Stricker grabs lead on cold rainy day at Riviera
Johnson’s 8-iron from 152 yards landed between the pin and the famous bunker in the middle of the green at No. 6, spinning back into the cup for an ace that put him in the lead for most of the afternoon. He had two holes remaining when play was halted by darkness.
Stricker, playing in a morning rain that never relented, chipped in for birdie on the 18th and nearly made an ace on No. 4 when his hybrid from 230 yards lipped out. He shot a 6-under 65 and had the clubhouse lead.
“I’m very happy to be done with the round, to tell you the truth,” said Stricker, who was at 10-under 132. “It was pretty miserable out there today.”
Johnson, also 10 under after making his lone bogey on the 15th, was to return early Saturday to face the par-5 17th and the 473-yard closing hole at Riviera, which was playing so long in the cold and rain that some players barely reached the green with a 3-wood.
Johnson and Stricker were three shots clear of Andres Romero, who had three holes remaining. Forty-one players failed to finish the second round.
Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player to win three straight years at Riviera, had a 66 and was at 4-under 138 after starting the day in a tie for 83rd.
Padraig Harrington, in his first tournament of the year, was 2 over with two holes to play. He was on the par-5 17th, where he hit a tee shot that went only 204 yards.
Darkness came early because of the gray clouds, and completing the second round in such conditions was impossible. Players had to spend extra time on every shot to wipe off the grips of their clubs and the brims of their hats. Late in the day, the maintenance crew had to roll water off the soaked tee boxes.
That made the performance of Stricker and Johnson even more remarkable.
“Dustin Johnson is 11 under,” Paul Goydos said in amazement as he walked off the 11th tee. “That’s like being 47 under through three rounds at the Hope (Classic).”
Ahead of him was Stephen Ames, bundled in rain gear and making light of the gloomy conditions.
“I don’t play golf for money. I play golf for fun,” Ames said, breaking into a smile. “And this is not fun.”
Johnson, who opened with a 64 for a one-shot lead, caught the brunt of the weather. Temperatures dipped into the 50s F (low teens C), and with the steady rain and soaked conditions, some players couldn’t carry their tee shots much more than 225 yards.
“I don’t like it, but do I mind playing in it? No,” Johnson said. “Everyone has got to play in it. Hitting it a long way helps, too, because the course is by far the longest I’ve ever seen this course play.”
Johnson is not one to get excited, and explained his ace on No. 6 thusly: “Probably my best shot of the day. Hit 8-iron and made it.”
If anyone can handle the rain, leave it to Johnson. He won at Pebble Beach last year when the tournament was cut to 54 holes because of rain, and at Turning Stone in 2008, which was slowed by rain early in the tournament.
The forecast was for more rain overnight, and throughout Saturday.
Stricker, the runner-up at Riviera last year, left the course with no idea when he would hit his next shot. He was four shots ahead of anyone who had finished the second round, with Kevin Stadler (71) and Tim Wilkinson (67) at 6-under 136.
Stricker played in the same group with Anthony Kim, who drove onto the par-4 10th green to open his round and managed eight birdies in his round of 66 to finish at 5-under 137, along with Steve Marino (67) and Ricky Barnes (71).
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''
Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss
Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.
Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.
"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."
At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.
Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.
"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."
Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win
South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.
Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.
Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.
“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”
Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.
“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”
Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.
“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”