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Korda (repaired jaw), Kang (broken tooth) contending in Singapore

By Randall MellMarch 1, 2018, 2:41 pm

Jessica Korda’s rebuilt smile is getting a workout in Singapore, while Danielle Kang is successfully following a “grin and bear it” formula after breaking a tooth there.

They both opened with 4-under-par 68s to get on the leaderboard Thursday at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

They are three shots behind Jennifer Song, the former brilliant amateur looking to break through and win her first LPGA title nine years after claiming both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links championships.

Michelle Wie is two shots off the lead.

Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Brooke Henderson and Sung Hyun Park are with Korda and Kang three back.

Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng opened with a 70 while world No. 2 Lexi Thompson struggled to a 75. Thompson is just .098 behind Feng in the Rolex world ranking averages.

Full-field scores from the HSBC Women’s World Championship

Korda is in early position to try to claim back-to-back titles. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand last week in a remarkable return to the tour after having 27 screws inserted into her skull in a painful and complex double-jaw surgery in the offseason.

Korda, who turned 25 on Tuesday, said she had to relearn how to smile after the surgery successfully realigned her jaw to alleviate severe headaches.

“My cheeks actually do still hurt,” Korda said of all the smiling she did winning in Thailand. “The muscles are still a little tired.”

Kang, 25, had plenty to smile about in the first round despite a broken tooth. She said she fell asleep stretching before the first round and woke up discovering she had broken molar.

“No idea how I chipped it,” Kang said.

Kang called her dentist, who told her as long as the tooth wasn’t bothering her that she should not worry about it. He’ll fix it when she gets back to the United States.

It didn’t take Kang long to get herself in the mix with a bogey-free round. She devoted herself to some hard work in the offseason in a bid to add to her breakthrough victory last season. She made her first LPGA title a major championship winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last June.

“I worked harder than I ever worked during the offseason,” Kang said. “I've put on muscles. I've put on weight, and I'm hitting it farther, and I'm definitely feeling that my game is there and I trust my game more.

“I want to be in the winner's circle again. I got a little taste of it, so I want more, obviously.”

Kang showed at Olympia Fields last summer what she can do with a lead on a big stage, closing out strong in the final round. Her offseason work was about giving herself more chances to win.

“Playing more consistent,” Kang said. “That's what I wanted at the end of the day, more than just about winning. My goal was definitely to be in contention more.”

Song finished well Thursday, taking sole possession of the lead in a bogey-free round. She shot 31 on her final nine holes, with birdies at three of her last four holes. She hit all but two fairways on the round, and all but one green in regulation.

Back in the summer of ’09, Song was a big deal in amateur golf. She was low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open and then won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links championships. She went on to win two Symetra Tour titles – it was the Futures Tour back then – but has been waiting for her LPGA breakthrough victory.

“At times, it has been a great struggle, because I know I can win out here, but I just never have been given that chance yet,” Song said. “But I’ve kept believing that someday it will happen.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”