F Molinari Watson lead suspended first round of PGA Championship

By Doug FergusonAugust 12, 2010, 11:55 pm

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The fog finally lifted over Whistling Straits and revealed a stunning vista.

Tiger Woods’ name was atop the leaderboard.

Just not for long.

At the end of opening day in the PGA Championship, he wasn’t near the names of Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari, who each opened with a 4-under 68; or Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, who also were at 4 under when it became too dark for them to finish the first round.

Woods, who made three birdies inside 12 feet on the opening four holes, had to birdie his final hole just to break par, a 1-under 71. That used to be considered an ordinary start in a major. Considering his recent woes, this was nearly cause for celebration.

Francesco Molinari
Molinari's 4-under 68 has him tied for the lead after round 1 at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)

“To shoot something under par, that was the goal today,” Woods said.

He joined 21 others among the 78 early starters who completed the first round, which was delayed by more than three hours because of fog. Still to be determined is whether he can back that up. It was the first time in eight rounds that Woods had broken par.

And there were enough errant shots, including one that went so far left it found a marsh he didn’t know was there, that Woods had to make an 8-foot birdie on the final hole to avoid wasting a day in which he appeared to make progress.

“I’ve played too good not to shoot under par,” Woods said. “It would’ve been very disappointing and frustrating to end up at even par as well as I played today. To make that putt – to shoot under par – just feels like that’s what I should have shot the way I played today. And that’s a good feeling.”

Since when is shooting 71 a good feeling for a guy with 14 majors?

When he’s coming off the worst tournament of his career, an 18-over 298 at Firestone to beat only one player in the field, raising questions that ranged from whether this would be his last PGA Tour event of the year in America to whether he belonged in the Ryder Cup.

“Welcome to golf, you know?” Woods said.

The fog delay meant none of the late starters could finish the opening round.

Els, desperate to make sure another year doesn’t end without a major, played bogey-free through 14 holes and was at 4 under, making a 7-foot par save on the 14th shortly before the horn sounded. Also at 4 under were Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, courtesy of eagles – Kuchar on the 13th early in his round by holing from the fairway, Watney on the par-5 11th, his last hole of the day.

Phil Mickelson, closer than ever to going to No. 1 in the world, ended a wild day at 1 under. He knocked it close for a couple of birdies, and spent the rest of the time in the bunkers and rough as he scrambled to save par. He finished on a strong note with back-to-back birdies, the last one a wedge that stopped 2 feet away on the 11th.

In a summer of majors at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, it only figures that a fog delay of just over three hours would be in Wisconsin.

“I had never gotten up at 5:30 for a 12 o’clock tee time,” said Charles Howell, who shot a 69.

The group at 69 also included Ryan Moore, the only player among the early starters to reach 5 under until dropping two shots over his last three holes into the wind. Jason Day of Australia bogeyed his last hole for a 69.

With so much rain on Wednesday and in the week before the PGA, the course that looks like a links played more like a PGA Tour course with soft conditions. It was suited perfectly for Watson, one of the biggest hitters in golf.

Of all his birdies, none showed off his power quite like 587-yard fifth hole, the first one on the back nine with the wind at this back. Ignoring the bunkers and water to the right, Watson hammered his drive so far—445 yards by his calculations—that he had only a lob wedge for his second shot and an easy two-putt birdie.

“It makes it a little easier, I guess, when you do that,” Watson said of his long game.

Everything feels easier these days for Watson, the southpaw from the Florida Panhandle who has been through some tough times at home. His father is battling cancer, and he had a major scare over the Christmas holidays when told that his wife – who once played professional basketball – had a tumor. It turned out to be an enlarged pituitary gland, but Watson still broke down talking about it.

His goal now is to enjoy himself, from the video games at night to the golf he plays during the day, and it led to his first PGA Tour victory two months ago at the Travelers Championship.

Is a major too far behind? Watson didn’t sound like the pressure would ever get to him.

“Any golf tournament I have a chance to win, that’s a major,” he said. “I don’t change the way I do anything. I still hit driver as much as I can, and hopefully chip and get up-and-down and make putts.”

He had nine one-putt greens, which works at any tournament.

Molinari went about his work differently, relying on accuracy. He missed only four fairways and two greens, dropped only one shot along the way and worked his way into a share of the early lead with a birdie on the par-3 seventh, among the scariest of the par 3s that hug the shoreline.

Coming off two majors won by players who had never done it before, Molinari has reason to believe he could be next.

“Tiger is going to get back to his standards, and Phil is going to win more majors,” he said. “and so you just need to play really well and try to grab the occasion when you have it.”

Woods took a step in that direction.

For the first time all week, he hit a shot without caddie Steve Williams holding the end of a club over his right ear as a reminder to keep his head still. Woods found the first fairway, hit wedge to 12 feet and started with a birdie. Then came another birdie on the par-5 11th, when he two-putted from some 80 feet off the green.

It was the first time in more than a year that Woods had started a tournament with consecutive birdies.

“After a quick start, all of sudden I felt I could shoot something in the 60s,” Woods said. “Didn’t quite happen. I lost a few shots out there.”

One bogey came from a tee shot that missed the fairway by 3 yards and was buried in deep rough. Another came on the par-5 second, when his drive landed close to the lip of a bunker, his next shot sailed with the wind into the gallery and his third stunned him.

“What the hell?” he said to his caddie. “Did you see that ball?”

It started right and looked like a knuckle ball, settling into a bunker that left him a shot starting at Lake Michigan.

His worst swing came at the par-5 fifth, the one where Watson got home in two with a wedge. Unsure where to go with the wind at his back, Woods let the driver come out of his hand after impact, and the ball sailed left over the fairway, the bunkers, a ridge and into a marsh.

Woods was stunned when he got to his caddie and saw the marsh. He yelled a muffled expletive with his face buried in a towel while wiping sweat from his brow. All that, and he still made par. After the penalty shot, he laid up and wound up holing a 7-foot putt.

He will have to wait until Friday to figure out where that leaves him.

The late starters will finish the first round Friday morning and immediately start the second round. For Woods, Watson, Molinari and the rest of the players in their side of the draw, they will face a late start and likely won’t finish Friday.

If nothing else, that means Woods will make it to the weekend.

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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."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

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.”