Like his hero Norman, Scott gracious in defeat

By Doug FergusonJuly 24, 2012, 6:18 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – This year's British Open should be a proud moment for Greg Norman.

Sure, it was painful to watch Adam Scott throw away a four-shot lead with four holes to play, to walk away from Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a silver salver as the runner-up instead of the silver claret jug as the winner of his first major championship.

What should be mandatory viewing, however, is the hour that followed such a devastating loss.

Scott stood before a television camera with such composure that it looked like the interview had taken place a week after his meltdown, not just minutes after the Australian signed a scorecard that showed four bogeys on the last four holes for a 75.

''It wasn't to be,'' he said. ''That's golf, isn't it?''

Then, he was whisked away to the media center and answered every question with clarity and honesty and without excuses. As he stepped outside, he met with four Australian reporters - one who was in London for the Olympics and came over to Lytham to see Australia's first major champion in six years - and answered many of the same questions. When it was over, Scott reached out to shake their hands without prompting.

For Scott to be linked with Norman is to be expected - Scott said so himself. Norman lost far more majors than he won through a combination of bad golf and bad luck. To no one's surprise, it was that six-shot lead he squandered at the 1996 Masters that came up more than once on Sunday.

But if comparisons are to be made, don't stop with the last putt.

''Greg was my hero when I was a kid, and I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat,'' said Scott, who wept in front of the TV as a teenager when the Shark blew up at Augusta National against Nick Faldo.

''He set a good example for us,'' Scott said. ''It's tough. You don't want to sit here and have to ... I can't justify anything that I've done out there. I didn't finish the tournament well today. But next time ... I'm sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it.''

Norman was headed this week to the Senior British Open at Turnberry, where he won his lone major of 1986 after being the 54-hole leader in all four majors. That became known as the ''Saturday Slam,'' except that Norman was the one who more often than not got slammed.

The only player to lose all four majors in a playoff in stroke play. The Masters meltdown. Losing a four-shot lead in the PGA Championship to Bob Tway, who holed out a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to beat him. Missing a 4-foot par putt in a playoff to lose another PGA to Paul Azinger. Twice going into the final round at Shinnecock Hills with his name atop the U.S. Open leaderboard only to close with 75 one time and 73 another.

The most famous, of course, is the Masters. No one has ever lost more than a six-shot lead in a major except for Norman at Augusta National. He wound up five shots behind Faldo, who years later revealed what he shared with the Shark as they embraced on the 18th green.

''Don't let the (critics) get you down.''

Ernie Els offered a similar message to Scott during a quiet moment they shared before the trophy presentation.

''He said he felt for me and not to beat myself up,'' Scott said. ''He said he beat himself up a little bit when he'd lost or had a chance to win. And he felt I'm a great player, and I can go on to win majors, which is nice. We have a close friendship. We've had some good battles in the past, and it's nice to hear that from him. I respect Ernie a lot, and he's a player who is a worthy champion here for sure.''

Scott thought so highly of Norman that he tried to follow in his steps, starting his career in Europe and wanting to be on the roll call of champions at all the tournaments Norman won. When he turned pro, the comparisons were with Tiger Woods because of Scott's pure swing that was honed while working with Butch Harmon. He even briefly hired as a caddie the brother of Steve Williams, who spent a dozen years working for Woods.

Being compared with Norman can be twisted into a joke. But few players were better at handling defeat than Norman, perhaps because he had so much practice.

Then again, Scott has carried himself with dignity for his entire career. When he was in a slump three years ago, missing seven cuts over eight tournaments, he took the criticism in stride and answered every question, even after he shot an 81.

Golf is filled with gracious losers. That's the nature of the sport. There was Mike Reid at the 1989 PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson at five U.S. Opens, a British Open and a PGA Championship. Who could forget Mickelson at Winged Foot when he took double bogey on the 18th hole of the final round to lose by one shot and said, ''I am such an idiot.''

And, of course, there was Norman.

''I screwed up. I really screwed up,'' Norman said right after he threw away the Masters.

Els walks away from this Open with his fourth major championship. Scott limped away, hopeful he won't have to wait another decade to play in the final group at a major. Perhaps another player can be added to the memories at Royal Lytham - Norman, who by example showed a teenager from Queensland that losing with dignity is half the battle.

Before his 2001 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Norman said his resilience was his strength.

''What's done is done,'' he said ''You cannot change history, even though you want to blame yourself for some and blame history for others. I've never really dwelled in the past.''

Scott would do well to follow that advice, too.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”