Sunny Oh Wins FUTURES Tour Lid-Lifter
Oh edged rookie Chella Choi (70) of Seoul, South Korea and Kim Welch (71) of Sacramento with a birdie on the last hole at Cleveland Heights Golf Course. In regulation, the former University of Nevada-Las Vegas star saved par from 10 feet on the 16th hole, rolled in a birdie putt from three feet on the 17th, and then chipped in from 20 yards on the 18th hole to grab the lead.
But she had company on the leaderboard. Choi also birdied the 18th with a 25-foot birdie, followed by second-round leader Welch, whose 'thin miss' with a 56-degree wedge landed three feet from the hole to set up her birdie to join the three-way playoff.
When the three players returned to the 18th tee for an extra hole, Choi's approach rolled through the green to the back rough. Her chip skidded six feet past the hole and she made par. Oh's approach was short of the green and landed in the short front fringe. Just as she had done in regulation, the resident of Manhattan Beach, Calif., drained her birdie attempt to put the pressure on Welch, whose approach rested seven feet away from the hole. Welch's birdie chance seemed destined to drop. Instead, it rolled past the hole to give Oh the victory.
'Everything finally came together,' said Oh, a native of Seoul, South Korea. 'It has been hard for me and I've struggled a lot for four years, so this means so much.'
To trace her path, Oh, who turns 25 next week, was a rising star on the fast track at UNLV. She was the 2003 Mountain West Conference (MWC) Freshman of the Year, a two-time All-American, the 2003 NCAA West Regional Championship winner, the 2004 MWC Conference Player of the Year and a five-time collegiate winner, including the 2004 MWC Championship. After two seasons at UNLV, Oh turned pro and left college in 2004.
By all indications, she was a young woman with a bright future. That is, until a truck rear-ended her in Las Vegas that same year and left her with a lower-back injury and a right-ankle injury that required surgery. After that, Oh limped through her pro start and nursed an aching back that finally sent her home last May for the entire season. She made three cuts in seven events and packed it in.
'When I turned pro, everything was good, but after the accident, I was in pain and I didn't have the distance,' she said. 'It was like I quit golf.'
In four mostly partial seasons on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Oh never posted a top-10 finish before today, recording a career-best tie for 13th in 2006. But after spending the second half of last year strengthening and resting her back, she returned to the Tour this year full of hope. She had finally spent the time she needed to heal. She married Clifton Lin six months ago and settled down in Southern California. She also gave herself a deadline to play better this year or figure out something new to do with her life.
'This is big because I have been waiting for so long and just trying to get stronger with my back,' said Oh.
While she says her back is still sore, Oh played like a woman on a mission this weekend. With two chip-ins from 20 yards on both the 11th and 18th holes in today's final round, she needed only 26 putts. Oh held off both long-hitting Welch and Choi, a 17-year-old rising rookie star, with the same poise that she used to have as a fearless college player. Welch and Choi rallied in their own attempt to win a first professional title, but this time, Oh came out on top.
'I'm happy with my performance and I'm going to work really hard for my next chance to win,' said Choi, the former Korean National Team member who finished 14th last year in a Korean LPGA Tour event.
'I'm getting closer,' said Welch, whose tie for second with Choi is her career-best finish. 'My goal this year is to be consistent and start the year out strong, so I feel great about this.'
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.
Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.
Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.
Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.
There is, however, one running wager.
“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”
Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.
Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.