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Players wary of Kemper Lakes' finishing 'Gauntlet'

By Randall MellJune 26, 2018, 9:33 pm

KILDEER, Ill. – The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship lays out the possibility of some high drama at Kemper Lakes Golf Club late on Sunday.

All the trouble that lurks along the three finishing holes is getting the players’ full attention in practice and pro-am rounds this week.

They call it “The Gauntlet.”

It requires some steely nerves to close out a lead in the final round.

“I told my caddie I would rather be trailing, where I’d have to be more aggressive, than leading and be defensive,” Jodi Ewart Shadoff said. “Anything can happen on those holes.”

Mike Reid took a two-shot lead stepping to the 16th tee at Kemper Lakes in the 1989 PGA Championship. He drilled his drive right, into the water, made bogey and then also bogeyed the 17th. Payne Stewart beat him by a shot.

Jerry McGee was battling Hale Irwin down the stretch at the Ameritech Senior Open in 1997 when he finished with a pair of triple bogeys.

Ariya Jutanugarn doesn’t put driver in her bag very often anymore, but she said it was an easy decision this week.

“No chance,” she said. “Every hole is pretty tough. The last three holes, really, really tough.”

The 16th is 419 yards, the second-longest par 4 on the course. It looks like the longest with water along the entire right side of the hole, with a forced carry required with the second shot. The 17th is a 170-yard par 3, with water guarding three sides of the green. The 18th is a 384-yard par 4, with a tee shot over water and the approach over water.

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“The finishing holes are amazing,” Michelle Wie said.

Par’s a good score through that stretch.

“You make three pars, you’re going to gain strokes on the field,” Ryann O’Toole said. “I think it’s fun to have that kind of finish.”

Kemper Lakes is a par 72 that will play to a scorecard yardage of 6,741 yards.

With more than 4 inches of rain hitting the area last week, and with more rain falling Tuesday, the course is playing long, but there’s better weather forecast the rest of the week.

After a tough winter left Shoal Creek with turf damage for the U.S. Women’s Open last month, players are reveling in the lush conditions Kemper Lakes offers.

“The golf course is in wonderful condition,” PGA chief of championships Kerry Haigh said. “The putting greens are great, the grass cover is excellent. There are no issues there.”

Water can come into play on about half the holes. The fairways average about 30 yards wide, with the rough thick and expected to be topped off at 3 inches.

“The fairways are fairly generous,” Haigh said. “I think the rough will be pretty tough based on the amount of rain we’ve had. The greens are very large, a couple 50 yards in length, where there can be a two- to three-club difference depending on the hole locations.”

There are 76 bunkers.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful test,” Haigh said. “It’s a good, solid golf course. There are no tricks to it, it’s all there in front of you.”

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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.