Kean Defends at The Rail
Held for the 26th time at the Rail Golf Club in Springfield, Ill, the State Farm Classic is a full field event featuring 144 competitors who will tee it up Thursday in quest of their share of the $1,000,000 purse.
Defending champion Laurel Kean came into the week fighting last year.
Kean won a sudden-death playoff in the Monday qualifier to earn the final spot in the field then proceeded to record three consecutive rounds of 66 to walk away with the lions share of the purse. Her win made Kean, a former FUTURES Tour player, the first Monday qualifier in LPGA History to win an LPGA event.
The Rail Golf Course is rich in history. In 1969 Robert Trent Jones took an old dairy farm and designed the Rail Golf Course. The name itself came from the split rail fence that surrounded the dairy farm in the days when Abe Lincoln would stay there.
Jones created a course with large elevated undulating greens and open flat fairways and covered it primarily with Bentgrass - although the fairways are comprised of blue and Ryegrass.
Competitors this week will have to work hard to avoid the 80 bunkers and five water hazards Jones worked into his design.
No. 16, the Rails signature hole, is a tough little 165-yard, par 3 requiring deft execution off the tee to avoid the water hazard which runs along the entire right hand side of the green. The green itself is double-tiered with bunkers flanking all sides. This little par-3 could potentially be the site of some big scores.
Mi Hyun Kim will be one to watch. She won this event in 1999 at 204 (-12) and came in tied for second with Dina Ammaccapane after finishing with the same score of 12-under-par.
Of Kims 25 starts this season, she has recorded 12 top-10 finishes and earned over $700,272.00. The South Korea native finished in sole possession of 5th place at 12-under-par.
The State Farm Rail Classic, a former three-day event, begins on Thursday with the fourth and final round wrapping up Sunday.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.
Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.
Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.
Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.
There is, however, one running wager.
“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”
Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.
Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.