Levin takes Memorial lead; Woods 4 back

By Doug FergusonJune 2, 2012, 10:28 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Spencer Levin realizes that a one-shot lead going into the final round means next to nothing. If he didn't learn this by blowing a six-shot lead at the Phoenix Open earlier this year, he was reminded of it on the back nine Saturday at the Memorial.

For the longest time, Levin simply couldn't miss. He chipped in for eagle from behind the fifth green. He holed a chip from 30 yards short of the 10th green for birdie, this one giving him a four-shot lead on a tough day at Muirfield Village.

Eight holes later, his lead was down to one over Rory Sabbatini.

If that wasn't enough, a collection of stars and proven players were lined up behind him – including four-time Memorial champion Tiger Woods.

Levin relied on a few good breaks and one good par save to match the low round of the day with a 3-under 69, giving him another chance at his first PGA Tour victory and an opportunity to get into the U.S. Open on Sunday without having to go through a 36-hole qualifier.

The circumstances are far different from when Levin lost that six-shot lead in Phoenix, not only the margin but the caliber of players chasing him. He'll find out Sunday if he learned from his failure, though the self-styled Californian already is loaded with perspective.

''I did learn that I still got to play golf, I still got to eat the same stuff, still have the same friends, still have the same family, so nothing really changed,'' he said. ''Obviously, you want to win when you're in positions. But I'm just going to go out there tomorrow and have fun. Nothing really changed in my life, and I don't think anything will change that big in my life if I do win. It's just going out there and try and do my best.''

It might take more than that.

Levin, who had one of only three rounds in the 60s, was at 8-under 208 and will play in the final group with Sabbatini, a six-time PGA Tour winner who shot 71.

The attention figures to be on the twosome in front of them – Rickie Fowler (69), the Quail Hollow winner who has been playing his best golf over the last month, and Woods, whose other win this year came in demanding conditions at Bay Hill. Woods bogeyed two of the last three holes for a 73.

Right behind them were Ryo Ishikawa (71), Henrik Stenson (71) and Jonathan Byrd (72), with Vijay Singh (69) on the outskirts of contention, six shots behind.

''Four shots is definitely manageable around this golf course, considering the conditions and what they're going to be tomorrow,'' Woods said. ''A lot of guys are still in this ballgame. It'll be an exciting day tomorrow.''

Levin provided plenty of excitement during the first few hours Saturday.

For a guy who has never won, Levin is easy to identify. He twists and turns his body on just about every shot, willing it to turn in various directions. He rarely is without a cigarette. And he lets the world know exactly what he's thinking. This is not the stereotype of a golfing robot.

If he sounds as if winning or losing doesn't matter, don't believe it.

Levin's father, Don, played against tournament host Jack Nicklaus in the early 1980s, including a U.S. Open. Levin grew up in the game, and knows exactly what's at stake on Sunday – his first win on Tour, a chance to shake hands with Nicklaus in more than just a casual greeting.

''I'm excited,'' he said. ''It's all the practice and work from being a kid. This is what I've dreamed of, to be in the lead of a tournament, especially Jack's tournament. This is one of the biggest tournaments on the Tour. You couldn't put yourself in a better position.''

''All those years and all that work and practice is going to come down to tomorrow,'' he said. ''And I'm just really fired up about it.''

Levin rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the second hole. From behind the green on the par-5 fifth, with the green running away from him, his chip hit the pin and dropped for eagle. After going out in 32, he appeared to be in trouble on the 10th when his second shot came up 30 yards short. No problem. He holed that chip for birdie to become the only player all week to reach 10-under par.

At that point, Levin had a four-shot lead and looked to be building the kind of third-round margin he had in Phoenix. Muirfield Village was such a stern test, however, that it wouldn't allow it. The par 5s on the back nine - along with the delicate par-3 12th over the water – were into a strong wind. It was equally difficult to control shots with the wind at the back, and the greens were faster than they have been all week.

Levin found the back bunker at No. 12 and wisely played away from the flag to avoid going through the green, making a bogey. He was walking after his tee shot on the par-3 16th, believing it would land near the flag, and then stopped in his tracks when it bounced over the green. He missed a 4-foot putt for par, and then nearly made another bogey on the 17th when he hooked his tee shot into the bunker and chose to chip out sideways. He escaped with par by making a 15-foot putt.

Woods expected much more from his game, especially the way he controlled the ball when the wind was at its worst. He holed a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the opening hole, got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 seventh for another birdie and made the turn in good shape.

But he pulled his tee shot on the 10th hole into the wind and couldn't reach the green, found the back bunker on the par-3 12th that forced him to settle for bogey and couldn't make a putt over the last three holes - a three-putt from 20 feet on the 16th for bogey, a 10-footer for birdie on the 17th, and another 10-footer for par on the last hole when his approach rolled back off the green.

''I probably shot the highest score I could have shot today considering the way I hit it,'' Woods said.

Woods already has won the Memorial more than anyone, and if he can rally from four shots to win on Sunday, he would join tournament host Jack Nicklaus at No. 2 in career wins on the PGA Tour at 73.

''I can't look at it that way,'' Woods said. ''I have to look at it like I'm four back. And I know conditions are going to be difficult again.''

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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.”

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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.