for my country. It’s a dream come true for myself. It’s great for Latin American golf and hopefully it’s the beginning of some other countries hosting big events.”

Weir’s country just hosted a big event as well, and he’s still basking in the memory.

Weir took his family to the Vancouver Olympics, including Sunday’s gold-medal hockey game between the U.S. and his native Canada. He didn’t get to South Florida until late Tuesday night after a 10-day break from golf, shot a relatively unspectacular 71 on Thursday, and faced a 15-foot par putt on his opening hole Friday.

It rolled in, and Weir was on his way to a bogey-free round.

“Just a little chilly in the start and then it got better,” said Weir, who removed his jacket on his 12th hole. “My game was pretty good. I hit most of the fairways and you know, scrambled a little bit out there, but you’re going to do that on this golf course.”

Singh rolled in a 65-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to get him to 7 under, his sixth birdie in an 11-hole stretch. Kim had some late-round dramatics as well, chipping in at the par-3 7th.

“It’s just a matter of time before I put four good ones together and start winning some golf tournaments again,” Kim said.

McDowell was a shot off the lead when he got to the 18th. He sent his tee shot way right, the ball coming to rest in a few inches of water. On his backswing, he caused the water to move a tiny bit, and wound up getting penalized two strokes after a lengthy post-round review.

“It’s a bit of a bittersweet end to the day,” McDowell said. “I’m glad it’s Friday. It could be Sunday and that would hurt a lot more. I’ve got all weekend to repair the damage.”

Notes: The cut was 3 over, which 74 players made. … Alexandre Rocha made the cut, despite shooting 76 after a first-round 66. … On a course with Nicklaus’ fingerprints all over it, Arnold Palmer’s grandson isn’t far off the lead. Sam Saunders shot his second straight 69, moving to 2 under.

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.