Minjee Lee (65) thrives in difficult conditions at Skirts

By Randall MellApril 22, 2016, 10:17 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – Cold slaps in the face didn’t slow Minjee Lee’s steady march up the leaderboard Friday at the Swinging Skirts Classic.

That’s what it felt like playing through spells of the second round, with bone-chilling winds blowing rain sideways across Lake Merced Golf Club. Gray, somber skies rolled low across the Bay area all morning, sweeping away smiles and uncertain shots.

Lee, though, kept riding all the momentum she built coming here.

Her round of 7-under-par 65 was four shots better than anyone else in the morning wave. Just eight players broke par in the morning while six players shot in the 80s. She was a shot off the lead with the afternoon wave just getting started and weather beginning to improve.

“It’s just momentum,” Lee said. “It’s just timing. I came off a really great win last week, so I should have a lot of confidence and momentum coming into this week.”

Lee, 19, is seeking back-to-back victories. She won the Lotte Championship in heavy winds last week in Hawaii. She closed out there impressively with a 64 for her second LPGA title, but she says she has never really considered herself somebody who thrives in bad weather.

“It depends on how you're feeling and how you're hitting it on that day,” Lee said. “I don't think you can say, ‘Oh, I'm so good in bad weather.’ You just take it as it comes and try your best, I guess.”

There were challenges staying warm and dry Friday.

Full-field scores from the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

“It was on and off rain,” Lee said. “I was putting my rain jacket on and off and on and off.”

Lee is looking to make it four consecutive victories for teenagers playing the LPGA. Before Lee’s victory in Hawaii, 18-year-old Lydia Ko won back-to-back events.

There would have been great vibes coming here for Lee even without last week’s victory. She won the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Lake Merced, topping a talented field that included Ko, Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Alison Lee.

“It was like my first time in America, after all my junior years in Australia,” Minjee said. “I was really excited because I was here.”

Minjee beat Alison Lee in the finals.

“I have really great memories here,” Lee said. “I really love the golf course, and I think it's always in great condition.”

Lee’s scorecard Friday didn’t include a dropped shot on a day when scorecards were littered with bogeys. The winds were up and rain was falling almost from day’s start for the morning wave, and Lee still hit 12 of 14 fairways and all but two greens in regulation.

“I just took advantage of the opportunities I had,” Lee said. “I had a couple of wedges into some of the par 4s on the back nine, which was my front nine, and I had like three birdie chances that were, I don't know, 5 or 6 feet because I hit wedges in.

“I just stayed patient. If I made a mistake, I tried to make up-and-downs. I just chipped and putted well today.”

Lee was part of last year’s dynamic LPGA rookie class, probably the strongest and deepest in the history of the tour. She was the world No. 1 amateur when she turned pro in September 2014 and three months later shared medalist honors at LPGA Q-School. She didn’t wait long to break through for her first LPGA title. She won the Kingsmill Championship four months into her rookie season. A month after Kingsmill, Lee moved past Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as the highest ranked Australian in the world. Lee is No. 12 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week and looking to crack the top 10.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.