Easy Does It at Mercedes

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 12, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- With Tiger Woods out of the office, Ernie Els had to work a little Sunday at the Mercedes Championships to grab a quick million-dollar jump on the worlds No. 1.
With the trade winds laying down again, Els carded his highest round of the tournament, a 6-under 67. Still it was more than enough to hold off K.J. Choi, who wasnt able to duplicate Saturdays course-record 62 and had an even-par 73.
Els watched a four-stroke lead dwindle to one, but birdied four of his final five holes to stroll into the winners circle.
Els finished the season-opener at 31-under-par 261, a PGA Tour 72-hole record in relation to par.
'It's an unbelievable week for me,' Els said. 'With no wind, I felt totally in control.'
John Huston won the 1998 Sony Open at 28-under par, as did Mark Calcavecchia in the 2001 Phoenix Open; though, Joe Durant was 29-under through the first four rounds of the 01 Bob Hope, a 90-hole event.
David Duval held the previous 72-hole tournament record at 26-under.
Choi missed a four-foot birdie putt at the last to share second place with Rocco Mediate at 23-under, eight behind Els. Mediate shot 10-under 63 Sunday.
The victory was especially gratifying considering Els last two trips to Kapalua.
He lost to Woods in a dramatic playoff in 2000, and then blew a four-stroke lead midway through the 2001 tournament in losing to Jim Furyk.
'I didn't think anything owed me, but it certainly gave me a lot back this week,' he said. 'The golf course gave me everything back. Now that I lost by close margins, this makes it feel much better.'
Els has now won $3 million in his last two tournaments played. He captured the $2 million first-place prize in the unofficial Nedbank Challenge in November.
He won in Sun City using Taylor Made clubs. This time, for the first time, he used his new set of Titleists.
Despite being among the games elite since winning his first U.S. Open in 1994, Els has never topped the PGA Tour money list. His best finish was third in 2000.
Woods has won the money title the last four years, but is out of action for the first month and a half while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
'I didn't miss him,' Els said with a laugh. 'He can take another month off.'
But even if Woods had been in the field this week, he would have had difficulty keeping pace with Els, who opened in 64-65-65 on the par-73 defenseless layout.
Thanks to a double bogey on the 17th Saturday, Els entered the final round on the Plantation Course with a slight edge over Choi.
The two were but a blur to the rest of the field, however, as no one was within four strokes of the South Korean.
The difference was still two as the final pairing played the par-4 sixth, where Els made birdie and Choi made bogey. The advantage was instantly four, and all Els had to do from then on was to keep his footing.
He stumbled with a bogey at the par-4 seventh, though, when he pulled his approach shot long and left of the green.
He then had to make a 12-footer for par at the eighth when his tee ball landed in the back, right greenside bunker.
For the first time all week, he failed to birdie the par-5 ninth. And when Choi birdied 10 and 11 the lead was down to one.
'I said to Ricky (his caddie), 'We just need to step it up, start playing our game, and really go after the course again,'' Els said.
Els gave himself a little breathing room by making birdie at 12, took a deeper breath when Choi missed a six-footer for par at 13, and then fully exhaled after a two-shot swing at 14.
Els made birdie, Choi made bogey, and only the record book remained.
'It kind of turned very quickly, like it did yesterday afternoon when I was looking like maybe taking a five- or six-shot lead, then I made those mistakes coming in. Today it went the other way,' Els said.
After hitting a 400-yard drive, Els two-putted from 10 feet on the par-5 15th to get to 29-under. He made a third straight birdie at 16, and finished with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
For the week, he played the par-5s in 16-under. But perhaps more impressively, he played the par-4s in 15-under.
'This golf course was just perfect for me this week,' he said in a vast understatement.
Related Links:
  • Ernie Els Bio
  • Full-field scores from the Mercedes Championships
  • Full coverage of the Mercedes Championships
  • USGA/Chris Keane

    Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

    Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

    Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

    “The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

    Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

    Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

    “Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

    The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

    “It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.

    Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

    Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

    On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

    On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

    “I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

    A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

    “Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

    The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

    The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

    “He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

    Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

    Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

    Getty Images

    Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

    By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

    INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

    When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

    ''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

    It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

    But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

    The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

    And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

    She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

    Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

    Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.

    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

    ''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

    Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

    Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

    Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

    And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

    Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

    Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

    After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

    ''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

    Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

    She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

    ''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

    Getty Images

    Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

    By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

    GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

    Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

    The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

    Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

    Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

    Getty Images

    Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals

    By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

    After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.

    Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

    Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

    Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

    The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.