Bunker Shots Cajun Style

By Randall MellApril 20, 2010, 8:27 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from Cajun country to a giant slayer’s Jeju Island home.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Just three of the top 30 players in the world will tee it up when play begins Thursday at the TPC at Louisiana, but there is plenty of story power, if not star power.

No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 6 Ian Poulter are the highest ranked players in the field, but there are compelling stories to be told if Sergio Garcia, David Duval and John Daly can get themselves in contention. Should any of them win, it promises to make fascinating reading.

Bunker Shot: Love him or loathe him, Garcia is among the most charismatic players in the game. The sport’s better when he’s on leaderboards. That’s the problem. He isn’t finding his way onto them this year. In 2008, when Tiger Woods failed to record enough starts to qualify for the Vardon Trophy, Garcia claimed the award with the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour. Through his first six stroke-play starts this season, he’s 158th in scoring (71.43), 136th in greens in regulation and 129th in putting average. He’s looking for his first top-10 finish in stroke play since the Dubai World Championship last November.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Charles Howell III. Darkhorse – Bubba Watson.

  • Course: TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, par 72, 7,341 yards (Pete Dye design, player consultants Jerry Kelly and Steve Elkington).
  • Purse: $6.4 million (winner’s share, $1,152,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. and CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Jerry Kelly (14-under 274) finished a shot better than Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi.

Ballantine’s Classic

Y.E. Yang is the story on the European Tour this week.

Fresh off his victory last week at the Volvo China Open, Yang heads home to play at Jeju Island, his South Korean home, where he’ll always be remembered as the guy who beat Tiger Woods in a major. The momentum and home cooking make Yang the man to beat, but there are strong challengers with Ernie Els, Anthony Kim and Henrik Stenson in the field. Kim is also a European Tour member who ranks 10th in Race to Dubai points.   

Bunker Shot: Ernie Els, for so long the world traveler, makes his first appearance of the year outside the United States this week. After winning back-to-back events in Florida, Els seemed to have found the joy in his game again. That’s what made his struggles at the Masters so disturbing. It wasn’t so much the way the course beat him up, but the way he beat himself up afterward. He was dejected over how Augusta National had broken his heart yet again. Will the depression linger over his game? This week will be telling as to what kind of summer may await Els.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Anthony Kim. Contender – Y.E. Yang. Darkhorse – Peter Hedblom.

  • Course: Pinx Golf Club in Jeju Island. Par 72, 7,345 yards (Designed by Ted Robinson)
  • Purse: 2,205,000 euros, about $2.9 million (winner’s share, 366,660 euros, about $494,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET
  • Last year: Thongchai Jaidee (4-under 284) defeated Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and Sung-hoo Kang in a playoff.

Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf

The Fred Couples show rolls into Savannah, Ga., this week.

Couples makes his first appearance as a “legend” and will team with Jay Haas in the 54-hole best-ball team event. Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton also are making their debuts. Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman are back as defending champs.

Bunker shot: Ken Green makes his return to competition after that devastating crash in his RV took so much away from him last summer. He lost his lower right leg in the accident and will play with a prosthetic leg with Mike Reid as his partner. Whether the duo gets in contention or not, it promises to be heart-tugging action. Green lost his girlfriend, his brother and his dog in the crash. Green’s also motivated by the fact that the Champions Tour turned down his request for a medical extension. He’s dependent on sponsor invites to play this Tour.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples/Jay Haas. Contender: Bernhard Langer/Tom Lehman. Darkhorse – Denis Watson/Eduardo Romero.

  • Course: The Club at Westin Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga. Par 72, 7,087 yards (Designed by Robert Cupp and Sam Snead).
  • Purse: $2.7 million (winner’s share, TBD).
  • TV times: Friday, Golf Channel, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET; CBS, Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.
  • Last year: Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman won in a playoff, defeating Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler when Langer holed a 45-foot birdie at the first playoff hole.

South Georgia Classic

This week’s event marks the quarter mark of the season, the seventh of 28 events.

Bobby Gates is the Nationwide Tour’s leading money winner with $161,960. At 7,781 yards, Kinderlou Forest is the longest layout on the Tour, about 300 yards longer than any other course.

Bunker shot: Who leads the money list is a big deal on this tour but so is the guy who holds down the 25th spot with the top 25 earning PGA Tour cards at season’s end. Brian Vranesh holds that final spot this week, but there’s plenty of movement in and out of the top 25 every week. David Hearn leaped from 54th on the money list last week to 10th this week with his runner-up finish to Kevin Chappell at the Fresh Express Classic. For every player who moves into the top 25, somebody’s feeling the pressure of moving out.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Chris Kirk. Darkhorse – Marco Dawson.

  • Course: Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Ga. Par 72, 7,781 yards (Designed by Davis Love III).
  • Purse: $625,000 (winner’s share, $112,500).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, Golf Channel, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, Golf Channel 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Garth Mulroy won at 13-under 275, finishing a shot ahead of Chris Tidland.
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.