Sunday Nervous Sunday

By Mercer BaggsJune 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
Its Sunday. Its a major. Youre in contention.
Even your nerves are nervous.
Phil Mickelson
The pressure of trying to win a major championship can get the better of even the best players.
Theres nothing quite like being in one of the final groups in the final round in a major championship. Its a feeling every player would love to experience. But one which not everyone knows how to handle.
How do you handle this, the biggest day of your professional career?
It varies from player to player. Its based in personality. It can depend on experience.
You ask a hundred different guys and youll get a hundred different answers, said Brad Faxon. I dont think theres any right or wrong way to handle it.
The waiting may be the hardest part.
Before last years U.S. Open, Retief Goosen was up before 8:00 in the morning. The 54-hole leader, he wasnt scheduled to tee off until seven hours later.
He said he tried to bide his time by playing with his son and watching movies: Alien 3 or whatever it was. Ghostbusters, he said with a laugh.
Jim Furyk tried a similar routine when he was in Goosens position a year prior.
It was a little tougher than I expected, he said after winning the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. The worst part about today was the 3:00 tee time, and waking up at 8:00, 8:30 in the morning ' trying to figure out what I was going to do to kill the time until 12:30, 12:45 when I wanted to leave for the golf course.
I watched a movie this morning. My daughter was running all over the place. But I was pretty much quiet, and I think my family sensed that I was tight this morning. No one really said a word to me, and that was probably all the better for me, because I was pretty nervous.
That same year, Chad Campbell found himself in the final twosome alongside Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship.
Campbells recipe for wasting away the day is simple: I like to sleep as much as I can, he said.
But even he found his preferred method of killing time an impossible endeavor when contending on a major Sunday.
You have all that extra time to deal with, he said. Even I cant sleep that long.
That was Campbells first experience in such a situation, which means he may better know how to manage the day when it comes again.
Ernie Els has had plenty of those days. The first one came in the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
I think I had a two-shot lead. Obviously, I was very nervous, he said. Youre always pretty nervous. Youre pretty tense.
Faxon also felt the nerves and the tension in '94, when he held a share of the 54-hole lead at the British Open. He couldnt keep his mind from racing that Sunday. He finished with a 3-over 73 and tied for seventh.
Youre thinking about the fact that you want to get out there and play. Youre thinking about how youve played. Youre thinking about what you want to do. Youre thinking about everything, he said.
At some point during the day, prior to actually hitting that first official shot, the nerves will subside. Theyll wear themselves out and need an early-afternoon nap. But theyll be back.
Because after youve settled down a bit, had a bite to eat, hit a few balls; its go time.
Then not only do you have to find a way to appease those reawakened nerves; you have to execute golf shots under the most extreme conditions.
Probably the most difficult thing about it is the emotion, said Sergio Garcia. Although you might be in contention, you might have a chance to win; youre going to get excited. But you dont want to get too excited.
Even the most experienced and accomplished players get overly anxious when trying to win a major championship. And even they cant put those nerves in a box and hide them away. Instead, theyve learned to try and embrace the edge.
I think that you never really get comfortable, but you start to enjoy the nervous feeling, that excitement, that uncertainty, said 2004 Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Instead of fearing it, you start to enjoy it.
Such a transformation can only come through experience. Thats why you expect Goosen to win come Sunday evening, and not Olin Browne or Jason Gore.
The former knows what it takes to win a major championship. He knows how to handle those nerves. He knows how to keep his composure. And he knows these things because he's experienced it all before ' time and time and time again. And he's overcome it.
Its putting yourself there many times, said nine-time major champion Tiger Woods. If you put yourself up there, youre going to have failures. But then again, if you put yourself up there enough times, youre going to have successes, too. The whole idea is to put yourself there time and time and time again. Eventually, the odds are in your favor.
The more youre in it, the more comfortable you get, said three-time major champion Vijay Singh. You get butterflies, but you kind of focus in on what youre doing.
Of course, experience in these situations is no guarantee for victory. Just ask Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis or Shaun Micheel.
Nerves can be overwhelming. They can override all other faculties. See Tiger playing the final two holes of regulation in this years Masters. See Justin Leonard trying to close out last years PGA Championship. See Els and Singh and Norman and Palmer, and even Sorenstam at some point in their careers. Even the greatest of the greats had to let their nerves and the pressure of winning a major championship get the best of them at some point. Regardless of what we are led to believe, Jack Nicklaus didnt always make every putt he had to.
As Micheel, the '03 PGA champion, said: I think the fear of the unknown frightens all of us.
Its Sunday. Its a major. Youre in contention. Even your nerves are nervous.
Now how are you going to handle it?
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”