Notes: Laird's round goes from bad to worse

By Doug FergusonJuly 20, 2013, 11:16 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Martin Laird was at home in Scotland, closing in on the lead at the British Open when it all went wrong.

His mess at Muirfield began with a 2-iron that strayed into nasty, yellow rough right of the fairway. After a couple of hacks - and a couple of penalty shots - he staggered off with a quintuple-bogey 9.

And that wasn't even the worst of his forgettable Saturday. Walking up the 16th fairway, he was informed an additional shot was being added to his score for failing to alert all the right people when he moved his ball in the rough on the 10th hole to identify it.

''To say that deflated me, I think would be an understatement,'' Laird said.

He ended his long day with an 81 - 12 shots out of the lead.

''Every time I hit a shot that could go one way, it went the other,'' Laird said.

Even after chopping his way to a 9 on the third hole, Laird was only 3 over for the tournament. He bounced back with a beautiful 5-iron into the toughest hole, and then made birdie. What gnawed at him was the 10th hole.

In deep rough, Laird marked his ball with a tee and told the marshal who found it that he was going to make it was his. One problem. The rules require him to tell playing partner Dustin Johnson or one of the walking officials.

''If I had said, 'Dustin, just went down to find my ball.' Or, 'Rules Official, I'm going to identify my ball.' Even if I said it loud enough for one of them to hear, it would have been fine,'' Laird said. ''It's the fact that none of them heard it, even though I said it. So it's one of those lovely rules of golf.''

Instead, he violated Rule 12-2 that says, ''Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his ... fellow competitor.''

David Rickman, the rules director for the Royal & Ancient, said letting the spotter know wasn't enough.

''The rule is very specific,'' Rickman said. ''It needs to be the fellow competitor. The fellow competitor is there to protect the interests of the rest of the field, and therefore, we are specific about who that needs to be. Because you need to give that fellow competitor, or as I say this week, the referee, the opportunity to come over and observe the player's actions. That's the protection that the rule gives.''

Worse yet was finding out so deep in a round that had already gone so wrong.

''Walking up 16 when I was told I got a one-shot penalty on No. 10, I don't even think rubbing salt in the wounds would do enough to describe it,'' Laird said.


MECHANIC SPUTTERS: Miguel Angel Jimenez likes to relax with a good cigar and a glass of red wine. He might need something a little stronger after Saturday.

''The Mechanic'' played solidly over the first two rounds and went into Saturday with a one-stroke lead. But he plummeted from contention with a 6-over 77.

This one started bad - four bogeys in the first eight holes - and didn't improve much. Still within striking distance of the leaders, Jimenez played the final five holes at 4-over par. He took double-bogey at the 16th, needing two swings to escape a pot bunker. At the 17th, he lipped out a 3-footer to save par.

He still has an outside shot, going to the final round six strokes behind leader Lee Westwood. But the fun-loving Spaniard knows his chances are slim, especially with nine players between him and the lead, including Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson - major winners all.

Jimenez hoped to become the oldest major winner in golf history at age 49. Instead, he'll likely have to settle for a good smoke and a sip of vino from something besides the claret jug.



WHERE'S THE CROWDS?: Despite flawless weather, the crowds at Muirfield are noticeably smaller than the last time the British Open came here in 2002.

The R&A reported attendance figures for the first three days of the tournament, as well as the practice. The turnout was slightly higher for practice - a total of 31,320 turned out, but the higher-priced tournament tickets haven't been as much as 11 years ago.

The opening-round crowd Thursday was 23,393, a significant drop from 30,620 in '02. The trend was much the same the last two days. At Muirfield's previous Open, the crowds were 34,479 for the second round, 33,212 for the third.

Also noticeable: the number of empty seats at the 18th hole when Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods arrived. Even the BBC commentators noted that plenty of fans headed home early, despite two of the most popular players still contending for the lead.

No one can blame the weather for the smaller turnouts. It has been sunny all week, with temperatures in the 70s.


SCHOOL'S STILL IN SESSION: Jordan Spieth created a stir last weekend by becoming the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years.

But he's smart enough to know there's plenty left to learn.

The 19-year-old hobbled to a 5-over 76 Saturday, hurt by bad bounces and worse decisions.

''I wasn't patient and that was the issue,'' he said. ''Bad bounces are going to happen out here, but I could have shot three shots lower, without even playing any different.''

Despite being 6 over for the tournament, Spieth enjoyed himself, in part because he played alongside Northern Irishman and major winner Darren Clarke.

''He's obviously loved and I can see why. Extremely nice guy, he's very selfless, he's rooting for me. It was cool,'' Spieth said.

Despite a full schedule since March and the pressures of being in contention the previous three weekends, Spieth said he didn't think fatigue was a factor in his performance here. That said, he wasn't unhappy about taking time off after the Open.

''Yeah,'' Spieth acknowledged, ''I'm looking forward to it.''



MICKELSON'S GRIND: Phil Mickelson criticized the course setup at Muirfield after his first round in the British Open, then apologized for it after his second.

After finishing play Saturday, he was sticking with the party line.

''I thought today was excellent,'' Mickelson said. ''It was set up very well. We saw a few scores under par. We saw quite a few over par. If you manage your game well, I thought you could make pars, and an occasional birdie here and there.''

Mickelson shot a 72 in the third round, leaving him five shots behind leader Lee Westwood.

Getty Images

Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Getty Images

Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

Getty Images

Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

Getty Images

Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.