Notes: Beem heading to Europe

By Doug FergusonApril 24, 2012, 11:53 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One of the perks Rich Beem received for winning the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine was a 10-year exemption on the European Tour.

He never used it because he didn't need it - until now.

Beem's only status on the PGA Tour is as a past champion, and sponsor exemptions have been limited. In the last year of his exemption in Europe, he took up membership and is having more fun than he imagined.

''Every year, my agent asked me if I wanted to use my exemption,'' Beem said Tuesday from his home in Austin, Texas, where he had a week off before leaving for Spain. ''I didn't have a use for it. I was exempt over here, I wanted to be over here. I wish now I had taken a harder look at it, because I've played some amazing courses and I've loved every minute of it.''

The results could use some work.

Beem missed the cut in his first three events - the Joburg Open, Andalucia Open and the Hassan Trophy in Morocco - before he tied for 11th two weeks ago in Italy at the Sicilian Open. He plays the Spanish Open next week, then gears up for a monster schedule - seven tournaments in eight weeks in which he will play in England, Wales, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, France and Scotland.

He would rather be in America on the PGA Tour for the obvious reasons.

''At the end of the day, you look at what's more convenient and where the money is,'' he said. ''But I love it on the European Tour. It's been nothing short of fantastic.''

There have been some adjustments.

The events he has played in continental Europe are not among the top events, and thus the galleries have been a bit sparse.

''I saw more people Tuesday in Hilton Head than the entire two weeks in Europe,'' he said. ''That's no knock on them. The places we played were great, but it's hard to get to them. And there are adjustments with the travel. It's not like hopping on Southwest Airlines. When guys miss the cut, they tend to stick around for a couple of days. Over here, we spend $100 on a change fee and go home.''

He figures that will change when Europe gets to the meat of its schedule this summer, and every tournament is no more than a short flight from London.

Beem isn't sure where this will lead. The worst-case scenario is that he tries to go through two stages of PGA Tour qualifying school and tries to get his card back. Or, he could play great and work his way back toward the top 50 in the world.

His last trip was two weeks. The next one will be a one-week stay in Spain. Beem was intending to play the following week at Madeira Island in Portugal until word of the airport made him skeptical.

''They said, 'If you land on the first try, it's a mistake.' And I said, 'You know what, I think I'll come home that week,''' he said.

AMAZING GRACE: Branden Grace started the year at No. 271 in the world, fresh off getting his European Tour card through qualifying school. Four months later, he already is a three-time winner.

''If I think back now to last year and playing on the Challenge Tour and just trying to get back to the main tour and really just trying to make a living, it was tough at points,'' Grace said. ''So to be here with three wins is amazing. I wouldn't have thought I would have been top 70 in the world.''

The 23-year-old from South Africa is only the second player in European Tour history to win three times in the season after Q-school. The other was Johan Edfors in 2006. Grace joined even more exclusive company. Only two other players have won three times in one season at a younger age - Seve Ballesteros (three times) and Sandy Lyle.

U.S. OPEN MEMORIES: Matt Kuchar returns to The Olympic Club in June for the U.S. Open, where in 1998 he tied for 14th. Kuchar turned 20 during the final round, so it would seem a return to Olympic would bring back warm memories.

Then again, this is the U.S. Open.

''I can remember walking off the course at Olympic Club and just being dead tired after my rounds at the U.S. Open,'' Kuchar said. ''And I remember my rounds at the Masters feeling like I was walking on clouds, feeling like I had so much fun I didn't want the round to end. At Olympic Club, I was more, 'Boy, I'm glad this round is over with. I don't know if I can take any more punishment.'''

Kuchar has not been on the Lake Course since 1998, even though he has been to San Francisco numerous times. The one time he tried to go to Olympic, the course was being renovated for the U.S. Open. He has no plans to see the course before the next major.

DIVOTS: David Duval made his first cut of the year on the PGA Tour at the Texas Open. He had missed the cut in his opening seven tournaments. ... Frank Lickliter tied for 13th at the Texas Open, his highest finish on the PGA Tour since he tied for 13th in the 2008 Byron Nelson Championship, a span of 56 tournaments and nearly four years. ... Despite good weather, the Texas Open featured a two-tee start in the final round because the TPC San Antonio was playing difficult and officials were not sure how long it would take to finish. Ben Curtis holed the winning putt at 6:02 p.m. EDT. ... The Humana Challenge produced more than $2 million in charitable proceeds, while the Humana Foundation contributed an additional $500,000 from its ''Walkit Challenge'' program.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Sean O'Hair leads the PGA Tour career money list among players under 30. He has made $16.2 million. O'Hair turns 30 in July.

FINAL WORD: ''Some people take a big leap forward, but slowly going forward is not a bad idea.'' - Bubba Watson.

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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.