Scott with best chance to claim first major

By Doug FergusonJuly 21, 2012, 8:36 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – The ball tumbled over the edge of a pot bunker and appeared to put Adam Scott in the worst spot he had been all day at the British Open.

All he saw was opportunity.

From the wet sand right of the 17th green, Scott had to clear two more pot bunkers to reach the green, with the flag only five paces from the edge. Scott was thinking about birdie, not trying to save par, so he confidently told caddie Steve Williams, ''I can handle this.'' The shot came out pure, trickled by the cup and settled a foot away.

The more relevant questions are one round away.

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Can he handle a four-shot lead, knowing this is a year when no lead appears safe? Can he handle a leaderboard with four major champions among the top six names, including Tiger Woods? Can he handle the wind that is expected to finally arrive at Royal Lytham & St. Annes?

''I'm just happy to be in this position,'' Scott said. ''To be honest, I'm really excited about tomorrow.''

Scott has never had a better chance to end his long wait for a major - and he owes much of that to his long putter. He stayed in the game early with two key par saves, pulled away with three birdies around the turn and was solid at the end Saturday for a 2-under 68 and a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker.

It's the fourth time in the last nine majors that a player had a four-shot lead with one round to go. Rory McIlroy at the 2011 Masters is the only player who didn't win. Scott has been so steady all week that he has put himself in position to become only the fourth Open champion with all rounds in the 60s.

''It was all pretty solid stuff, considering the circumstances and how much trouble there is on this golf course,'' Scott said.

Scott narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have given him a share of the 54-hole Open scoring record. He settled for 11-under 199 and will play in the final group with McDowell, who had a 67 to get into the final group for the second straight time at a major.

Snedeker, who went from a one-shot lead to a six-shot deficit in seven holes, birdied two of his last three holes to salvage a 73.

Right behind them were three major champions, starting with the guy who has won 14 of them. Woods recovered from a sloppy start and was within three shots of the lead on the front nine until Scott pulled away. Woods missed a short par putt on the 15th and didn't give himself many good looks at birdie on the back nine for a 70, leaving him five shots behind. Woods has never won a major when trailing going into the last round.

Three-time major champion Ernie Els was solid in his round of 68 and was six back, along with former Masters champion Zach Johnson, who had a 66.

Even so, the biggest challenge might be the weather. If the forecast holds true – and there's been no reason to believe that - the greatest defense of links golf could finally arrive with wind projected to gust up to 25 mph.

''It will be in Adam's hands tomorrow if the conditions are as straightforward as they have been the last few days,'' McDowell said. ''Throw a bit of wind across this course like perhaps they are forecasting, he will have to go and work a lot harder, and he will have to go win it.

''He's going to have to go win it anyway, for sure.''

McDowell was seven shots behind as he walked up to the 13th green and found three birdies coming in to get into the last group, just as he was at Olympic Club last month in the U.S. Open, where he was one putt away from forcing a playoff.

Snedeker opened this championship by playing 40 holes without a bogey, and then he couldn't buy a par. He had to blast backward out of a bunker, chunked a pitch shot from the fairway, missed short putts and was reeling.

Snedeker rolled in a birdie on the 16th and stretched out his arms in mock wonder, and then finished with a birdie that could bode well for Sunday.

''It's just one of those things where you've got to find out if you have some guts or don't,'' he said. ''I could have packed up and gone home today, but I didn't.''

Scott was becoming a forgotten star until he switched to the long putter in February of last year, and it has been the biggest reason for the turnaround - his runner-up at the Masters last year, winning his first World Golf Championship at Firestone, and now on the cusp of his first major.

Showing nerves on the opening tee, he hit into a bunker and played a beautiful shot from the back of the wet sand to 8 feet, holing the putt for par. Scott made another par putt from the same distance on the third hole. And in the middle of his run of birdies - including a 30-foot putt on the eighth – he escaped with par on the 10th hole by making one from 18 feet.

''To make a nice putt like that on the first and make par is obviously very settling,'' Scott said. ''And then to do the same thing on 3, that's been a hole that I haven't parred this week. From there on, I was very settled into the round and started hitting fairways and greens.''

He played it safe on the back nine, giving himself a few good looks, but mostly making sure he didn't get into position for big numbers.

''That's what I felt I needed to do,'' Scott said. ''I didn't need to take any risks out there.''

The only drama left at the end of the round was the size of Scott's lead and whether Woods could get into the final group for another reunion with Williams, the caddie he fired last summer in a split that remains acrimonious.

McDowell took care of that with a late surge, starting with birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

''I kind of felt the tournament perhaps slipping away from me a little bit and really had to dig deep for some patience,'' McDowell said. ''From about the 14th tee onwards, it's probably about as good as I've swung the club all week.''

Snedeker's bogey-free streak - the longest to start a major championship since at least 1995 - ended with a three-putt from just short of the fifth green, and it spiraled from there. With his ball a foot away from a 4-foot bunker wall, he played back toward the fairway and hit a superb pitch from 40 yards to escape with bogey on the sixth. After that, nothing went his way until the end of the round.

He will be in the penultimate group with Woods, who has rallied to win from five shots behind - but never in a major. It probably would help for the wind to arrive, although Woods is skeptical about the forecast. Perhaps his best chance is for Scott to struggle with his nerves while going for his first major.

''He's been out here a long time,'' said Woods, who once shared a coach (Butch Harmon) with Scott. ''And he's won a Players Championship. I don't think he's really done probably as well as he'd like to in major championships. But I think that he's maturing in his game, and I think over the last year or so he's really improved his game.''

Scott turned pro a dozen years ago and was billed as the young Australian who swung the club like Woods. He's poised to become the first Aussie since Greg Norman in 1993 to get his name on the claret jug.

But this has been a tough year for 54-hole leaders. Five players have rallied from deficits of at least six shots to win, a peculiar trend that Snedeker started at Torrey Pines in January.

''A four-shot lead doesn't seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I've watched,'' Scott said. ''That doesn't mean a lot. The good part is if I play a solid round of golf tomorrow, it will be very hard for the others to beat me, and that's all I'm thinking about.''

It's best that he not think about how his fellow Aussies have fared. Scott is the fourth Australian to have a 54-hole lead in a major dating to the 2007 Masters. None of the other tree – Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley and Norman – left with the trophy.

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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.”

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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.