Appleby takes the lead in Honolulu

By Doug FergusonJanuary 15, 2011, 8:38 am

2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU – Stuart Appleby knows as well as anyone that winning can happen when you least expect it.

He was playing his 11th straight week without so much as a top 10 last year when he shot 59 in the final round to win The Greenbrier. He was playing so poorly in the Australian Masters that he didn’t think he would even make the cut. He shot 65 the last day to win.

“Good form is what you need to have, ultimately, throughout a career,” he said Friday. “But wins can come from the strangest places. That’s the exciting part of the game.”

How about from a hotel balcony?

Appleby was on the practice range for about 20 minutes Wednesday at the Sony Open before rain chased him indoors and washed out the pro-am. The next day, the opening round was called off because of a water-logged Waialae Country Club. There was nowhere to play, so Appleby went out to his balcony for 20 minutes to swing his sand wedge.

“Just sat there with a glove on and hit – well, imaginary balls – and working on my technique and getting a feel for it,” he said. “That was really my whole practice right there. And I walked about 20 feet back in the door, back into my room.”

It paid off when the first round finally got under way, even if it took some time.

He had no bogeys on his card, yet only one birdie, when he chipped in from in front of the 12th green. He then made a 10-foot birdie on the 13th, the toughest hole on the course. A good round got even better when Appleby holed out from 163 yards with a 5-iron on the 16th hole, and rammed in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

He finished with a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over nine players, ranging from Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose to a pair of PGA Tour rookies in Nate Smith and Ben Martin.

The conditions were so soft, and with only a moderate breeze, that 65 players in the 144-man field managed to break par. The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the year, although it wasn’t quite big enough for Richard S. Johnson. He tried to Monday qualify, moved up the alternate list as the week went on and was the first alternate in the morning.

What were his chances as the No. 1 alternate? “Better than No. 2,” he said.

Alas, he left Hawaii without a chance to attack the course, as so many did.

Appleby shot a 30 on the back nine for his best start in 10 years at the Sony Open. Steve Marino also had a 30 on the back nine, with birdies on four of the last five holes to join the group at 65.

Appleby is among 23 players at Waialae who played the Tournament of Champions last week on Maui, so he had a chance to shake off some rust, what little was left from playing back home.

Kuchar and Rose also were at Kapalua.

“I definitely think the guys that played on Maui have an advantage,” Kuchar said. “You never know how you’re going to do, and just by practicing and hitting balls at home, it’s different than actually grinding out 3- and 4-footers that actually mean something. And particularly with the rain delay, I think we’re a little bit fresher.”

So how to explain Martin?

Fresh out of Clemson, after breezing through Q-school, he played a practice round Monday at Waialae. Martin had a photo shoot with one of his sponsors Tuesday, and never got to the course Wednesday because of the rain. Ditto for Thursday.

“I hadn’t hit a golf shot in three days,” he said.

He hit most of them quite well in the opening round. Five of his birdies were from inside 8 feet, and two others came on the par 5s that he reached in two. It helped to have experience on the bag. Martin sent his caddie to California to study the four courses used in the Bob Hope Classic, and he used Frank Williams, the longtime caddie for Stewart Cink, who was coming to Hawaii on vacation.

Rose opened with a 75 last week and played well from there, finishing in a tie for 12th.

“I didn’t panic, just really realized that it was a good week to knock off some rust and start growing some good habits,” he said. “And the week kind of evolved and I got better every day. It was nice to carry that on into this week.”

This week figures to be different. Because an entire round was washed out, the plan is to play the second round on Saturday, followed by a 36-hole marathon Sunday.

Some players did well to rally. Vijay Singh, playing for only the second time in the last four months, was 4 over through six holes. He birdied four of his last six for a 70. And then there was Charles Warren, who got into the Sony Open through his top-10 finish at Disney in the final tournament of the year. Warren birdied his last hole at Disney, which not only put him in Honolulu to start the year, but got him inside the top 150 on the money list to give him at least conditional status.

He promptly made three straight bogeys to start his season and was 4 over through six holes. It took him until the eighth to take honors from 67-year-old Dave Eichelberger, playing as local club pro for winning the Aloha Section. But Warren turned it around by playing 5 under over his last 10 holes for a 69. Eichelberger had a 76.

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

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Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”