FedEx Cup payday would be sweet redemption for Stenson

By Jason SobelSeptember 20, 2013, 11:47 pm

ATLANTA – Henrik Stenson leads the Tour Championship by four strokes entering the weekend, halfway to a dynamic double that would include not only the tournament victory, but the FedEx Cup title, too.

Sweeping both would net a cool $11,440,000 paycheck. And don’t be fooled: No matter how many zeroes a jetsetting golf star has in the bank account, that number is enough to make any of ‘em take notice.

For Stenson, it would nearly double his not-so-paltry $13,072,285 in career PGA Tour earnings.

But it would mean so much more than the usual rich-get-richer nature of this playoff system.

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It would be karma. Redemption. Maybe even some indirect restitution.

You see, Stenson once heavily invested in Stanford Financial, a banking group which in early 2009 was found guilty of $8 billion in fraud. Its former chairman, Allen Stanford, is currently serving a 110-year prison sentence while other top executives from the company have endured similar punishments.

As for those bilked out of their assets, it quickly became a no-win situation.

Stenson was reported to have lost investments well into the seven figures when the investigation was made public four years ago.

'[It is] not all my money, but I have quite a big part of my own savings and investments with them,' he said at the time. 'It's a very unfortunate situation. I'm a victim as everybody else in that big thing.”

There may be no direct correlation between these personal concerns and his on-course performance, but facts are facts. When the story of Stanford Financial’s massive fraud broke, Stenson was ranked sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking. Within two years, he had dropped all the way to 230th.

Much to his credit, Stenson doesn’t blame the loss of his game on the loss of his savings. Nor does he point to this week’s potential windfall as an opportunity to recover what he once innocently and involuntarily surrendered.

“It's a personal matter,” he explained, “but I'm not struggling by any means.”

Even being 36 holes from the largest payday in professional golf doesn’t have him salivating over rebuilding his bank account – and then some. At least not publicly.

“For me, it's more important to leave here with two trophies,” he continued. “I mean, at the end of the day, it's just money, isn't it? I care more about the two trophies than I do the $11 million, that's for sure.”

He’s currently the clubhouse leader to claim the hardware and the cash.

With scores of 64-66, he not only leads second-place Adam Scott by four strokes, he is projected to take the FedEx Cup trophy by 1,250 points.

As if the other 29 players in the field weren’t demoralized enough by Stenson’s ball-striking prowess so far, on Friday he did it with just 13 clubs in the bag. Prior to the round, he noticed that the face had caved in on the top groove of his 4-wood. Without a replacement or time to get it fixed, he simply removed it from the bag and spotted the field one club.

It didn’t matter.

He opened with birdies on the first two holes and added three more against just a single bogey. His scoring was so precise that he didn’t hit triple-digit strokes for the week until the back-nine on Friday afternoon.

“It might have been a good thing that it wasn't in the bag,” he said. “I mean, it worked out fine without it, but the one occasion I would have used it was 9 for sure on my second shot, but I managed to make 4 anyway. So no harm done.”

When asked whether downsizing to 12 clubs might give his fellow contenders a fighting chance, Stenson played along.

“We could do that,” he replied. “Which one could we take out? I haven’t hit the 4-iron much this week.”

There have been a lot of laughs already this week for Stenson, renowned for his quick Swedish wit. It wasn’t so long ago that he wasn’t laughing at all, bamboozled out of his savings and flailing on the golf course.

That was only four years ago, but seems like much longer. He’s now all smiles, potentially on his way to a $11.44 million fortune by Sunday afternoon.

Not that he’ll admit to thinking much about it.

Like he said with a smile on Friday evening, “Money is [just] paper, right?”

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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.