Teen leads LPGA Kingsmill first round

By Associated PressMay 3, 2013, 12:00 am

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Ariya Jutanugarn was in attack mode all day at the Kingsmill Championship – and it paid off.

The 17-year-old Thai player birdied six of the first seven holes Thursday and was 8 under after 14 holes thanks to a radar-like short-iron game that left her with short putt after short putt.

''Today, I made a lot of shots,'' she said.

She missed only a few, all on the par-3 17th when she pulled her tee shot to the left, chunked her downhill approach short of the green, putted from the fringe well past the hole and missed the comebacker.

The double bogey took her out of contention for tying the course record of 62, but she rebounded nicely with a birdie at the finishing hole, capping a round with nine birdies and the double bogey.

On a day when the course remained wet from rain earlier in the week, the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls, and the scores reflected it with 56 players finishing below par.

Cristie Kerr, the only two-time winner in the LPGA's eight previous visits to the River Course, had six birdies and one bogey and was alone in second after a 66. So Yeon Ryu and Dewi Claire Schreefel shot 67, and top-ranked Inbee Park, coming off a victory last weekend, second-ranked Stacy Lewis and former winner Suzann Pettersen were among 14 at 68.

For Jutanugarn, who said she was hitting the ball so close all day that the longest putt she had to make was from about 15 feet, bouncing back seems to be fast becoming part of her golf education.

Earlier this season, Jutanugarn took a two-shot lead into the final hole at the LPGA Thailand, and her aggressive style burned her. She went for the par-5 green in two and hit her second shot into a bunker, where it was embedded and she had to take a drop. She then overshot the green and finished with a three-putt triple bogey to lose by a shot.

''Very good experience. I never forget it,'' she said. ''It make me be stronger golfer.''

The following week, she finished fourth in the HSBC Women's Championship in Singapore, and less than a month later, won for the first time on the Ladies European Tour in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

That victory has her atop the money list on the LET, and even though she doesn't qualify for the LPGA money list, her worst finish in three events is fourth and her earnings of $328,643 would rank eighth.

The Thailand experience also took any butterflies she might have felt away.

''I don't have any nerve anymore,'' she said.

The beneficiary of that collapse, Inbee Park, used the victory to help climb to the No. 1 ranking, and Park said Thursday that Jutanagarn will have a big advantage this week because she's a big hitter.

''She's a very talented player and I'm very happy that she's playing really good, especially after that finish on No. 18,'' Park said. ''It's always good to see somebody bouncing back like that.''

Park, who has three victories already this year, including last week in Texas, skipped this event last year and has never fared well in three previous tries, missing two cuts and tying for 16th.

That was essentially a different player, she said.

''My game changed a lot,'' said Park, in her fourth week at No. 1. ''The way I'm hitting the ball, the way I'm putting is totally different than what I've been doing four, five years ago.''

Not a long hitter, she struggled in the cold, windy morning before things settled down.

''On the back nine, everything just turned around and I started to hit the ball a lot better,'' she said.

The reverse was true for Ryu, who made the turn at 4 under and finished with nine consecutive pars.

''I think (after) the 4 under on the front nine that, maybe, I can hit the low score like 8 under, 9 under,'' she said. ''Then I expect birdie, birdie, birdie and my body's getting tight and my mind wasn't there, so it's really hard to finish great front nine and then turn on the back nine.''

Schreefel's round was steady throughout and included a rarity – three 2s on her scorecard.

''I like par 3s,'' said Schreefel, who finished 13th here last year. ''Greens in regulation is one of my stronger points, so I tend to kind of attack the pins there if I think the situation is suitable.''

He birdie putts on the par 3s came from 25, 12 and 7 feet, she said, and she also really attacked the pin at the par-5 7th, chipping in from about 15 yards for a birdie.

''I seem to like that hole because last year I made two eagles there,'' Schreefel said.

Among notables who struggled, defending champion Jiyai Shin shot a 70, eight strokes behind her course-record start last year, Paula Creamer finished at 2 under and Michelle Wie had a 1-over 72.


Getty Images

Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

Getty Images

Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

@kharms27 on Instagram

Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

Getty Images

McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.