Top LPGA players descend on New Jersey for ShopRite Classic

By Associated PressMay 31, 2012, 8:31 pm

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. For the LPGA Tour, however, summer begins this weekend, fittingly enough at a shore resort.

Twenty-one of the top 25 players in the world rankings will take the course Friday, as the ShopRite LPGA Classic begins at the Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, just a few miles from Atlantic City.

The 54-hole affair marks the start of a stretch of five tournaments over the next six weeks, two of them major championships. Brittany Lincicome will defend her title against 143 challengers who will be going after a $1.5 million purse. The champion will collect $225,000.

The field features all seven players who have won official LPGA events so far this season, including top-ranked Yani Tseng, along with Ai Miyazato, Stacy Lewis, Sun Young Yoo, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, and Azahara Munoz.

It also includes Morgan Pressel, fresh off her semifinal loss to Munoz at the Sybase Match Play Championship two weeks ago in an event that saw Pressel penalized for slow play.

Cristie Kerr hasn't won a tournament in nearly two years, since the 2010 Wegmans LPGA Championship, but she's known success at Seaview in years past. Kerr won here in 2004 and tied for second last year, one shot behind Lincicome. She also tied for third here in 2001, and has two top-10 finishes this season.

Kerr has a familiar face on her bag this week. She's reunited with Worth Blackwelder, who caddied for her earlier in her career. In fact, Blackwelder worked with Kerr when she won this tournament eight years ago, one of five victories the two have as a team.

''I like to be part of the team,'' Kerr said. ''Yes, I drive the ship, but I like to have a teammate out there. You need them to obviously get the information correct and be able to judge conditions and to know your game.

''So you've got to get information correct and you have to have somebody that knows your game and kind of knows how you tick, and you have to have somebody that's positive because things aren't always going to go well. You need to have somebody that's a support structure as well. Worth's got all of that.''

The 34-year old Kerr is fifth in the world rankings and the highest-rated American. She points out that it's become more difficult for American players to stand out on a tour that has truly become a global one.

''I think really, honestly, in the last couple years I think we have stepped up,'' she said. ''Angela's won this year. Stacy's won this year. I have not won in over a year now, and I'm looking to get back into the winner's circle.

''You say I'm the top-ranked American. I have to work hard to keep that. There are a lot of talented people out here and I don't discount that.''

Lewis also has her sights set on being the top American player. The 27-year old, who is currently ranked seventh in the world, picked up her second career victory at the Mobile LPGA Classic in Alabama in late April, the last time the LPGA conducted a full-field event.

Her first win came 14 months ago at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

''It was satisfying just to win again,'' she said, ''and to be in contention and have that feeling again. I guess it kind of proves to people that I'm here to stay and want to keep winning.''

Lewis admits that being the top American in her sport matters a lot to her.

''That was one of my goals coming into the year,'' she said, ''to continue to move up the rankings and also earn Solheim Cup points. That's something that I've been looking at. I watch them and I want to be in the top spot too.''

The Bay Course at Seaview is as short as many of the players will see all year at just at just 6,155 yards with a par of 71. Originally designed by Donald Ross and Hugh Wilson, it's a links-style test with small greens that place a premium on accuracy.

The wind is the course's first line of defense. If the breeze picks up it can play significantly longer than the listed yardage. If the conditions remain calm, birdie opportunities are abundant. Lincicome finished at 11 under par for the 54 holes a year ago. Miyazato finished at 16 under when she won here in 2010 when the tournament returned to the LPGA schedule after a three-year hiatus.

It was first played in 1986.

Inclement weather is in the weekend forecast, particularly for Friday and Saturday.

NOTES: Three-time U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, a New Jersey native, is in the field on a sponsor's exemption. ... This year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1942 PGA Championship, which was held at Seaview. Sam Snead defeated Jim Turnesa in the championship match to claim the first of his seven major championships. ... The LPGA announced that Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger, will make her professional debut next week at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y. She'll be playing on a sponsor exemption after competing in the event as an amateur in 2009.

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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

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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.