Choi proving he can win AT&T no matter the venue

By Doug FergusonJuly 1, 2011, 8:06 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – K.J. Choi already has won The Players Championship this year. His name already is on the Liberty Bell trophy from winning the inaugural AT&T National in 2007 when it was played at Congressional.

His position atop the leaderboard after two rounds at Aronimink looked even stronger considering what –more than who – was behind him going into the weekend.

Some of the names might sound familiar. Their recent results aren’t terribly daunting. Four of the eight players within three shots of his lead have never won on the PGA Tour. Two others only won once. None of them have a victory over the past two seasons.

Choi matched the course record at Aronimink – although that includes only six rounds – by making five birdies over his last six holes Friday for a 6-under 64 to build a two-shot lead.

“I don’t really pay attention to any records,” said Choi, who was at 7-under 133. “My style is just playing hole by hole, just trying my best each hole, every shot. So when I heard that I tied the course record, I felt very happy, very pleased about that.”

Choi will be paired in the last group Saturday with Chris Riley, one of the top putters on tour (using a 1970 putter that he took from his grandmother nearly 20 years ago). Riley, who shot a 66, won his only tour event in the Reno-Tahoe Open nine years ago.

Also at 5-under 135 were Charlie Wi (66), who is still looking for his first win, and Bo Van Pelt (66), whose lone victory came in the old U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee in 2009 when it was held opposite the British Open.

And then there’s Justin Leonard.

No one among the top 12 on the leaderboard is more accomplished than Leonard, whose 12 career wins include a British Open and The Players Championship. Lately, however, it has been a major struggle.

“I’m just glad I played a couple of rounds that I can build on,” Leonard said. “It will be nice teeing off late on a Saturday. It’s been awhile. Looking forward to seeing what I can do this weekend.”

Leonard is No. 134 in the FedEx Cup standings, leaving him a little more than a month to even qualify for the playoffs. He has only made the cut in half of his 18 starts this year and has yet to record a top 10. Golf has become so frustrating that he and his caddie parted ways last week after Hartford.

Another big change came at home.

Leonard reached out to putting guru Marius Filmalter, who works out of Dallas, and he’s starting to see results. His main teacher is Randy Smith, and he had Smith join them at Royal Oaks a few weeks ago to make sure everyone was on the same page.

“It’s been good, just trying to get connected again,” Leonard said. “My stroke had gotten a little loose, kind of doing too much with the hands and arms and getting the stroke back in the shoulders. And it feels really good.”

It looks pretty good, too.

For all the pretty swings, and even some of the ugly ones, putting compensates for so much at the highest level. Leonard felt as though he were hitting the ball fine, he just wasn’t able to post a decent score.

But after opening with a 68, he overcame a bogey on his opening hole with a steady round of 67.

That’s the difference between this week and Memorial, and last week at Travelers – being able to make a few putts,” Leonard said. “I don’t feel like I have to hit every green. It creates an ease out there on the golf course that I haven’t played with in awhile, and it’s been very nice.”

The hard part will come on the weekend, as players try to handle Aronimink and catch up to Choi.

The greens are in such pure condition, and so close to the edge of being too firm and fast, that they were watered just enough to keep them ready for two more days of the AT&T National. Leonard and Van Pelt were surprised that in afternoon sunshine, the greens still were holding shots instead of shots bouncing beyond the hole.

But there was a catch.

“I thought it might bake out more,” Van Pelt said. “If you’re in the rough, they roll out on the greens. If you’re in the fairway, they’re holding. And that’s ideal.”

There haven’t been too many complaints, if any, about Aronimink this week. It’s an old classic, and as Van Pelt noted, it’s been around so long because no one has messed it up.

“This is a golf course where you can run up a bunch of bogeys,” Wi said. “You’re not going to lose too many spots if you make par. If you stay patient out here, that’s probably the most important thing.”

Choi had some separation with his big finish, although so many others were very much in the mix. Charles Howell III birdied his last hole (after back-to-back bogeys) for another 68 and was in the group of four players at 4-under 136.

Adam Scott, who shared the lead after the opening round with Hunter Haas, looked as though he might come undone when he took double bogey on the par-3 14th. His tee shot went into an ugly lie in the rough, and his plan was to get it onto the green and let it roll to the cup. He didn’t quite get it on the green, and three-putted from 45 feet – the putt he made for double bogey was just over 4 feet.

He played with Choi and was falling further behind until making two birdies over his final hour to salvage a round of 71, leaving him in the group at 137 that included Fowler (69) and Joe Ogilvie (70).

“Those birdies were really big,” Scott said. “It’s easy to get it stuck in reverse on a course like this. And playing with K.J., the way he was going at the end, it was nice to keep in touch.”

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.