Notes: McIlroy advises LeBron on loss; Tiger gets replaced

By Doug FergusonJune 15, 2011, 1:29 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Steve Stricker will go through a typical session on the practice range before he tees off Thursday in the U.S. Open, with one twist. When he’s done, he plans to take out a long iron and pretend to be hitting his opening tee shot.

It might be one of the toughest shots he faces all day.

Because the U.S. Open has gone to a two-tee start, half the field will begin their round at Congressional on No. 10, one of the most daunting holes on the course. It’s a par 3 that measures 218 yards and can play even longer.

The green is shallow, with a large lake in front and bunkers beyond.

“You spend a little bit more time hitting the club that you may be hitting off the 10th tee,” Stricker said. “It could be a 3-iron, 4-iron or 5-iron, something like that. I might even find out the yardage before I go to the range.”

It’s only the third time at a major in the last 10 years that a round begins on a par 3. Everyone started on the 206-yard opening hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes at the 2001 British Open. The 10th hole at Winged Foot for the 2006 U.S. Open also was a par 3, although this one measured a mere 188 yards with no water.

Royal Lytham is best known for Ian Woosnam not realizing he had two drivers in his bag when he started the final round tied for the lead and opened with a birdie. There was no need for a driver on the first hole, so he didn’t notice. He was penalized two shots.

“Starting a round on 10, I can’t see too many tougher holes to start on, especially off that back tee,” Ernie Els said. “You might have to come off the range, hit your putts and then go to your first hole of the day, which could be a 4 iron over water and a bunker at the back.”

The 10th hole was No. 18 for the last U.S. Open at Congressional in 1997, although it now goes the opposite direction. That means the old 17th hole is now the closing hole.

Phil Mickelson loves the new 18th hole. The new 10th? Not so much.

“As I was saying earlier about how 18 is a brilliantly designed golf hole, I think 10 is the exact opposite, because the average guy can’t play that hole,” Mickelson said. “He can’t carry that water and get it stopped on that green. So when I play that hole, 3 is a great score. I’ll take 3 every day, and if I happen to make a 4, so be it.”

Stricker hopes starting on a par 3 in one of the two opening rounds brings back good memories. It was at Winged Foot when he began to emerge from his slump, and he had the 36-hole lead that year.

As for starting there Thursday?

“This is a good par 3,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first hole or the 10th hole, it’s a good one. Par is important.”

RORY & LEBRON: Even the U.S. Open isn’t immune from LeBron James analysis.

The first questions directed at Rory McIlroy on Tuesday concerned the golfer’s favorite NBA team, the Miami Heat. McIlroy and James are sponsored by the same watch company, so they’re texting acquaintances. McIlroy also makes it to a few games every year.

McIlroy was credited for the way he handled his final round slide at The Masters in April, so he was asked what advice he might give James to help handle the Heat’s demise against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals.

“I think he’s been unfairly scrutinized,” McIlroy said. “Everyone is going to have bad days, if it’s on a golf course or on a basketball court. And with sports these days everything is overanalyzed, stats here, stats there, how has your team combined points in the last quarter of the finals or whatever. It’s just one of those things.

“If people keep talking about having a bad last quarter all the time, it’s going to sort of get to you. But he’s got plenty more chances to win the finals. And I’m sure the Heat will have a chance to win it again next year.”

DON’T CALL HIM TIGER’S REPLACEMENT: It’s perplexing enough to Michael Whitehead that people are actually asking for his autograph after his practice rounds ahead of this week’s U.S. Open.

It’s even more surreal when he’s hears the fans whisper, “That’s Tiger’s replacement.”

Whitehead is the Rice University graduate who’ll make the professional debut this week, having made the U.S. Open field as an alternate after Woods withdrew due to injury.

“Everybody keeps calling me Tiger’s replacement,” Whitehead said. “I walk around the golf course: ‘Tiger’s replacement.’ I’m not Tiger’s replacement, I’m just the guy that got in when Tiger withdrew. Yeah, Woods and Whitehead in the same article. I’m glad he listened to his doctor this time.”

Even his fellow players during his practice rounds talk about it.

“I figure I got more press this way than if I just qualified,” said Whitehead, who was given his own solo news conference Tuesday at the tournament’s media center.

Whitehead graduated May 14 with a degree in sports management. He has the full complement of family and friends in town, with enough Rice connections that he’s dubbed Congressional the “Owls’ Nest.” He’ll start Thursday morning at the 10th hole, his jitters complicated by an opening par 3 tee shot over a lake.

“I don’t think they’re accentuated because of the hole,” he said. “They’re accentuated because it’s the U.S. Open and I’m about to hit my first shot as a professional in a real tournament. Hopefully I just make solid contact.”

MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES: So much has changed from when Ernie Els won the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1997. He has built a golf course in the area called Whiskey Creek. And he’s now a member at Congressional.

“I’m one of the guys,” he said.

Els doesn’t take advantage of his membership. The only time he came back after that U.S. Open was to play a PGA Tour event at Congressional in 2005. He played last week, but so did several other players in the field.

Still, membership at Congressional brings a little extra support. He said some of the members were cheering loudly for him when he teed off on No. 10 during a practice round.

So how did this membership come about?

“It’s easy,” Els said. “You’ve just got to win a U.S. Open.”

He also was made a member at Oakmont, where he won the U.S. Open in 1994.

PRESIDENTIAL VISIT: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III are going to the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Barrack Obama.

“It’s not my first time to the White House, but it’s my first time to meet Obama, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Mickelson said. “Amy is coming in early just for that.”

Obama and Mickelson both play golf left-handed, with one of them just slightly better than the other. Asked if he would give Obama a putting lesson, Mickelson said he was more interested in helping him with his basketball.

DIVOTS: One big difference between a U.S. Open and a regular PGA Tour event is the roping. For the AT&T National two years ago, as is the case at most tour events, the ropes to keep the gallery back are about 10 yards beyond the fairway. For the U.S. Open, they are closer to 30 yards in spots. That gives the U.S. Open room to allow for gradual heights of rough. … If one streak continues, another could end for Luke Donald this week. He has 10 consecutive finishes in the top 10, but he has yet to finish in the top 10 at a U.S. Open.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."