Inspired Pressel near first-day Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2014, 2:16 am

PHOENIX – Morgan Pressel had barely finished the first round Thursday at the JTBC Founders Cup when her phone vibrated with a text message.

It was Paula Creamer congratulating her for a brilliant start.

“You inspired me,” Pressel texted back after posting a 7-under-par 65. “I tried to putt like you.”

Creamer, 27, ended a nearly four-year victory drought earlier this month winning the HSBC Women’s Champions in dramatic fashion. Creamer buried a 75-foot putt to win in a playoff. Pressel was there at the end in Singapore to help Creamer celebrate.

Pressel, 25, ended the first round alone in second place, trailing rookie Mirim Lee by a shot. She knows there’s a long way to go at J.W. Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club, but Pressel likes the way her game is trending as she seeks to end a victory drought of her own. She’s after her third LPGA title, her first since ’08.

Pressel got off to a blistering start Thursday, making birdies at her first four holes. When she rolled in a Creamer-esque 50-foot putt for eagle at her sixth hole, something special appeared in the making. Pressel would go on to birdie her eighth, 10th and 11th holes to officially launch a 59 watch. She was 9 under through 11 holes.

“It’s definitely the hottest start I’ve ever had, but I don’t know that I was necessarily thinking 59,” Pressel said.

A wild tee shot at her 12th hole cooled Pressel’s run. She pulled her drive under a bush, and though an official looked at burrowing animal holes near her ball, it was determined she would not get relief.

“I didn’t deserve it,” Pressel said.

After taking a penalty and a drop for an unplayable lie, Pressel grinded out a bogey, holing a 15-foot putt in doing so. The fire was out, though. Pressel also bogeyed her next hole. She finished with five consecutive pars.

“It wasn’t the finish I would have hoped for, but it gives me a little bit of confidence knowing how many birdies I can make,” Pressel said.

Pressel, the ‘05 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, made her first LPGA title something to marvel over. She won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in ’07, becoming at 18 the youngest woman to win a major. She won the Kapalua Classic in ’08 but her game swooned after she hurt her left wrist hitting a shot out of thick rough at Locust Hill in the 2012 LPGA Championship. She tried to play through the ailment that summer but had to withdraw from the U.S. Women’s Open and other events. The injury knocked Pressel into the first prolonged slump of her career, but she bounced out of it last summer, making a hard run at winning in her return to the LPGA Championship.

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Pressel said.

Even with her golf swing a work in progress.

Nobody was more surprised at her blazing start Thursday than Pressel. She said she was unusually crooked on the driving range. In fact, she was concerned about the state of her swing when she got up in the morning and changed her routine, arriving two hours early for an extra long warm-up on the range.

“I’m working on my golf swing,” Pressel said. “It hasn’t quite been where I want it to be.”

Pressel was texting with her coach, Ron Stockton, on the range. She ran out of time trying to fix her swing with her tee time swiftly approaching.

“I didn’t really have it going to the first tee,” Pressel said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

She didn’t expect to birdie her first four holes.

Pressel made her way onto the U.S. Solheim Cup team last year, and she’s off to a good start this year. She got herself in contention at the Australian Women’s Open in February, tying for sixth, and again at the HSBC Women’s Champions earlier this month, tying for fourth. Her game is trending upward again.

“I just feel like I’m getting better, both mentally and physically,” Pressel said.

Her aim is to follow her friend, Creamer, and take home a trophy.

“It’s the first round, there are three more days, but it’s definitely a confidence-builder,” Pressel said.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.