The Open is wide open

By Jason SobelJuly 13, 2011, 2:33 pm

SANDWICH, England – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Anyone can win this week’s tournament.

On second thought, don’t stop me.

Yeah, I know. It’s the same refrain prior to every event – and especially before the majors. It’s wide open. Anybody’s ballgame. There’s no telling who might win.

Not that we were lying on those other occasions, but this time we really mean it. Seriously. The Open Championship is more open than any other recent championship.

Don’t believe the hype? Let me count the ways…

Deep field

This may sound a bit disingenuous coming off a week in which the top-ranked player in the field won on both the PGA and European tours, but we are firmly ensconced in the Age of Parity.

Three players have won multiple PGA Tour events so far this season, none more than twice. Only two have won more than once on the Euro Tour – and each of them (Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel) own a victory in the United States at a co-sanctioned event.

“Well, I think when you look at the field, you're going to see there's probably 130 guys that could win this week, [that] have a legitimate chance,” said Ben Curtis, who won here at Royal St. George’s in 2003, the last time this tourney was contested here. “You're going to take here and there 20 that may not be feeling well or their game is really bad or whatever coming in, but pretty much anyone in the field can win this week. It's just a matter of having the right things go your way and making a few putts.”

Hey, he should know. Speaking of which…

Recent history

This course has held a dozen previous editions of the Open, yielding some of the tournament’s greatest champions.

Harry Vardon. Walter Hagen. Bobby Locke. Greg Norman.

And then there was Curtis. Nothing against the 2003 winner, but as a PGA Tour rookie with no prior top-10s to his name and the 396th-ranked player in the world, he was one of the biggest major surprises ever, becoming the first man to win his initial major start since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

Horses for courses, right? Well, this one has proven that quirky, uneven fairways, imaginative bunkering and, as five-time champion Tom Watson proffered, “the most complicated greens and the most severe greens that we play in Open golf,” tend to level the playing field.

Luck of the draw

Lucas Glover owns a major championship. There’s nothing that should or could diminish that accomplishment.

Then again, had the USGA randomly decided to place him in the early-late wave of the 2009 U.S. Open – originally playing Thursday morning and Friday afternoon – he may not own such hardware. As you’ll recall, torrential rains during the early part of the first round at Bethpage left the morning wave struggling to post decent scores, as a large majority of those who made the cut came from the late-early draw, like Glover, who parlayed good fortune into a great result at week’s end.

That’s just one example. It’s hardly a unique circumstance, either, as weather conditions often play a large part in scoring – and at the Open, such conditions can change considerably during the course of the day.

And that’s exactly what the whispers are about beforehand. According to early forecasts, the windiest conditions will come early Thursday and late Friday, meaning a tougher draw for favorites such as Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, while an easier road may be paved for the likes of Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson.

“The draw is a huge part of the Open,” concurred 1999 winner Paul Lawrie. “You hopefully get the luck of the draw and get the better part of the weather.”

Vagaries of links golf

What is the most important aspect of a player’s game this week? According to Watson, it’s the long game.

“You have to drive it well,” he said. “There’s a premium on approach shots on this golf course – the weighted shot, getting the shot the right distances, is going to be a very difficult thing to do. … Hitting the ball the right way is very critical. It’s typical of a links golf course.”

Not to disrespect Old Tom, but many other players polled have contended that this tournament will turn into a short game contest, with the sharpest flatstick determining the overall champion.

Then again, perhaps it’s less technical than mental, as the way a player deals with adversity could lead to his ultimate result.

“At the end of the day, we’re all going to play 72 holes and everyone is going to have a few bad bounces,” said Robert Karlsson, who has finished 14th or better in each of the past two years. “It’s more about how you react to it and handle it.”

So there you have it, golf fans. This week’s winner will need to drive it well, own a precise iron game, hole plenty of putts, have the right mental fortitude, overcome 155 worthy challengers, and – yes – get a little lucky, too.

Hey, it’s like I said earlier. This Open is wide open.

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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.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

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.