Chalmers leads at Congressional; Woods shoots 74

By Doug FergusonJune 26, 2014, 11:25 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Tiger Woods was back on the PGA Tour for the first time in more than three months Thursday and said he felt ''fantastic.''

He was talking about his back, not his game.

One day into his most recent return from injury, that's what mattered to him.

Woods opened with two straight bogeys, made five more bogeys in a seven-hole stretch around the turn at tough Congressional and finally found his groove late in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National for a 3-over 74.

Woods was tied for 83rd - only 19 players had a higher score - and he will have to score better Friday if he wants to avoid missing the cut for the first time in two years.

''I made so many little mistakes,'' Woods said. ''So I played a lot better than the score indicated.''

Quicken Loans National: Articles, videos and photos

Congressional had a lot to do with that.

Two weeks after a U.S. Open that had no rough, Congressional made it feel like one. Any shot just off the fairway was buried, making it difficult for even the powerful players to reach the green on some of the longer par 4s.

Greg Chalmers finished with three straight birdies for a 66 and a one-shot lead over Ricky Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. Defending champion Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton and Tyrone Van Aswegen shot 68. Compton birdied his last four holes.

''I didn't think it was easy at all,'' Chalmers said. ''I played really well, and I think anybody who plays really well can shoot a low score. You just have to be coming out of the fairway, and I didn't that the majority of the time today.''

Only 26 players in the 120-man field broke par.

This day, however, was all about Woods.

He has been golf's biggest draw since he turned pro in 1996 and accumulated 79 wins on the PGA Tour and 14 majors. He won the last two times he played Congressional, in 2009 and 2012.

Even with an early start, the gallery lined the entire left side of the 218-yard 10th hole, with hundreds of others watching from the patio and veranda of the famed clubhouse at Congressional.

Two holes into Woods' opening round, they had reason to ask: We waited three months for this?

But it wasn't just Woods. He played with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, and that trio of top-10 players combined for six bogeys in two holes. All three of them were in the fairway on the same hole one time the entire round - on No. 11, the hardest at Congressional, and only because Day's tee shot ricocheted off a tree.

Day had a 73, while Spieth shot 74.

''It was cool playing the first one back,'' Spieth said. ''I love playing alongside Jason, as well. We are all rooting for each other, and that's a good feeling. It was hard to root for each other because it just looked like the lid was closed on the hole. But once we all started hitting a couple fairways, it got better at the end.''

Woods looked about the same as he has all year. He gave away shots with his short game, with some ordinary chips and not making as many putts as he once did.

On his second hole, No. 11, he had a 50-foot putt from the fringe that came up 18 feet short of the hole. He missed consecutive 6-foot putts - one for birdie, one for par.

He did most of the damage to his card around the turn, failing to get up-and-down for par on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes, hitting a poor chip from the side of a bunker on the long par-3 second, pulling a pitching wedge into a bunker on No. 3 and missing a 5-foot putt.

That put him at 6 over for the round. At the time, Day was 4 over and Spieth was 5 over.

''We were all kind of looking to break 80,'' Woods said. ''It was a bit of a fight today for all of us, but we all hung in there.''

Woods found some rhythm from there, hitting an approach from 196 yards on the 467-yard fourth hole to 3 feet, and ending with short birdie putts on the par-3 seventh and short par-4 eighth by wisely using the slopes in the greens to feed it close to the hole.

More telling was his final hole. He thought he had a chance to end his round with a 35-foot birdie putt, and as it broke just right of the cup, he quickly dropped to a crouch and then rose up to go mark his ball. That was the best evidence there was no problem with his back.

''The back's great,'' Woods said. ''I had no issues at all - no twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic. That's one of the reasons why I let go on those tee shots. I hit it pretty hard out there.''

Woods last played at Doral on March 9, when he closed with a 78 while coping with pain in his lower back. He had microdiscectomy surgery March 31, causing him to miss the Masters and U.S. Open.

His return this soon was a surprise, and Woods was candid in saying that he might not have played if the Quicken Loans National did not benefit his foundation's work with children. He also made it clear he was not risking further injury by playing now.

The only issue Thursday was rust.

''We saw what happened when he found his rhythm,'' Spieth said, alluding to Woods making three birdies over his last six holes, and missing only one green.

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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.”

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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.