LPGA's heavy-hitters set their sights on Founders Cup

By Randall MellMarch 14, 2017, 11:34 pm

PHOENIX – Cue the fireworks.

Marriott Wildfire Golf Club hosts the LPGA American home opener this week, the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, with the game’s top players looking poised to deliver another shootout in the desert.

Sei Young Kim was a human fireworks show here a year ago, winning with a 27-under-par total, equaling Annika Sorenstam’s record for the lowest 72-hole score in LPGA history.

Kim will be looking to repeat against a strong field, with nine of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, and 16 of the top 20, in the field. Shanshan Feng is the only top-10 player who isn’t here.

“I have a new goal,” Kim said. “I want to shoot 28 under and break the record.

“I love this course. It’s going to be fun.”

The stakes are elevated with so many of the game’s best already rounding into form coming into just the fifth event of the year.

“It’s the same cast of characters that have started out playing so well,” said Judy Rankin, the Hall of Famer and Golf Channel analyst. “There are five or six, maybe eight players that kind of drive each other.”

Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko is looking to heat up after an offseason of sweeping changes, with No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and a host of other stars looking to challenge for the top spot. Ko’s reign at No. 1 has reached 73 consecutive weeks, but her once large margin at the top is beginning to shrink. Ko has lost almost six points off her world ranking average since her last victory eight months ago. She’s just 1.8 average points ahead of Jutanugarn this week.

There’s more than one player pressing to overtake Ko.

“There’s no Big Two or Big Three,” said Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz. “There are five to eight and maybe a few more capable of winning without their best stuff, and that’s pretty incredible.”

Ko is still adjusting to a new swing coach, new equipment and a new caddie. The year’s first major championship looms just two weeks away. Ko will be defending her title at the ANA Inspiration.

“If all these players stay in the mix, it could be one of the great major championships ever for the LPGA,” Rankin said.

Ko is looking for her first victory since the Marathon Classic last July, and she’s coming off a pair of top-10 finishes in Asia.

Jutanugarn finished second at the HSBC Women’s Champions in the last LPGA event, and she tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open last month.

Ha Na Jang won in Australia, her fourth LPGA title in 13 months.

Brittany Lincicome, a two-time winner of the ANA Inspiration, won the season opener in the Bahamas.

And then there’s Hall of Famer Inbee Park. She served notice she’s ready to challenge Ko again for the top spot after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions.

“Inbee at the top of the leaderboard and winning has given all of those other players, your Lydia Kos, your Ariya Jutanugarns, your Lexi Thompson, everybody, pause for thought: 'Oh, she’s back! That’s the Inbee of old,’” Golf Channel’s Karen Stupples said. “It’s good to see that she’s healthy and back to full strength.”

Count Thompson, Feng, In Gee Chun and Brooke Henderson in this battle for No. 1. They’re all in the field this week.

And don’t count out Stacy Lewis, who got into contention in the Bahamas, finishing third. Lewis, 32, is just three years removed from sweeping the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy and money-winning title. Wildfire looks like a favorable place for her 12th LPGA title, her first in 33 months. She has a victory, two seconds and a T-4 in her last four starts on this course. She’s also proven at the ANA, where she won the first of her two majors in 2011.

Rankin sees the competition for the game’s biggest prizes only getting more interesting with players pushing each other to new heights.

“It’s impressive that they imagine getting even better than they were,” Rankin said.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”