Bunker Shots Big Tests

By Randall MellJuly 6, 2010, 5:17 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from mighty Oakmont to a Scottish test before the British Open.

LPGA TOUR

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U.S. Women's Open

There was once a golf 'massacre' at Winged Foot in the women’s game, too.

Back in 1972, Susie Berning won the U.S. Women’s Open there at 11 over par for the championship. 

With the U.S. Women’s Open being played at Oakmont this week, players are bracing for what could be another memorably punishing test. It seems almost a given that the event’s winning score will be over par for just the third time in the last 26 years. We just can’t be sure how punishing the U.S. Golf Association will dare to make it until play begins Thursday.

Basically, it will come down to how fast USGA officials set it up. Oakmont’s greens are among the most challenging in the world. Will they be manageable at 12 on the Stimpmeter? Or will the USGA push this test to the limit at 13.5, rivaling what the men faced there three years ago? Weather, of course, will play a factor. Patty Sheehan won at even par when the U.S. Women’s Open was played at Oakmont in ’92.

Bunker shot: Cristie Kerr, coming off her 12-shot romp at the LPGA Championship, is the overwhelming favorite. She isn’t a true bomber, but she’s one of the longest straight hitters on tour. What sets her apart is a velvet putting touch, maybe the best on tour. If she can win this week, she solidifies her legitimacy as the No. 1 player in the women’s game and begins a run to succeed Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa as the LPGA’s next dominant player. Kerr doesn’t lack the desire or temperament to dominate. The question is whether she’s reached another level and can muster her best more consistently.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jiyai Shin. Contender – Cristie Kerr. Darkhorse – Jee Young Lee.

  • Course: Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa. Par 71, 6,598 yards (Designed by Henry Fownes and opened in 1904).
  • Purse: $3.25 million (winner’s share, $585,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, ESPN, 3-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Eun-Hee Ji rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the final hole to defeat Candie Kung by a shot at Saucon Valley.

    PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

John Deere Classic

There’s a quality consolation prize up for grabs this week.

Anyone finishing among the top five who isn’t otherwise qualified for the British Open earns a spot at St. Andrews and next week’s major championship.

Bunker shot: John Deere Classic officials make the most of their tough spot a week ahead of the British Open by offering a non-stop charter flight for players who want to play both events. This year’s transcontinental fliers will include a batch of players who are capable of winning on both sides of the Atlantic. Steve Stricker, the defending champ at the John Deere Classic, has a seat on that charter if he wants it. Among others, so do 2001 British Open champ David Duval, K.J. Choi, Tim Clark, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry and Bubba Watson. The odds of somebody winning both events aren’t good. Though the John Deere Classic hasn’t always been played the week before the British Open, none of the 39 previous winners of the John Deere Classic has ever won the British Open.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Zach Johnson. Contender – Steve Stricker. Darkhorse – Jason Dufner.

  • Course: TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill. Par 71, 7,257 yards (Designed by D.A. Weibring and opened in 2000).
  • Purse: $4.4 million (winner’s share, $792,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., replay 8:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Steve Stricker fashioned a final-round 7-under-par 64 to beat Zach Johnson, Brett Quigley and Brandt Snedeker by three shots.

EUROPEAN TOUR

2009 European Tour

The Barclays Scottish Open

A lot of fuss is made that the European Tour doesn’t stage the event leading into the British Open on a links course, but the winner at Loch Lomond will carry the momentum of knowing he beat a quality field when he heads to St. Andrews for next week’s major.

Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell are among 10 players among the top 25 in the world competing.

Bunker shot: Mickelson nearly won this event three years ago, coming up short in a playoff with Gregory Havret. The confidence gained in playing so well in Scotland, however, didn’t translate in Mickelson’s British Open quest that year. Mickelson missed the cut at Carnoustie. Mickelson’s struggles at the British Open are well documented with just one top-10 to his credit in 16 tries in the championship. He was third at Royal Troon in ’04. His next best finish at the British Open? That would be a tie for 11th at St. Andrews in ’05.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Francesco Molinari. Contender – Phil Mickelson. Darkhorse – Soren Kjeldsen.

  • Course: Loch Lomond Golf Club, Glasgow, Scotland. Par 71, 7,149 yards (Designed by Doug Carrick and opened in 1971).
  • Purse: 3 million euros (winner’s share, $500,000 euros).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., replay 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-12:15 p.m., replay 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., replay 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Martin Kaymer posted four rounds in the 60s and defeated Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano by two shots.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide Tour

Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic

A field of 160 players will compete on two courses.

A whopping 10 sponsor exemptions get into this field, as do the top five players off the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark got a taste of winning claiming the Mexico Open Bicentenary in the last Nationwide Tour event and leaped to second on the money list behind Chris Kirk. Watch for a terrific battle for the tour money title into the fall.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Tag Ridings. Contender – Jamie Lovemark. Darkhorse – Hunter Haas.

  • Course: Georgian Bay Club (Par 71, 7,139 yards) and Raven Golf Club (Par 72, 7,105 yards), Thornberry, Ontario, Canada.
  • Purse: $800,000 (winner’s share, $144,017).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, 1-3 p.m., replay midnight-2 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m., replay midnight-2 a.m.
  • Last year: Roger Tambellini won by a four-shot margin over Blake Adams.
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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”