Henderson, 17, eyes history at Swinging Skirts

By Randall MellApril 26, 2015, 2:27 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Brooke Henderson is chasing history.

The thing is ... history’s chasing her, too.

The 17-year-old Henderson will tee it up Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Classic looking to become just the third player to win an LPGA event before her 18th birthday. To join that exclusive club, however, she will have to hold off a couple players who know all about setting records at a young age.

Henderson kept herself atop the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round after shooting an even-par 72 Saturday despite closing her round with back-to-back bogeys at Lake Merced Golf Club. She’s looking to join Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson as the only players to win an LPGA title before their 18th birthdays.

At 9-under 207, Henderson is one shot ahead of Morgan Pressel (67), who holds the record as the youngest woman to win a major championship. Ko (71) is just three back. Ko has set all kinds of records as a teenager in the professional ranks. She was the youngest winner of an LPGA event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. She won six times before turning 18 on Friday, including this event a year ago. Ko is the youngest Rolex world No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf.

Henderson was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world when she turned pro last December. She is playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption and looking to try to earn LPGA membership without attending Q-School in the fall. She could do just that winning on Sunday. If Henderson wins, she can claim membership for the remainder of the year or defer it to next year. However, to do so she would need the LPGA to waive its restriction requiring tour members to be at least 18. 

Henderson’s shaky finish Saturday, coming after rules officials put her group on the clock for slow play, brought a lot of players back into the mix. Min Seo Kwak, yet another strong South Korean rookie, is one back after shooting 69. Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis (71) and No. 5 Shanshan Feng (71) are four back.

“This golf course, five or six shots is really not that much,” Lewis said. “This golf course is too hard for someone to just kind of run away with it.”

The LPGA’s making a habit of delivering compelling Sunday storylines, and the tour’s delivering yet another this week.

Henderson says she grew up admiring Pressel, who first made headlines qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12 and playing in it when she was 13. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco when she was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old. She’s still the youngest woman to win a major.

Now Henderson’s faced with having to beat a player she admires so much in a head-to-head final round pairing. Henderson, Pressel and Kwak will play in the final group.

“Growing up she was my biggest role model, other than my sister,” Henderson said of Pressel. “I always looked up to her.”

Henderson first met Pressel when she was an 8-year-old attending the CN Canadian Women’s Open. At 15, she ended up being paired with Pressel in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open. There was a kinship.

“Ever since then, she's been very kind to me,” Henderson said.

Henderson made a strong impression.

“It was incredibly impressive,” Pressel said. “I knew she would be something special out on our tour as well. I've been following her career and it's been very, very impressive so far.”

Being paired with Pressel heightens the challenge for Henderson.

“I've still always been a little nervous around her, because I've looked up to her my whole life,” Henderson said. “But I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.”

While Henderson is going for her first LPGA title, Pressel is seeking her third, her first in seven seasons, since she won the Kapalua Classic.

Playing in a final pairing Saturday for the first time leading an LPGA event, Henderson looked so solid in the early going. She hit a hybrid 3-iron to 18 inches at the first hole to make birdie.

She doubled her lead to four shots on the front nine. A long hitter, she was superb off the tee, hitting the first 10 fairways she looked at, but her rhythm seemed to be thrown off after her group was put on the clock.

With Sakura Yokomine and Na Yeon Choi struggling, the group was told to speed up play by a rules official when they were coming off the ninth tee. At the 16th, they were put on the clock.

Henderson made bogey at the 17th after a poor chip that she appeared to hurry.

“I think being on the clock did have a little bit to do with it,” Henderson said. “I was a little bit quicker than I would've been otherwise.”

At the 18th, she hit her approach shot long and once again failed to get up and down.

“Overall it was a great day, and I'm really happy to be where I am. If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it.”

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.