Notes: Stenson falls just short

By Doug FergusonJuly 21, 2013, 10:56 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Even after he made back-to-back bogeys to fall out of a tie for the lead, Henrik Stenson never thought he was out of the British Open.

Ian Poulter had posted a 1-over 285, and Stenson was 1 over with five holes to play.

He just had no idea Phil Mickelson in the group ahead of him was piling up so many birdies down the stretch Sunday at Muirfield.

''All of a sudden, I saw he was 2 under and I was three back with only two holes to go,'' Stenson said. ''So I said to my caddie when I made the birdie on 17, 'Maybe I can hole the second shot on 18 and get into a playoff.'''

Wishful thinking. Stenson could hear the crowd roar for another Mickelson birdie on the 18th that put Lefty at 3-under 281. The Swede with the slick sense of humor turned to his caddie again and told him, ''A hole-in-one is pushing it, I think.''

Stenson finished strong with a par, and his consolation prize was a silver medal. He closed with a 70 to finish three shots behind, alone in second place, for his best finish in a major. Stenson twice tied for third in the Open, though he was six shots behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008, and eight shots behind Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews two years later.

This time, he has a serious contender, one of four players to have at least a share of the lead on Sunday at Muirfield.

''Very happy with the performance,'' Stenson said. ''We're getting closer. I've got two thirds and now a second. We all know what we're longing for.''

Stenson, coming off three poor years brought on by illness and injuries since he won The Players Championship in 2009, is certainly headed in the right direction. He moved up to No. 20 in the world ranking.

''I've done some great improvements this season, getting back into form,'' Stenson said. ''I know it might sound silly, a bit stupid to say that I didn't feel like I'm that overly confident with some parts of my game. But I still managed to keep it together. I've played this golf course very good, I think. Even though I made a few mistakes, I haven't made some big mistakes that kind of put me out of the tournament.''


ATTENDANCE DOWN: Get this, the R&A believes the weather might have actually been too sunny and warm for the British Open.

Looking to put a favorable spin on a nearly 12 percent drop in attendance compared with the last Open at Muirfield in 2002, tournament organizers said advance sales were strong but not as many fans bought tickets at the gate. The weeklong tournament drew 142,036, compared with a turnout of 160,595 the last time it was held at this course near Edinburgh.

''We are pleased with this attendance,'' the R&A said in a statement. ''We believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay-at-the-gate customers. That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather than we did on Friday, which is normally the busiest day.

The weather was sunny most of the week, with temperatures generally in the 70s. It was overcast on Sunday, with highs only reaching the 60s.

Attendance for the final round was the highest of the week - 29,247. But that was still lower than all four rounds in 2002, when crowds exceeded 30,000 each day.

Organizers also noted that two other major sporting events may have hurt attendance - the Tour de France, won by Chris Froome in the second straight triumph for a British rider, as well as the Ashes cricket test between England and Australia.


SCOTTISH PROUD: No winning press conference at the British Open is complete without at least one provincial question.

One Scottish reporter had asked Phil Mickelson a week ago where he ranked his victory in the Scottish Open against all the other wins in his career. With the claret jug at his side, the reporter asked him to rank the British Open against the others.

''Winning Castle Stuart, at the time, was a big win for me,'' Mickelson said. ''But in seven days, it has gone down considerably.''

Another writer asked Mickelson if he had any Scottish heritage in his surname.

''I don't know,'' Mickelson said, and then said in his best (or worst) Scottish accent, ''I don't know. Maybe a wee bit.''

Another reporter went asked what took Mickelson so long to figure out how to play links golf. Instead of referencing Mickelson playing in his 15th British Open, he pointed out that Mickelson played a Walker Cup at Portmarnock and once said he was inspired by the links of Lahinch.3eee n

Yes, the reporter was Irish.


PAR SHOOTER: Padraig Harrington made 54 pars at the U.S. Open, and he made 50 pars in the British Open on a tough Muirfield course. That's usually the kind of golf that contends in major championships. Of course, it helps to make a few birdies along the way. That's where the Irishman was in short supply.

He only made six birdies in each championship.

Leave it to Harrington to realize during the final round Sunday that he had not made a single birdie on a par 3 or a par 4 the entire week. He desperately tried to change that, but his final chance was a 20-foot putt on the 18th that narrowly missed.

''And not to make a birdie on a par 4 or par 3 the whole week, what are the odds of that?'' he said. ''Seriously, what are the odds of that? You wouldn't have to be very good to at least stumble into a birdie at some stage.''

Harrington closed with a 70, making two birdies - on the par 5s, of course - and only one bogey on the par-3 13th when he pulled his shot into a bunker.

There were no bogey-free rounds all week at Muirfield. Harrington did not realize that during his final round, and he wish he didn't know when it was over.

''Really? Now you've upset me,'' he said. ''It would have been nice to achieve something.''

Out of the tournament, Harrington was chasing his own little goals. And so what annoyed him Sunday was missing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th. He was trying to play the final round without a 5 on his card.


VALUABLE LESSON: Matthew Fitzpatrick figures golf can only get easier from here on out.

After winning the silver medal as top amateur at the British Open, the 18-year-old said, ''I can't imagine any other amateur event ever being as hard as the course we've played this week.''

Fitzpatrick shot a 1-over 72 at Muirfield on Sunday to finish 10 over, five shots better than fellow amateur Jimmy Mullen.

''He doesn't miss many shots, hits it straight,'' said playing partner Fred Couples, who's nearly three times Fitzpatrick's age. ''As he gets bigger, he'll hit it a little further, but he hits it plenty far.''

Fitzpatrick's week on the big stage began with him being mistaken for Tiger Woods' ball-carrier on the range. It ended with him being labeled the next big thing in British golf. And like one of his predecessors, Luke Donald, he'll head to Northwestern University outside Chicago to play college golf.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain fired 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.

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).


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Local favorite Yu Liu was in sole possession of seventh place 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.

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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.


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"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."

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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.


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"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."

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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.