Rose a gentle man in a gentleman's game

By John FeinsteinJune 28, 2014, 10:41 pm

BETHESDA, Md.  Justin Rose’s eyes were hidden by sunglasses as he came off the 18th green at Congressional Country Club on Saturday, but there wasn’t much doubt that they were smoldering with some anger.

He had just bogeyed the treacherous par-4 finishing hole, which took the edge off momentum-building birdies at 16 and 17 and dropped him from one shot out of the lead to  before the day was over  three shots behind Patrick Reed after 54 holes of the Quicken Loans National.

“Made a really good up-and-down at 16 (for birdie) and a good birdie at 17,” he said shortly after signing for an even-par 71. “I felt like I was competing really well. It was disappointing to finish like that at the last. It’s a little challenging when they put the tees back and forth and back and forth. From the up tee you feel like you’re hitting it down the left tree line  dangerously left  and I just bailed out a little bit.”

Even after that last bogey, Rose will go into Sunday tied for fifth on a leaderboard that has no other major championship winners among the top 10 and only one other player  Marc Leishman, who is a shot ahead of Rose  who has ever contended late on Sunday at a major.

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“I really enjoy this kind of golf course,” Rose said. “I love this kind of golf where eight or 10 under is probably going to win. If you play well the way I did (Friday) you’ll get rewarded. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably pay for it. The best thing you can do is accept the mistake and move on.”

The only time Rose didn’t do that Saturday was on the vexing 11th hole, when he missed his drive left and, instead of laying up and accepting a bogey, tried to get the ball on the green. He found a bunker, made double bogey and admitted later he’d forgotten his mantra.

Everyone knows that Rose plays well on difficult courses. He proved that  once and for all a year ago at Merion when he was the last man standing at a U.S. Open in which no one matched par for 72 holes. Winning that Open put Rose in a different category of player and a different category of celebrity. He has handled the celebrity flawlessly. The golf has been a little more difficult. He hasn’t won since Merion.

“It’s a longer spell than I’d like but I’ve had chances,” he said. “It’s not like this is the first chance I’ve had for a while. I know I’ll have a chance in the near future again, too. I know that if I’m playing well, I’ll create plenty of chances. I feel like my season is only really beginning to get going. I feel comfortable with my game for the first time so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.”

Rose defines the phrase, ‘gentle man.’ He has dealt with triumph and disaster throughout his golf career and followed Kipling’s advice and treated the two imposters the same.

Well, almost. There was no doubting the joy his victory at Merion gave him although, unlike Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, who were made Members of The British Empire (MBE’s) after their major championship wins, Rose still hasn’t received that honor.

“Doesn’t really bother me,” he said, smiling. “But it would certainly be a nice honor.”

For a long time Rose was known primarily as the 17-year-old who finished fourth in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998 after holing out from left of the green for a birdie on the 72nd hole and then turned pro and missed his first 21 cuts. Even after he had become a very successful pro, it appeared that might be his enduring legacy. When 19-year-old Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick was paired with Rose for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open earlier this month, he was asked what he knew of Rose’s performance at Birkdale.

“To be honest, what I know more about are the 21 missed cuts,” he said. “No offense to Justin but that’s what I remember most.”

Rose doesn’t take offense to that but he does remember it. He was more than happy when his legacy changed forever after his victory at Merion. He has also put his new-found celebrity to very good use. Several years ago, he and his wife Kate started “Blessings in a Backpack” in Orlando  where they now live  to help provide nutritious food for homeless kids. Since the Open they have started the “Kate and Justin Rose Foundation,” which has built on "Blessings in a Backpack,” and now feeds 1,600 kids every weekend.

Rose turned down a request Saturday to sit in the CBS booth after he finished playing, saying he and Kate had plans for the evening and needed to get going. No doubt that was true. But it was also pretty clear that he wanted to get what became a very difficult golf course late Saturday behind him and get ready for Sunday.

What Rose wants most right now is to be ready to play in the Open Championship in three weeks. He has never finished higher there than that fourth-place finish. And, while he knows that a strong finish on Sunday will give him a nice confidence boost when he heads to Europe next week, he would very much like to end the 12-months-plus winless spell.

In two weeks he’s planning to play the Scottish Open, something he hasn’t done in past years. “Phil (Mickelson) winning there and then winning at Muirfield last year got my attention,” he said, smiling. “I figure it’s worth giving it a try and see what happens.”

Maybe if the formula works and Rose wins in Liverpool he will get the Royal Family’s attention and finally get that MBE. He is certainly worthy of it.

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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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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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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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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.”