Kuchar clubhouse leader at Whistling Straits

By Doug FergusonAugust 14, 2010, 4:50 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Matt Kuchar made a birdie on the first hole he played Friday to take the lead, which is where he wound up at the end of another long day at the PGA Championship.

What it meant was as clear as the cloudy, darkening sky over Whistling Straits.

Kuchar nearly holed out again from the 13th fairway on his way to a 69 that gave him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney, although half the field didn’t finish the second round and some players didn’t get past the fourth hole.

In the most disjointed major of the year, Tiger Woods had breakfast three times before teeing off in the first round, and he teed off around dinnertime in the second round.

Bubba Watson teed off some 30 hours after he finished his first round.

“I was talking with my caddie this afternoon, and we were talking about something that happened this morning,” Watney said. “But we both thought it was yesterday. So it’s been a long day. I’ll have no trouble sleeping tonight and wake up tomorrow and see where we’re at.”

Kuchar made birdie on the sixth hole when he resumed the first round Friday morning to finish off a 67. As a half-dozen players jockeyed for the lead in the afternoon, Kuchar took advantage when the wind was at his back and ran off three straight birdies on the back nine.

That put him in the lead, and a series of pars into the wind kept him there.

He was at 8-under 136, although he won’t find out until shortly before lunchtime Saturday whether that will be enough to give him his first lead ever in a major championship.

“Sitting around right now, it’s nice to be done,” said Kuchar, who woke up at 4 a.m. and left the course about 12 hours later.

Woods finished six holes, and only the first one was routine.

Matt Kuchar
At 8 under, Kuchar currently holds the lead at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)

He had to scramble for par off a cart path, out of grass up to his knees and from a grassy knoll that made it tough for him to keep his balance. After the siren sounded to suspend play, Woods opted to finish the sixth hole. He chipped out of deep grass below the green and left himself a 5-foot birdie putt that spun 270 degrees around the cup and sent him home somber.

Six holes, six pars. He remained at 1 under.

“Had to hang in there, and did a good job with that,” Woods told a PGA official.

There was another fog delay, this one lasting just over 2 1/2 hours, and it played havoc on the starting times. Whistling Straits delivered its own share of misery at times, starting with European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie. He played in the same group with Kuchar and was 26 shots worse over two rounds, going 78-83.

Phil Mickelson took some unusual routes from tee-to-green, although some of his misses were so big that he wound up in the gallery, where the grass had been trampled. Mickelson carries extra gloves in his bag for souvenirs when he hits a fan, and he handed one out on the 15th hole, complete with a frown sign inside the “o” where he wrote “Sorry.”

No apologies were necessary when he scrambled his way to a 69, putting him at 2-under 142 and still very much alive in his quest to move to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

“This is a penalizing golf course to not play from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “And I certainly explored a lot of areas here. First 27 holes for me to keep it around par was a feat, and I drove it better the last nine holes. … I just want to be in a position where if I play like I know I can, I can make up some ground. And I feel like I’m within striking distance.”

Join the crowd.

Bryce Molder made an impressive debut in his first PGA Championship. He made five birdies in a six-hole stretch and wound up with a 67.

That put him in a large group at 5-under 139 that included 19-year-old S.Y. Noh (71), 21-year-old Rory McIlroy (68), short-hitting Zach Johnson (70) and big-hitting Dustin Johnson (68).

Dustin Johnson, the 54-hole leader in the U.S. Open until a memorable meltdown, made a sensational par save to start his day by blasting out of a bunker – one foot in the sand, one foot on a dune – from 50 yards away to about 10 feet. That was the 15th hole of the first round.

Equally memorable was the tee shot he blasted on the par-5 fifth hole, leaving him only a wedge from 149 yards and a 35-foot eagle putt that turned his fortunes.

“It fits me perfect,” he said when asked about the design of the fifth hole.

Chad Campbell had another 70 and was alone – at the moment – at 4-under 140. But of the 78 players who had to return at 7 a.m. Saturday to resume the second round – provided there’s no fog – Martin Laird and Francesco Molinari also were at 4 under.

Kuchar is No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings, and no matter where he winds up when the cut is made Saturday, these were two big days toward securing a spot on his first team. He has called this a “great” year, referring to the eight top 10s, but he has yet to win.

Ernie Els began his day with a 5-wood for a second shot into the par-4 15th – “How about starting out on this?” he said as he walked off the green with a hard-earned par – and ended it with a double bogey on the final hole of his second round for a 74. He was in a large group at 2-under 142, yet found himself hopeful that Woods and the late starters didn’t get off the hook by a storm system that threatened all day.

“It would be a little unfair if these guys don’t play this afternoon if a weather system comes in and they get a quiet day tomorrow,” Els said. “Then, a lot of guys will lap us.”

Not to worry. The wind was whipping along Lake Michigan, and players were grinding.

Woods had to work harder than ever not to drop shots. The par 5s on the front nine continue to taunt him, especially No. 2. Woods drove into a steep bunker, then turned quickly when sand sprayed into his face on the second shot, which traveled about 90 yards right of the gallery. From a muddy cart path, he ripped a 3-wood to the right of the green and escaped with par.

Woods also made a par on No. 5, the easiest hole at Whistling Straits, which felt like losing a stroke to the field.

He slammed his driver to the turf after his tee shot sailed to the right on the sixth, and he was stewing when the birdie putt spun around the hole. Walking toward the parking lot in the twilight, Woods declined comment, while dozens of other players hurried to get home.

