LPGA Back After Long Break
Trade winds have gusted to 40 miles per hour here on the Big Island, which should make for some interesting rounds once play begins on Thursday. And heres a surprise: Annika Sorenstam has blown in as well with victory in tow.
Last weekend Sorenstam outlasted Karrie Webb in a four-hole playoff to win the Australian Ladies Masters. Fifteen or so hours on a plane and Sorenstam begins her 2002 LPGA season trying to somehow match or better the eight-win, six-runner-up finish season of a year ago.
As for the win Down Under, Sorenstam told me it was 'fun and exciting to make the comeback in the final round.' Sorenstam began the final round four shots back of the lead, but caught Webb and eventually beat her in the playoff.
As for this week, Webb is not here. Shes still in Australia competing in the Australian Open. Canadian Lorie Kane defends this week, although not on the same course that she conquered a year ago at the Takefuji Classic. Last years event was played at the Kona Country Club, but Kane told me shes 'worked very hard on her game recently, and might just be a bit motivated by the Canadian hockey gold medals.' Those who know the LPGA Tour realize that Kane is more than able to win, regardless of familiarity with the golf course.
Also in the field are the likes of Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Swedes Carin Koch and Helen Alfredson, Grace Park and an interesting mix of younger players looking to establish themselves on tour.
Tampa's Beth Bauer makes her debut as an official tour member. The former Duke Blue Devil whos won just about everything as shes worked her way to LPGA Tour status is joined by heralded Natalie Gulbis from Sacramento, Calif., and Catherine Cartwright, whos gone from high school to the LPGA Tour.
But perhaps the most intriguing story of the week is a 12-year-old from Honolulu named Michelle Wei. Thats right, 12! The amateur became the youngest to ever Monday qualify for an LPGA Tour event, having shot 83 in the 40 mile-per-hour gusts to edge veteran tour players Leigh Ann Mills (84) and Jean Zedlitz (85). The other spot went to amateur Sally Soranka, who shot 79.
For the record, prior to Weis effort, now tour rookie Gulbis was the youngest to Monday qualify. She did it at the age of 14 at the 1997 Longs Drugs Challenge.
Being that they are amateurs, neither Soranka or Wei can collect on the $900,000 purse which will pay $135,000 to the winner.
This weeks Takefuji Classic is the first of 22 full-field events in 2002 that will pay out a total of $38.8 million. Thirteen official money events have announced purse increases this year, with the average prize money being $1.19 million.
Tiger putts way into contention at The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.
Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.
“I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”
The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.
Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.
“I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”
TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:
• THAT WAS AWESOME!
At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.
• Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.
• This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.
• One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.
• On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.
• Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.
• One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.
• In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”
Yes, yes it is.
Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open
It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.
Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:
Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.
Watch: Tiger makes 6 birdies, 1 amazing par in Rd. 3
Tiger Woods started the third round of The Open at even par, having made seven birdies and seven bogeys over the first 36 holes at Carnoustie.
Following three pars to start on Saturday, Woods went on a birdie binge.
No. 1 came with this putt at the par-4 fourth.
No. 2 with this two-putt at the par-5 sixth.
No. 3 thanks to this 30-footer at the par-4 ninth.
No. 4 after nearly jarring his approach shot on the par-4 10th.
No. 5 when he almost drove the green at the par-4 11th and two-putted, from just off the green, from 95 feet.
And No. 6, which gave him a share of the lead, came courtesy another two-putt at the par-5 14th.
Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th to drop out of the lead and almost dropped - at least - one more shot at the par-4 18th. But his tee shot got a lucky bounce and he turned his good fortune into a par.
Woods shot 5-under 66 and finished the day at 5 under par.