Fearless Spieth meets scariest Sunday in golf

By Randall MellMay 11, 2014, 12:59 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Fearless Jordan Spieth meets the most fearsome Sunday in golf.

This ought to be fun.

Spieth, competing in his first Players Championship, begins the final round tied for the lead with Martin Kaymer. A month after losing a final-round duel to Bubba Watson at the Masters, Spieth is back in the mix in another elite event.

“Augusta left me feeling a little hungry for it again,” Spieth said.

Just 20, Spieth will be looking to become the youngest winner in the 41-year history of The Players Championship. He’ll be looking to become just the fourth player to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event in his first try, thrusting him into a small club that includes Jack Nicklaus, who won the inaugural championship in 1974.

How fearless is Spieth? He hasn’t made a bogey over his first 54 holes in this event. He’s the only player in the field who hasn’t made a bogey this week. In fact, he’s the only player besides Greg Norman in 1994 who has played the first 54 holes of this championship without a bogey.

Full-field scores from The Players Championship

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That’s absurd. Rory McIlroy has made 10 bogeys and two double bogeys this week.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really done that in a tournament, even going back to junior days,” Spieth said.

Spieth’s caddie loves the fearlessness in his player.

“When Jordan comes to a golf course, he’s not intimidated,” Michael Greller said after the first round.

This might be the matchup of the year.

No, not Spieth vs. Kaymer, though nobody should be dismissing Kaymer, not as solidly as he’s striking the ball.

It’s the kid who doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything against the scariest Sunday in golf.

That’s the compelling matchup, because make no mistake, that’s what The Players Championship is for Sunday contenders. It’s the most frightening championship to close out because there is so much potential calamity awaiting mistakes.

You get it going wrong under final-round pressure at the TPC Stadium Course, and a loss turns into a collapse quicker than anywhere else.

Pete Dye designed a mausoleum of misery for contenders who become pretenders.

Nobody exposes fear and swing flaws more than Dye does on a Sunday here.

Just ask Sergio Garcia. He was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods stepping to the 17th tee on Sunday last year and dumped two balls in the water and made quadruple-bogey 7. He followed that with a double bogey at the 18th.

Or Alex Cejka. He opened the final round with a five-shot lead in 2009 and closed with a 79, finishing eight shots behind the winner, Henrik Stenson.

Or Kenny Perry. He started Sunday a shot behind Paul Goydos in the final pairing in ’08 and shot 81, with Garcia winning.

Or Sean O’Hair. He led by a shot going into the final round in ’07 and knocked two balls in the water at the 17th, making a quadruple-bogey with Phil Mickelson winning.

Or Len Mattiace. He was one shot behind Justin Leonard stepping to the 17th tee in the final round in ’98 and dumped two shots in the water, making quintuple-bogey 8.

There’s more, but you’ve got the idea.

This isn’t just the test for Spieth. It’s the test for Kaymer. It’s the test for every player with a chance on Sunday.

With Tiger Woods out with an injury, golf’s been waiting all season for a star to break out. If Spieth makes The Players Championship his second PGA Tour title, this just might feel like the official arrival of the next American star.

The way Spieth closed out Saturday should give him a load of confidence come Sunday.

Spieth showed he can’t just get it up and down from anywhere on the planet. He can get it up and down from hell, because that what Dye creates here, so many hellish lies. Spieth leads the field in scrambling. He’s 16 for 16 getting up and down to save par this week.

Kaymer held off Spieth most of Saturday, until making bogey at the 18th, where Spieth saved yet another par to create a 54-hole tie for the lead.

“It’s very tough to beat those guys that don’t make mistakes,” Kaymer said.

Spieth missed four of the last six greens Saturday without tainting his scorecard.

“It was really ugly coming in, but somehow I did it,” Spieth said.

At the 16th, Spieth looked like he might finally make his first bogey, but he got up and down from behind the green, holing a 5-footer for par. At the 18th, after hitting his drive in the woods, he punched out, leaving himself 56 yards to get up and down for par. He did it, coolly holing a 12-footer from the fringe for par.

“I’m very excited,” Spieth said. “This is the position I wanted to get into in another big event.”

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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.