Collapsed Bridge Strong Hearts
In town for the Champions Tours 3M Championship, I found myself, like so many other people, just plain lucky. My timing was lucky, plain and simple. Sadly, very sadly, other people were not so lucky. At the time I write this column, the known death toll from the Minneapolis bridge collapse is at least seven.
In the days that followed, I had a chance to talk to some people about the disaster.
John Harris is a life long Minnesotan. He was born in Minneapolis, went to the University of Minnesota and resides in Edina, Minnesota. I asked John for his thoughts.
It was a real sober and somber moment for Minnesota, said John Harris. But tragedies like that happen. I think the people of Minnesota will rally together and bond together and theyll make it through this. Its a tough group here. Weve got a lot of quality people here and I hope that we learn from this and that it doesnt happen again.
I asked John if he was proud of the way the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota were coming together and working together during this disaster.
John replied, The people are tough here and they have a lot of local pride and it doesnt surprise me at all that they come together like they do.
Asked how big of a distraction the bridge collapse was for him in terms of being prepared to compete in the 3M Championship, John said, Well, I dont think its going to be a distraction. I think that everyone will take a step back and reflect and realize that golf really isnt that important when it comes to life overall and these are the kinds of things that remind us that we play a game and we entertain and we still try and do the best we can. But in the big scheme its not very important.
Curtis Strange has been at the epicenter of professional golf since 1979 when he won his first PGA TOUR event, the Pensacola Open. Back to back U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989 solidified him in the upper strata of professional golf. In Curtis mind, charity is the real star.
I think it goes without saying that one of the main reasons, if not the main reason that we have all of these events on the regular TOUR and on the Champions Tour is to help out the communities and support some of the charitable organizations that are involved with the events, Curtis said. And certainly, this was a terrible tragedy. We were all concerned for volunteers going over that bridge two and three and four times a day and players going over that bridge twice a day and thank goodness nobody directly involved with the tournament was involved. But, unfortunately there were people on that bridge. We as a group are responsible to help those people and victims. So were doing that. I hope we raise a ton of money and the people affected by the bridge collapse are certainly in our thoughts and prayers.
Tom Watson teed it up in the 3M Championship coming off his victory in the Senior British Open the week prior. Like Curtis Strange, Watson was optimistic about the funds the Champions Tour will raise for charities that can directly impact the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
One of the things that we can do is we can ply our trade and raise funds for charity very easily, Tom Watson said. And thats been the history of the professional golf tours. You can probably take everybody who plays professional golf in one way or another ' they have their own charity benefit or some players have several charity benefits ' and they raise money through their playing of the game and the notoriety to raise funds for the things that are needed to help out.
One of the really neat things about the 3M Championship played at the TPC Twin Cities golf course is that the tournament attracts the Post-It Greats of Golf. It is a team exhibition event within the event itself that features some of the greatest players the game has ever known. Arnold Palmer was front and center. His army of fans cheering him on with every shot. I asked Mr. Palmer for his thoughts on the bridge collapse.
Thats a pretty tough thing right now, Mr. Palmer said. I think everybody feels very badly about what happened and certainly those things dont normally happen to us but every once in a while it unfortunately does happen. We just hope that the people who were involved who survived it are doing well and are able to meet the crisis.
Arnold Palmer is often credited with starting, or at the very least being the main catalyst, that successfully launched the Champions Tour. I asked him if was pleased with the way the Champions Tour responds to tragedies like the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
The whole thing, this Champions Tour, is about raising money for charities and also allowing these players to play some golf beyond their regular PGA TOUR careers, Mr. Palmer said. And this tour has worked quite well. I think the charities are doing very well and as you know I am particularly interested in Prostate Cancer and of course just about any type of cancer we can help with were doing everything we can to help. And when golf is the thing that makes it move along were very happy for that, too.
I asked Mr. Palmer if he had a few words of encouragement for the people involved in the disaster. He said, Well, I just want to wish all the people that were so unfortunate to experience what they have here this week my best and I hope they can survive it.
It was a dream like week for Mitch Adams. The 50-year old from Cary, North Carolina was a Monday qualifier and he made the best of his opportunity by finishing in a tie for third place. Mitch fought through tears as I asked him for his thoughts.
Absolutely. Absolutely, Mitch said. The whole week has been just an incredible week. With that tragedy and then the way the fans showed up for this eventits just been incredible.
3M is headquartered in neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota. They have been involved with the Minneapolis area Champions Tour event for many years. Recognized as one of the Champions Tours most successful tournaments from the standpoint of charitable endeavors, the tournament has donated over $12 million to charity since 1993. For 2007, 3M had earmarked $1.3 million to go to Allina's United Hospital and Mercy & Unity Hospitals. This was prior to the Minneapolis Interstate 35W bridge collapse. In consideration of the tragedy, 3M pledged even more money would be raised.
I suggested to Bob MacDonald, Sr. Vice President, Sales and Marketing for 3M that the week had two distinct sides: the nightmare side and the silver lining in the cloud side. He agreed.
It turned out to be a good week for us out here on the course but our hearts go out to those people that were touched by the disaster, said Mr. MacDonald. And this is a very philanthropic tournament. Its our fifteenth year and this year we had decided to give money to three hospitals and two of them had chosen to use the money for emergency services. So, that was fantastic. The disaster was a horrible tragedy but we hope the money we have been able to raise along with this great Champions Tour and these great players will in some small way ease some of the pain.
Fate dealt a mind numbing hand last Wednesday night in Minneapolis. As for me, it could have been a very close call. I finished my work at the tournament site at about 5:30 pm on Wednesday. Minneapolis is home to one of my favorite steak houses. I remember driving out of the parking lot and trying to decide if I should drive directly in to Minneapolis for dinner or if I should go back to my hotel first and shower up. A right turn would take me towards downtown and across the Interstate 35W bridge. A left would take me towards the suburbs and my hotel. I took the left and went back to my hotel. When I got in my room I turned on the television and I saw the horror of the bridge collapse. Needless to say I didnt go in to town for a steak that night.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of lost and missing persons and also with the fine people of the city of Minneapolis.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer
Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16
Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:
Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.
Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.
Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.
Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.
Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.
Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.
Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.
Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.
JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking
AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.
Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.
“It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.
Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.
Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.
But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.
“He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”
Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.
Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond
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.
“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.”
Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic
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.
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.