With Harmon's help, Pettersen a winner again

By Randall MellJune 8, 2015, 12:13 am

Suzann Pettersen tends to win in bunches.

You can look it up.

When she wins, she can become a raging fire, consuming whatever’s in her path.

Her first victory under her new swing coach, Butch Harmon, couldn’t have come at a better time Sunday at the Manulife LPGA Classic. Pettersen will head to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week radiating with confidence. It’s the first of three major championships scheduled over the next eight weeks.

Harmon loved what he saw watching Pettersen end a 19-month winless drought.

“Suzann’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around in the golf business,” Harmon told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview after her victory. “She’s very conscientious about her work. She puts in the time, and she loves the work. It’s great to see her get the benefit of all that hard work.”

It was Pettersen’s first victory since she went to work with Harmon last December. He watched the new swing they’re building together hold up under final-round pressure on the back nine at Whistle Bear Golf Club. After squandering an early lead, Pettersen eagled the 12th hole and then birdied two of the final three holes to beat Brittany Lang by a shot.

“I think something you’re going to see the rest of the year is that Suzann really believes in herself now,” Harmon said. “She was kind of lost when she came to me in December. She was lost with her golf swing, and she was lost with her confidence. She is 100 percent confident now. She really believes in the things she’s doing, and this win is just going to give her more confidence."

Pettersen made a bold move late last year. Nearing her 34th birthday, she decided to start over.

She left her swing coach, David Leadbetter, who helped her groove a swing that brought her to the brink of one of her dreams, to within hundredths of a point of the Rolex No. 1 world ranking. She won five times with Leadbetter in 2013, including her second major, the Evian Championship. She put on a clinic at Evian, knocking down flagsticks in a brilliant ball-striking performance. As a team, they were on fire together that fall.

There were frustrations, though, trying to follow up in 2014. There were setbacks.

There was Pettersen’s nagging back injury, and there were confidence-jarring final-round failures with chances to win at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and LPGA Championship. She squandered chances to win those majors closing with a 75 and then a 76.

Nearing that 34th birthday, Pettersen knew time was beginning to tick on her desire to finally reach No. 1, to win more majors and to win a gold medal with golf returning to the Olympics next year. She has been No. 2 behind four different players in the Rolex world rankings without being able to reach the top. There was great frustration in that. And while she has won two majors, she has finished second or third in nine others. She burns for a gold medal and knows if she doesn’t win one this next year, she’ll be 39 the next time the Olympics come around.

“She’s on course to accomplish all those things,” Harmon said.

Late last year, Pettersen decided it was “now or never” if she was going to make a big change. She huddled with Greg Norman and Darren Clarke in a pro-am in China in the fall of 2013. She picked their brains about Harmon, and then she asked for his help.

“I’d always been very curious about Butch,” Pettersen said.

Harmon limits his stable, but he welcomed Pettersen aboard.

“I have only good things to say about Butch,” Pettersen said after hoisting the Manulife trophy.  “He's been a great inspiration to me, to take my game to a new level. He definitely has the belief, and he's no sugar coater. He gives me what I need every single time, and what we've done so far is good. This is, hopefully, just a start.”

The KPMG Women’s PGA  will be played at Westchester Country Club in New York. It’s a special place for Harmon. “My old stomping grounds,” Harmon said. His father, Claude, won a bunch of times at Westchester, including nine Westchester Opens and Westchester PGAs.

“It will be a good course for her, the way she’s driving it,” Harmon said. 

When Pettersen wins an event, there’s typically another win right on its heels. She won three times in October of 2007. She won twice in August of 2011. She won in back-to-back weeks in October of 2012, twice in the spring of 2013 and three times in the fall of ’13.

Pettersen says Harmon has made the arc of her swing wider and more shallow. While she fights wanting to be more technical than she should, Harmon says she picked up his changes quickly. Her progress was slowed in the spring, when she battled more back and shoulder issues. She withdrew in the middle of the Lotte Championship with an inflammation of her left shoulder. She WD’d again from the Swinging Skirts Classic with the injury.

Through it all, Harmon said he saw a lot of progress.

“This has been coming for awhile,” he said. “She’s played so much better than her results have shown, even before her shoulder started bothering her.”

Healthy and pain-free again, Pettersen is eager to see what else she can do with this new approach.

“For me, it was a good move, just in time to kind of get going,” she said. “I'm excited to start playing well with a lot of majors lined up for the summer.”

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.