Inkster Will Be Seeing Doubles

By Lpga Tour MediaApril 21, 2003, 4:00 pm
LPGA logo for LeaderboardsSTOCKBRIDGE, Ga. ' If youre an LPGA player at this weeks Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez, whats more intimidating than staring down 28-time champion and LPGA Tour Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster? How about 3,000 mini-Juli Inksters, bobbing their heads as the real deal walks down the fairway as defending champion?
Thats the scenario this week at Eagles Landing Country Club near Atlanta as a stacked field of 144 players will be surrounded by Juli Inkster bobblehead dolls, a giveaway to the first 1,000 fans through the gates each day Friday through Sunday.
Dolls aside, Inkster really doesnt need any help in the intimidation department. The reigning U.S. Womens Open champion has not only won often, shes won the same events several times, which should make her a crowd and odds-on favorite this week at the 12th staging of the tournament.
Inkster has won nine different LPGA events more than once, and shes successfully defended titles five times. And she may be due for a back-to-back victory this week. The last title Inkster successfully defended was the McDonalds LPGA Championship, 1999-2000. But Inkster and her bobbling army will face some stiff competition.
The Chick-fil-A has pulled one of its strongest ever, with 49 of the top 50 on the money list scheduled to compete, including 2003 champions Wendy Doolan, Se Ri Pak, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Candie Kung.
In addition to Inkster, eight other players who have found success at Stockbridge Country Club are in the field - former champions Laura Davies (1995), Sophie Gustafson (2000), tournament host Nancy Lopez (1997), Barb Mucha (1996), Liselotte Neumann (1998), Dottie Pepper (1992), Val Skinner (1994) and Rachel Teske (1999).
Rounding out the field will be 13-year-old Michelle Wie, the sensational teen from Hawaii who will be competing in her fourth LPGA event. The six-foot eighth-grader set a few heads bobbing herself at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last month, earning a spot in the final pairing and eventually finishing tied for ninth, becoming the youngest player to make the cut in an LPGA event in the process.
Wie is competing in the event as a sponsor exemption, joining Linda Hunt, a Class A member of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division from nearby Newnan, Ga. Hunt also competed on the LPGA Tour for eight years, most recently in 1993.
Players, staff and fans alike are hoping the weather for this years Chick-fil-A will be better than 2002. Last years event was reduced to 36 holes due to inclement weather and unplayable conditions.
Eagles Landing Country Club received more than 2.5 inches of rain during the first and second rounds, and play was suspended a total of three times over the course of the two days. Despite the soggy conditions, an eagle landed at just the right time for Inkster during the final round.
Down two shots to Kelly Robbins, the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer sank a 10-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a 6-under-par 66 and 12-under-par total to top fellow Robbins by two strokes and earn her 27th career LPGA Tour win. It was a thrilling finish, to say the least. Inksters eagle came just minutes before playing partner Robbins tapped in a one-foot eagle putt of her own to finish at 134 (-10). Laura Diaz birdied two of the final four holes to make it an American sweep among the top three spots after a final round 69 put her at 135 (-9) and in third.
Statistical Preview of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship
Getty Images

Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

Getty Images

Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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

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

It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

Getty Images

Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

Getty Images

Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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

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

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”