Jeong Leads Futures Tour ILOVENY Championship

By Futures Tour MediaSeptember 8, 2006, 4:00 pm
Duramed Futures TourALBANY, N.Y. -- It's the final tournament of the season and second-year player Jimin Jeong said she tried to approach this week as a practice round for LPGA Qualifying to help minimize the pressure.
Of course, that strategy changed today when Jeong fired a 5-under-par 66 to take the lead in the $85,000 ILOVENY Championship. Jeong posted a round that included 15 greens in regulation, seven birdies and two bogeys -- both bogeys resulting from three-putt greens.
'My putting was good in the practice rounds, so I had confidence,' said Jeong of Kyungki, Korea, who earned her first win this summer in Lima, Ohio. 'I talked a lot to my mom [and caddie] about the read and speed on these greens. They're not too tricky.'
And Jeong's assessment of the greens at the Capital Hills at Albany course must have been on target as she rolled in putts from a range of five to 20 feet, with a chip-in for birdie from 45 feet on the 14th hole.
But for the player ranked 31st on the season money list to have a chance to move into the Tour's top 15 with the winner's $11,900 check on Sunday, Jeong couldn't help but allow her thoughts to drift back to the Tour's quickly culminating money race.
'I have won before and I don't think it was just luck,' said Jeong, of her victory in June. 'I'm trying to think about this as [preparation] for LPGA Q-School, but now, I'm thinking about moving up [the Tour's money list].'
Jeong doesn't have much breathing room, however, with second-ranked Charlotte Mayorkas of Las Vegas and Danielle Downey of Spencerport, N.Y., breathing down her collar one shot back at 67 (-4). Mayorkas, who turns 23 next Monday, wants nothing more than a chance to win her third Tour title this year and close the gap between herself and top-ranked Song-Hee Kim of Seoul, Korea, who carded an even-par 71. Downey, ranked 27th, wants nothing more than to win again and to win in her home state.
'This is the last event of the year, so I want to finish on a good note,' said Downey, 25, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member whose last win came in 2004 in Lima, Ohio. 'Obviously, everybody's thinking about the top five, but I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I'll just go out there and play.'
The Tour's 19th event obviously carries considerable weight this week. The top five money leaders at the end of Sunday's final round earn fully exempt 2007 LPGA Tour status. The next 10 players on the money list who are not already non-exempt LPGA Tour members automatically advance into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in December, avoiding the LPGA's sectional qualifying stages. Players who currently have non-exempt LPGA status will be skipped for the next available non-LPGA player.
And with her top-five status largely secured, Mayorkas admitted that having placed herself in the No. 2 position has made this week's final event less stressful.
'I feel really relaxed,' said Mayorkas, a San Diego native who played collegiately at UCLA. 'For me this week, it's more about trying to make putts to win the tournament than it is about trying to get into the top five. All I have to worry about is going out and playing my best.'
Tied two shots off the lead at three-under-par 68 is the trio of season winners Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Korea and Meaghan Francella of Port Chester, N.Y., along with seventh-ranked Allison Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich., who is trying to notch her first professional win. Francella is ranked eighth, followed by Choi, at No. 9. A win for any of the three could reshuffle the top five money-list positions.
'Sometimes I get tight out there and yeah, I feel the pressure, but as long as I'm playing golf and staying busy, I'm OK,' said Fouch, a non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour who has two runner-up finishes this season. 'It's easier to deal with it on the golf course. Maybe the pressure keeps me focused.'
Fouch posted three bogeys and one birdie on her first nine holes, but made the turn to the front nine and rolled in five birdies on the first six holes for redemption.
Choi missed only two greens in her round, but stayed patient on the front nine, where she had nine consecutive pars. On the back, she carded five birdies and two bogeys, admitting she feels the pressure of this week's event.
'I'm very nervous,' said Choi, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member and second-year player. 'I guess I don't want to make any mistakes right now.'
Francella said she spent most of today's round trying to focus on each individual shot. The non-exempt LPGA Tour member soared to two-over par after three holes, but settled down with five birdies and a 10-foot par save on the 15th hole to finish out her round on the hilly 6,121-yard municipal tract.
'I did a lot of work today staying in the present,' said Francella. 'And this week, that's really hard to do.'
Nine players are tied at two-under-par 69, including fifth-ranked Angela Park of Torrance, Calif., who is trying to hold on to or improve her position this week.
'I know this is a very important week and I want to do well,' said rookie Park, 18, who moved into the top five at the Tour's last event in Gettysburg, Pa. 'I think you have to be a little greedy this week and I know I need to make the putts that really count.'
One player, Katie Connelly of Beloit, Wis., was two-under par when one unfortunate swing landed her in the back of an ambulance heading to a local hospital. Connelly's tee shot on the 10th hole landed in a rocky area to the right of the fairway. Trying to punch out her shot, Connelly's ball struck a rock and ricocheted back, hitting the player squarely in her right eye. Connelly was treated and released from the hospital with a small fracture in the medial wall of her eye socket, a lesion on her cornea, and two tears in her iris.
'My eye is swollen completely shut,' said Connelly, reached by telephone, who was forced to withdraw from the tournament with an injury. 'I was in tears not because I'm in pain, but because I wanted to finish out the season. I was playing with Song-Hee and I was playing so well. This is just really disappointing.'
A total of 30 players carded scores of par 71 or better in today's first round.
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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray

On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard

On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”

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Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:07 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.