Just like the first two days, Saturday figured to be a marathon.

Getty Images

Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

Getty Images

Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.



Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.

Getty Images

Davies sweeps senior majors with Sr. LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second behind Inbee Park in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

''I wish there were more of them to play,'' Davies said about the two senior majors. ''This was a real treat because I've never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think 2 under par was a really good score.''


Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship


Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course. She birdied three of the four par 5s in the final round, making an 8-footer on No. 18.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Davies earned $90,000 for her 86th worldwide professional victory. She won four regular majors.

Getty Images

For Korean women, golf is a double-edged sword

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2018, 10:30 pm

There is always a story behind the tears.

For In Gee Chun, it’s a story about more than her victory Sunday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

It’s about the other side of the Korean passion that runs so deep in women’s golf and that makes female players feel like rock stars.

It’s about the unrelenting pressure that comes with all that popularity.

Chun explained where her tears came from after her victory. She opened up about the emotional struggle she has faced trying to live up to the soaring expectations that come with being a young Korean superstar.

Her coach, Won Park, told GolfChannel.com on Wednesday that there were times over the last year that Chun wanted to “run and hide from golf.” The pressure on her to end a two-year victory drought was mounting in distressing fashion.

Chun, 24, burst onto the world stage when she was 20, winning the U.S. Women’s Open before she was even an LPGA member. When she won the Evian Championship two years later, she joined Korean icon Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA titles.

Following up on those victories was challenging, with Chun feeling as if nothing short of winning was good enough to satisfy Korean expectations.

After the victory at Evian, Chun recorded six second-place finishes, runner-up finishes that felt like failures with questions growing back home over why she wasn’t closing out.

“There were comments that were quite vicious, that were very hard to take as a person and as a woman,” Chun said. “I really wanted to rise above that and not care about those comments, but I have to say, some of them lingered in my mind, and they really pierced my heart.”

Chun struggled going from the hottest star in South Korea to feeling like a disappointment. She slipped from No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings to No. 27 going into last week’s KEB Hana Bank Championship. Maybe more significantly, she slipped from being the highest ranked Korean in the world to where she wasn’t even among the top 10 Koreans anymore.

“Some fans and the Korean golf media were hard on her, mostly on social media,” Park wrote GolfChannel.com in an email. “It caused her to start struggling with huge depression and socio phobia. She often wished to run away from golf and hide herself where there was no golf at all.”


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


Socio phobia includes the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others, according to the Mayo Clinic’s definition of conditions.

Though critics of South Korea’s dominance have complained about the machine-like nature of some those country’s stars, we’ve seen quite a bit of emotion from South Koreans on big stages this year.

After Sung Hyun Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in July, the world No. 1 with the steely stare uncharacteristically broke into tears.

“This is the first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said back then. “It’s been a really tough year for me.”

It was the second of her three victories this season, a year in which she also has missed seven cuts.

“A lot of pressure builds up,” said David Jones, her caddie. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.”

While American players admire the massive popularity Koreans enjoy in their homeland, they see what comes with it.

“Koreans really do elevate their women players, but at the same time, they put a ton of pressure on them,” American Cristie Kerr said. “There’s pressure on them to not only be good, but to be attractive, and to do the right things culturally.”

So Yeon Ryu felt the pressure to perform build as high as she has ever felt with Koreans trying to qualify for the Olympics two years ago. The competition to make the four-woman team was intense, with so many strong Koreans in the running.

“This just makes me crazy,” Ryu said back then. “The biggest thing is the Korean media. If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. But if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Ryu didn’t make that team, but she went on to share LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors with Sung Hyun Park last year. She also won her second major championship and ascended to world No. 1.

LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park was under fire going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was coming back from injury and there was growing criticism of her. She was hearing clamor to give up her spot to a healthy player, but she went on to win the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” said Na Yeon Choi, a nine-time LPGA winner who was doing analysis for Korean TV. “Inbee had so much pressure on her.”

After the Koreans won the UL International Crown two weeks ago, there was as much relief as joy in their ranks. Though viewed as the dominant force in women’s golf, they watched the Spaniards crowned as the “best golfing nation” in the inaugural matches in 2014 and then watched the Americans gain the honor in 2016. There was pressure on the Koreans to win the crown at home.

“There were some top Koreans who didn’t want to play, because there was going to be so much pressure,” Kerr said.

Chun got the nod to join the team this year after Inbee Park announced she was stepping aside, to allow another Korean a chance to represent their country. Chun was the third alternate, with Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko saying they were passing to honor previous KLPGA commitments.

Chun went on to become the star of the UL International Crown. She was undefeated, the only player to go 4-0 in the matches.

“In Gee made up her mind to devote herself to the team and played with an extremely high level of passion and focus,” Won Park wrote in an email interview. “She took the International Crown as a war in her heart. She did not play, but she `fought’ against the course, not against the opposing team . . . During all four winning matches, she gradually found her burning passion deep in her heart and wanted to carry it to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank.”

Park explained he has been working with Chun to change her focus, to get her to play for herself, instead of all the outside forces she was feeling pressure to please.

“She was too depressed to listen for a year and a half,” Park wrote.

So that’s where all Chun’s tears came from after she won the KEB Hana Bank.

“All the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up,” Chun said.

Park said Chun’s focus remains a work in progress.

“Although it will take some more time to fully recover from her mental struggle, she at least got her wisdom and confidence back and belief in her own game,” Park wrote. “This is never going to be easy for a 24-year-old young girl, but I believe she will continue to fight through.”