Golfs Playing Field Level Now

By George WhiteFebruary 24, 2005, 5:00 pm
Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington are here in the States this week. So is Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Thomas Bjorn, Ian Poulter, Joakim Haeggman and Graeme McDowell have flown over. So have Trevor Immelman and Alex Cjeka.
Out in Carlsbad, Cal., they all have gathered from the European Tour for the first big clash of the biggies of golf. They, among several others whose home was originally in Europe, will swap shots with the Americans on hand at La Costa for the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play. Thats a dozen European Tour stars who are among the top 65 in the world, leading some cynics to wonder what kind of statement it makes about the American game.
Phil Mickelson knows. Its painfully obvious to anyone who cares to check out the situation on one very important world stage.
It's really not that surprising given our Ryder Cup performance, is it? Mickelson said. That they're up on top, it's not surprising to anyone.
Not just the European Tour stars are here, but so are the Australians, the Japanese, South Africans, and several other international stars. Some would say that the American game is in a state of decline. Mickelson, though, doesnt see world golf through an American flag. He sees it through a United Nations flag. Just because American dominance has declined somewhat doesnt mean the game is any less interesting, he says.
No, no, not at all, Mickelson believes. I'm a fan of the game of golf, not just American golf. I like to see it grow throughout the world, and that's what it's been doing, and it's been evident in the performance of so many international players.
I think that the quality of the golf across the world, international golf has improved greatly, not just in the UK, but in Australia and Asia; different parts of the world it's improved vastly. '
These world gatherings take place several times a year now. There are four of these World Golf Championships. There are the four major championships. And there is the Players Championship, the PGA Tours party which might be the grandest of them all.
Of course, Americas best havent been very inclined to cross the ocean, either the Atlantic or Pacific, to participate when the confab changed venues. Mickelson is among the guilty. He points out that he has a young family to look after, and a trans-oceanic trip takes him away from home for three weeks just to play one tournament. But he does think the Match Play, for instance, does try to accommodate the Yanks when it is moved around.
When it was moved to Australia, they did a couple of things to accommodate it, such as having the following week tournament in Hawaii, which made it a lot easier, he said. So I would probably do that, yes.
But he, like the absent Ernie Els and countless other world players, would like to see some changes made in the format which would guarantee a losing player more than one round. The way the Match Play is currently configured, a player might come 8,000 miles just to play 15 or 16 holes and be knocked out on opening day. Surely, Mickelson says, there are ways to ensure against that eventuality.
In my perfect world, I would like to see the format slightly altered, he said. I'd like to see the first three rounds - 54 holes - Wednesday through Friday, played stroke play and knock it down to the top eight.
Then I wouldn't have a problem going anywhere throughout the world to do that because I'd feel with 54 holes of stroke play you can have that first round not be perfect and still get in the top eight. And I feel like it gives the top players a little bit better chance of getting into the match play format for the weekend I wish it would go to that. I understand why it doesn't, but I just would feel more comfortable traveling around the world with a format closer to that.
Most of the Internationals are staying in America to play in Florida for the next month. But certainly not all of them ' some have no choice but to return to Europe or Japan or Australia. And if this tournament were moved to, say, South Africa, then everyone would be in danger of the quick one-and-done. Most would only play three days. Only a very fortunate few would get through to Saturday.
It makes Americans seem awfully insular when given the option of moving this particular tournament around the world. But maybe they really arent. Maybe this tournament needs to be tweaked a little so everyone can enjoy three days of golf ' Americans, Brits, Australians, South Koreans, South Africans ' everyone.
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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.