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Leishman goes bogey-free, co-leads at Kapalua

By Doug FergusonJanuary 6, 2018, 4:47 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Marc Leishman played bogey-free and was tied for the lead in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Just don't get the idea this is another example of an Australian doing well at Kapalua because he stayed sharp Down Under in December.

Leishman two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Brian Harman (68) going into the weekend on the windy Plantation Course with 15 players separated by five shots.

Stuart Appleby once won three straight years at Kapalua. Geoff Ogilvy is the last player to win back-to-back. Both arrived in Maui having competed in either the Australian Masters, Australian Open or Australian PGA. Appleby did all three one year.


He's played one time in the last 10 weeks. Well, one tournament, anyway.

''I went to Topgolf a couple of weeks ago,'' Leishman said.

It was too cold to practice at his home in Virginia Beach, so he headed to the multi-tiered golf complex where points are scored for hitting at various targets, all while having a few beers and listening to live entertainment. Thankfully, he didn't take his tour bag, just a half-dozen clubs in a tiny carry bag.

''I scored all right,'' he said. ''I remember the first time I went there, I didn't realize there was a leaderboard at the front desk. I scored really high, and then all of a sudden all the people turn around and I'm having a couple of beers, just having fun.''

One patron said to him, ''You're pretty good with the tools.''

He has been pretty good in windy conditions at Kapalua. Leishman didn't make as many birdies as he would have liked. His only one on the par 5s was the final hole. Even so, he joined Harman at 10-under 136 going into the weekend of this winners-only event.

Harman came on strong on the back nine, and picked up his third birdie in unlikely fashion. He was down the steep slope right of the green on the par-5 15th, and his first chip barely reached the green and rolled back down the hill. He chipped that one in for birdie, and then picked up his fifth birdie of the back nine on the 18th.

Full-field scores from the Sentry Tournament of Champions

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Dustin Johnson, with more experience than anyone at Kapalua, overcame a sluggish start for a 68 and was one shot behind, making him perhaps the strongest threat going into the final two rounds.

Johnson is making his eighth appearance at the Tournament of Champions. No one else in the 34-man field has played more three times. His 68 was the 19th time in 29 rounds that the world's No. 1 player has shot in the 60s, and he has yet to have a round over par.

This was a challenge, at least early.

The wind laid down on his shot into No. 3, and it went long into fluffy rough, leaving him a downhill, downwind putt with the grain. He chipped that 30 feet by and made bogey. On the next hole, he caught a gust and made another bogey. On the par-5 fifth, he had a 7-iron for his second shot and made par.

And then he made seven birdies over the last 14 holes to get within one shot of the lead.

Pat Perez and Chris Stroud each shot 66, while Jhonattan Vegas had a 70. They were two shots behind.

Back in the mix was Jordan Spieth, who opened with a 75. Spieth didn't have a lot going his way early with a poor club selection on the par-3 second hole and one that was even worse on the par-5 fifth. Spieth went into the hazard with this second shot and took bogey on the second-easiest scoring hole at Kapalua.

And then he couldn't miss.

He has been working on his putting, trying to get it back to 2015 standards, and he walked in an 18-footer at No. 6 and knew his 12-footer at No. 8 was going to fall even before he stroked the putt.

''That's a feeling I haven't had in quite a while with the putter,'' he said. ''So a big step forward. A lot of progress today.''

Spieth chipped in for eagle from 70 feet on No. 9 and shot 66 to get within five shots of the lead.

Defending champion Justin Thomas a step back. He hit one too many wayward shots and had a 41 on the back nine for a 75, dropping him 10 shots out of the lead.

The biggest challenge was putting in the gusts, especially on the greens high on the hill that are exposed.

''You've got grain, break, speed, wind. Very difficult,'' Perez said. ''I had trouble with all of them yesterday. Today, I was able to see more of the break. I was able to get the speed and the wind all together. It took me a full day. But it was good.''

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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.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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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.