Notes: Fall Series gets upgraded

By Doug FergusonJune 27, 2012, 2:15 am

BETHESDA, Md. - Starting next year, Fall Series tournaments won't feel like second-class citizens.

The PGA Tour policy board has decided to award full FedEx Cup points to the tournaments that come after the season-ending Tour Championship. That was one step in trying to shore up plans for a new season that will start in October 2013 and conclude with the Tour Championship in September 2014.

''With the fall tournaments moving to the front end of the PGA Tour schedule, the policy board believes the next logical step is for these tournaments to kick off the FedEx Cup and begin awarding full points,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''All of these tournaments have been very successful and certainly deserve to be part of the FedEx Cup competition.''

For the past five years, the FedEx Cup has ended in September with the Tour Championship. The Fall Series events that followed only awarded prize money to determine the top 125 players on the money list who kept their full cards.

All that changes in 2013 with a fall start to the season.

Still to be decided is a major part of the puzzle - determining how players get their cards.

Instead of Q-school, the tour already has approved a plan to merge the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour with PGA Tour players who finish from No. 126-200 on the money list for a three-tournament series. Fifty full tour cards will be awarded.

Tour officials have been retooling various options, though no consensus has been reached on a model.

Three options were reviewed at the Monday board meeting, and Finchem said his staff will get further feedback from the Player Advisory Councils on the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour before deciding on the best model. A decision could be sooner that some might expect.

YEAR OF THE COMEBACK: No lead appears safe on the PGA Tour this year, particularly if the leader is going for his first win. Marc Leishman, who closed with a 62 at the Travelers Championship, became the fifth player to come from at least six shots behind on the last day to win.

The trend began in January when Brandt Snedeker came from seven shots back with a 67 to win a playoff over Kyle Stanley, who made triple bogey on his last hole for 74. A week later, Stanley rallied from eight shots behind with a 65 to beat fast-fading Spencer Levin.

John Huh came from seven shots back in Mexico with a 63 and won in a playoff over Robert Allenby. The 54-hole leader, Daniel Summerhays, closed with a 73. The other comeback winner was Phil Mickelson, who was six behind Charlie Wi and closed with a 64 at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

In each case, the 54-hole leaders had never won on the PGA Tour. Last week in Cromwell, Conn., the 54-hole leaders were Roland Thatcher and Brian Davis, neither of whom has won on tour.

The last 54-hole leader to hold on for the win was Jason Dufner at the Byron Nelson Championship on May 20.

DOWN UNDER, ALL OVER: Considering the number of good players coming from Down Under, Geoff Ogilvy is the only Australian since 1995 to win a major.

Aussie icon Greg Norman, who won two majors, is puzzled by the lack of majors. Then again, it's not just Australia.

Sweden has never produced a male major champion. The last Englishman to win a major was Nick Faldo in 1996. Spain's last major was more than a decade ago.

''The simple answer to that is no, it's not an acceptable strike rate considering the talent and the capabilities of the Australian players we have out there,'' Norman said in a conference call last week. ''There's a slew of them. But you can look at other countries, too, that haven't really done it. Sweden, you probably have more players on a global basis of that caliber than any outside of the United States, and they haven't done it. Then you look at Northern Ireland where you have back-to-back years with two guys.

''Why does it happen? Why the void? I have no answer because it doesn't make sense to me, because the players are good enough to do it on a regular basis,'' he said. ''But when you think about it, you've got all these great players around the world and there's only four golf tournaments per year. So there's only going to be four winners. You can see the odds are getting harder and harder.''

DIVOTS: Alan Dunbar is the latest player from Northern Ireland to capture a big prize. The 23-year-old from Portrush won the British Amateur over the weekend at Royal Troon. He follows Graeme McDowell winning the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Rory McIlroy winning the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional and Darren Clarke winning the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's. Dunbar's win gets him into the British Open, Masters and U.S. Open. ... Six-time major champion Nick Faldo has been selected to receive the 2012 Ambassador of Golf Award, given to a person who has contributed to golf on an international level. The award is presented by the Northern Ohio Golf Charities and will be given to Faldo at Firestone during the Bridgestone Invitational. ... Bubba Watson leads the PGA Tour in driving distance and greens in regulation. Since the tour began keeping track of these statistics in 1980, no one has led both categories in the same season. ... The winner of the money list on the new PGA Tour Latinoamerica will be recognized with the Roberto de Vicenzo Award, named for the first Argentine to win a major.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The winner of the past three tournaments at Congressional had scores of 268 (Rory McIlroy), 267 (Tiger Woods) and 268 (Anthony Kim).

FINAL WORD: ''It's getting harder and harder for him to win because the older he gets, the younger everybody else gets. And the younger they get, the less intimidated they are by him.'' - Greg Norman on Tiger Woods.


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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.