Players Ready for Relaxed MCI Heritage

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
The PGA Tour seasons first major championship has officially been decided and there are 10 more weeks until the next one.
Its time to decompress.
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink is trying to become the third player to win at least three MCI Heritage titles.
The tour heads from the ultra-tense grounds of Augusta National to the relaxed and friendly confines of Harbour Town Golf Links for the MCI Heritage.
It's more of a family-type atmosphere for us, said Players Championship winner Fred Funk. I've come off two high pressure, high intensity tournaments, and you come to a golf course that is fun to play ' it rewards you when you play well; it's not tricked up, doesn't have the windmills and loop to loops on the greens. You can go out there and feel like if you play really well you get rewarded.
I think in that regard, it does relax you a lot, and the relaxation disappears when you get in contention this week. When you get down to Saturday and Sunday and you're at the top of the leaderboard, all of a sudden it's a different story again.
The 48-year-old Funk, who is 23rd on the Official World Golf Ranking, is one of the higher-ranked players in this weeks field. None of the top 10 players are in attendance; though, No. 11, Stewart Cink, is the defending champion.
I don't know who's here and who's not here, Funk said. I mean, everybody is tired, playing the TPC and the guys that played Atlanta got worn out with the weather there and waiting in the locker room has been getting old, and then you go to Augusta; the guys that played there are worn out. It's been a tough year.
I think everybody is just taking a deep breath hoping Mother Nature is going to cooperate a little bit and we can finish these tournaments. It would be nice to go four straight days in a row with no delays, and we haven't had that this year. I think guys are reevaluating their schedules, looking at where they're going to go in the future and try and figure it out.
Mother Nature has been kind of the MCI Heritage recently, with only one round being suspended due to inclement weather over the last 11 years.
However, nine of the 15 events on the PGA Tour schedule this season have been shut down at some point due to the elements.
The Nissan Open was reduced to 36 holes because of inclement weather. An entire days play was washed away at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Players Championship and the BellSouth Classic were forced to finish on Monday. And it took all four days to get everything straight last week at Augusta National.
The tour seems to be traveling with nimbus clouds in tow.
Or maybe its just Zach Johnson who is bringing with him the bad weather. Johnson has played in every event thus far this season which has been affected by Mother Nature.
And hes teeing it up once again this week.
Of course, thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursdays opening round.
Last year on Hilton Head Island, it was breezy and cool throughout the week, with temperatures never extending beyond 76 degrees ' and not a single drop of rain.
Stewart Cink won the event for the second time in his career, which is a theme at this event.
There have been 36 MCI Heritage tournaments and only 24 different winners. Cink is one of six players to have twice conquered Harbour Town Golf Links, a relatively short (6,973 yards), shot-makers layout. Hale Irwin has won it three times; Davis Love III has done so on five occasions.
Cinks second triumph, though, was not without controversy.
Cink, who hadnt won since the 2000 MCI Heritage, fired a final-round 7-under 64 to overcome a nine-stroke deficit and tie 54-hole leader Ted Purdy (73) at the end of regulation.
After trading pars over the first four holes of sudden death, Cink birdied the fifth extra hole ' the par-4 16th ' after playing an L-wedge from a waste bunker to 6 feet.
It should have been one of the happiest moments of Cinks professional life. Instead, it was the most bittersweet.
Cink had removed pieces of crushed coral behind his ball, using his finger to brush these loose impediments away and apparently improving his lie. But because a waste area is not a hazard, Cink was allowed to do so under the Rules of Golf.
Despite reviewing a tape of the incident nearly 10 times with rules officials and being found guilty of nothing illegal, Cink was nonetheless criticized. And Purdy, who wasnt clear on exactly what happened until all was said and done, was a little hot after taking a look at the tape himself.
When I saw the video tape on Monday morning ' I wasnt privy to it Sunday night ' it just made my gut sink, Purdy said while preparing for the following weeks tournament, the Shell Houston Open.
On the par-4 15th in regulation, Purdy was positioned in a similar waste area, just 70 yards from the hole, and was unable to advance his ball to the green. He made a costly bogey.
If I had interpreted the rules the way Stewart had, I would have drawn a line under my ball and hit the ball cleanly and knocked it on the green and, at worst, made par in regulation, he said.
This was a hot topic for about a week until it finally flamed out. Fortunately, things worked out well for both players.
Purdy went on to also finish runner-up in the B.C. Open and ended the year 36th on the money list, allowing him to keep his card and earn an invitation to his first Masters Tournament. Cink went on to win the WGC-NEC Invitational ' the biggest triumph by far in his career ' in convincing fashion and made the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Last years playoff was the fourth at this tournament in the last six years. In 2001, Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair, but did so on Monday. The lone weather interruption over the last decade came the Sunday of that tournament. It delayed play for over one hour and darkness eventually forced an extra day of play./
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    Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

    Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

    “On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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    Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

    His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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    Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

    Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

    Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

    Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

    Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

    Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

    Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

    Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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    JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

    Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

    “It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

    Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

    Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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    But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

    “He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

    Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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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.”