McDowell leads Bradley, Woods after Day 3

By Doug FergusonDecember 1, 2012, 11:20 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Based on history alone, the most comfortable part of Graeme McDowell's position is being at Sherwood Country Club.

Ever since he first showed up at the World Challenge in 2009 as a last-minute replacement for tournament host Tiger Woods, McDowell has broken par in every round he has played. Saturday was no exception. He rolled in two long birdie putts early in the third round and stretched his streak to 29 holes without a bogey when he walked off the 18th green with a 4-under 68.

As for his two-shot lead? That's not always his best spot from which to win.

McDowell's last three wins started with at least a three-shot deficit. He has never won when he had the outright lead, although he started out tied for the lead four times.

''I'm not sure how many times I've won from the front,'' McDowell said. ''Hopefully, I'll add one tomorrow.''

All he knows is that it doesn't figure to be easy to pick up his first win in two years.

Keegan Bradley had to cope with more fallout on the proposed ban of the belly putting stroke when he said one man in the gallery called him a ''cheater.'' It didn't keep the former PGA champion from a 5-under 67 to get into the final pairing with McDowell on Sunday.

Woods, a five-time champion at Sherwood, kept himself in the game. Even though Woods failed to birdie any of the five par 5s, he picked up a pair of birdies on the final two par 3s and added a third to salvage a 69 that left him five shots behind.

''I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow and see what happens,'' Woods said.

McDowell was at 13-under 203, and will try to win from the front for the first time since he was tied for the 54-hole lead at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in 2008. His specialty of late has been rallying on the last day – four shots behind at the World Challenge, three shots behind at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, four shots behind at the Wales Open, all of those in 2010.

On another overcast day with a light drizzle, McDowell picked up a pair of birdies he wasn't expecting.

He laid up on the par-5 second hole and hit his wedge with too much spin, the ball rolling back down a pair of tiers that left him some 40 feet away. He rolled that in for a birdie, and then holed about a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 4. McDowell's best swing of the day came at the ninth, with the pin at the far back of the green. He hit a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie, and picked up his fourth birdie with a two-putt on the 11th, the one par 5 he can reach in two.

The damp conditions all week have made some of the par 5s difficult to reach, even for some of the longer hitters, and birdies are no longer sure things. Woods found that out the hard way, missing the fairway badly to the right on No. 5 and having to lay up. Even when he was in position for birdie on the 11th, he three-putted for par. But he closed strong, and still has an outside chance.

Bo Van Pelt had a 70 and was tied with Woods at 8 under. Jim Furyk was another shot behind after trading three birdies with three bogeys for a 72.

''I felt like I played decent enough to get to 10 under and just didn't do it,'' Woods said.

Bradley and McDowell are the only players to post all three rounds in the 60s. A year ago, Bradley was 10 over for the tournament and never shot better than 73.

''I played so poorly here last year, it just feels so good to be in the hunt, and I'm striking the ball as good as I can,'' Bradley said. ''A few putts go in tomorrow, I think I could have a good run at this.''

Bradley has been the center of attention all week, especially after the USGA and the R&A proposed a new rule on anchored strokes that would keep him from using the belly putter. The rule is not to take effect until 2016 at the latest, but some fans are passionate against it.

Already this week, Bradley told of getting a tweet from some follower who advised him to apply for a job at Burger King in 2016. And then he told of the man who told him he was cheating, which was unusual for Bradley because he can't ever recall getting heckled.

''There's always going to be people who are negative,'' he said.

The primary focus is catching up to McDowell, who is starting to feel right at home in this toney neighborhood. The runner-up finish in 2009 earned him enough ranking points that eventually got him into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which he won for his first major, and that win assured him a spot in the Ryder Cup.

He won again in California with his comeback against Woods at Sherwood.

McDowell's only regret Saturday was not making another birdie after the 11th hole, although the pars didn't hurt him.

''I played disciplined golf to some of those tighter pins,'' McDowell said. ''Couldn't seem to get anything to drop, but two shots ahead going into Sunday, I'll take that any week, anywhere, any time, and it's right where you need to be.''

It helps being at Sherwood.

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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.