At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.

Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.

Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”

Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.

Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.

“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”

Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.

“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”

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Bubba thrives in his comfort zone

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:02 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – The 1:20 p.m. pairing Sunday at TPC River Highlands spanned the spectrum on the PGA Tour. In one corner stood science. Bryson DeChambeau, whose quantitative approach to golf seemingly knows no bounds, was looking to add another victory after winning a playoff earlier this month at Jack’s Place.

On the other side was art.

Bubba Watson doesn’t float golf balls in Epsom salt to identify minor imperfections. He doesn’t break out a compass to find the slightest errors in the Tour-supplied pin sheet. Even when he texts caddie Ted Scott, he prefers to use voice text rather than rely on his admittedly sub-optimal spelling.

But strolling along one of his favorite landscapes, Bubba the artist came out on top. Again.

Watson is in the midst of a resurgent season, one that already included a third victory at one of his favorite haunts in Riviera Country Club. It featured a decisive run through the bracket at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and a return to the leaderboards at Augusta National where he fell short of a third green jacket.

It only makes sense, then, that he’d build upon that burgeoning momentum at the Travelers Championship, where he earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and Sunday joined Billy Casper as the tournament’s only three-time champ with a final-round 63 to catch and pass Paul Casey.

This is a place where Watson can bomb drives by feel and carve short irons at will, and one where he officially put his stamp on the best season to date on Tour.

“His hand-eye coordination is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen,” DeChambeau said. “You’ve got me who was just struggling off the tee, and he’s just swiping shots down there. It was cool to watch. I wish I could do that. I probably could do that, but I just don’t feel like I’d be as consistent as he is.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Consistency wasn’t an apt descriptor a year ago, as Watson went from two-time major champ to completely off the radar. His world ranking, which began last year at No. 10 and is now back up to No. 13 after he became the first three-time winner this season, fell as far as 117th before his win at Riviera in February.

Watson attributes much of the turnaround to a change in health. Never really one to tip the scales, he lost 25 pounds in a three-month span last year while battling an undisclosed health concern. After putting some of the weight back on, he’s now able to focus more of his time and energy on fine-tuning one of the Tour’s most distinctive approaches.

“Anytime any of these guys kind of get comfortable with just being them, and golf is secondary in a sense, it helps them reach their potential,” said Scott. “I think the hype and the pressure can sometimes put things out of sort. And right now he’s just very comfortable with who he is as a person, and I think in his life. It helps him relax on the golf course.”

What Watson doesn’t prefer to mention is the equipment change he made that serves as a not-so-subtle line of demarcation. The southpaw turned heads at the end of 2016 when he agreed to play a colored Volvik ball on Tour during the 2017 season, only to watch his results fall off a cliff. A return to the Titleist ball he previously used has coincided with some of the best results of his 12-year career.

“I don’t think it has had any (role) in my success,” Watson said. “My clubs weren’t going the distance that I used to. I couldn’t shape it the way I want to. Luckily for me, I know the problem, and the problem was with health and not all these other things.”

But regardless of the true source of his turnaround, Watson is back to doing what he does best. That includes carving up the handful of venues that most fit his unique eye, be they lined by thick kikuyu rough outside Los Angeles or dotted with menacing water hazards outside Hartford.

The artistic touch was on full display with his final swing of the day. Facing exactly 71 yards to a pin tucked barely over the edge of a yawning bunker on No. 18, Watson laid the face open on his 63-degree wedge and hit a cut shot that spun and checked to inside 3 feet.

“Teddy put his arm around me, like, ‘That was an amazing shot,’” Watson said. “He’s seen a lot of shots, he’s been out here for many years. So for him to realize it, and other players to text me and realize it, it was special.”

While it seemed at the time like a shot that gave Watson a glimmer of hope in his pursuit of Casey, it ultimately turned out to be the final highlight of a three-shot victory. It’s the type of shot that few, if any, of his peers can visualize, let alone execute with such exact precision with the tournament hanging in the balance.

It’s the type of shot that separates Watson – the quirky left-hander with the pink driver who openly talks about his struggles with on-course focus and abhors few things more than trying to hit a straight shot – from even the best in the game when things are firing on all cylinders.

“The skills have always been there, as you know. But he’s just more relaxed now,” Scott said. “And when these guys, obviously when they enjoy it, they can play at their best and not get too stressed.”