A. Jutanugarn overcomes demons for first LPGA win

By Randall MellMay 9, 2016, 1:11 am

If there are golf demons, they’re just memories posing as something more sinister.

They’re bad memories.

They’re echoes of failure that sit on a player’s shoulder whispering destructive reminders.

That’s what made Ariya Jutanugarn’s victory Sunday at the Yokohama Tire Classic such a special triumph. She didn’t just hold off Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Amy Yang coming home on the back nine of the Senator Course in Prattville, Ala.

With all due respect to those formidable competitors, Jutanugarn beat a tougher pair of foes. She beat the memories of two epic collapses.

And Jutanugarn, 20, didn’t just beat those golf demons. She beat all the doubts that followed her after she tore the labrum in her right shoulder three years ago, an injury that robbed her of the strength and confidence many thought would take her to the top of the game.

Jutanugarn triumphed over all of that Sunday in Alabama.

“It’s great because she was really struggling with her confidence,” Gary Gilchrist, her new swing coach, told GolfChannel.com. “It’s great how she’s turned her game around.”

A little more than a month ago, Jutanugarn was two shots ahead with three holes to go at the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship. She blew the lead bogeying all three of those holes and lost to Lydia Ko. The championship ended with Jutanugarn snap hooking her final drive into the water.

“The last three holes, I really get nervous,” Jutanugarn said.

The collapse added to the weight on Jutanugarn’s shoulders, because three years before that she blew a chance to win her first LPGA title at the Honda LPGA Thailand in equally heartbreaking fashion. She took a two-shot lead to the final hole there, looking to become the first player from Thailand to win an LPGA event, but she watched her homeland wince and groan, instead. She made triple bogey and lost to Inbee Park.

Yes, Jutanugarn was only 17 when she lost to Park, but when she collapsed at the ANA, people wondered if the dots were connected.

Was this once immensely gifted player lacking something internal necessary to close out?

Jutanugarn answered on Sunday with strength of heart and mind.

After a bogey at the 17th reopened a door of doubt, she slammed it shut getting up and down for par at the end.

“Last putt, my hands shake, my legs shake,” Jutanugarn said. “I not have it this bad before, my putter shaking.”

This time Jutanugarn beat those nerves and became the first Thai to win an LPGA title. She did so on Mother’s Day, with her mother, Narumon, and her sister, Moriya, watching greenside.

“Good thing in my life, my mom and my sister always trust in me,” Ariya said.

When Jutanugarn turned pro three years ago, she looked as if she were on the fast track to stardom. She looked ready to challenge Ko and Lexi Thompson as the best young players in the game. She won a Ladies European Tour event in one of her first starts as a rookie on that tour and didn’t finish worse than a tie for fourth in five starts playing LPGA events via sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifying. Still 17, she rocketed to No. 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

And then Jutanugarn hurt herself.

In a practice round at the 2013 LPGA Championship, Jutanugarn playfully chased her sister off a tee box and stumbled down a steep slope. That’s how she tore up her shoulder. She underwent corrective surgery and was out for eight months. But when Jutanugarn returned in 2014, she still wasn’t right. Her shoulder still hurt, forcing her to change her swing to a more over-the-top move. It nearly robbed her of the strength of her game – her power.

“When you go through an injury as an athlete, and you aren’t playing, your mind takes over, and your mind takes you in all different directions,” Gilchrist said.

Jutanugarn made it through LPGA Q School at the end of 2014, and she showed a few flashes of her former self last year, but she had plummeted to No. 124 in the world. She also missed 10 consecutive cuts. Ariya and Moriya sought out Gilchrist together at the start of this year, and they’ve been working together ever since. Ariya came to Gilchrist with no confidence in her driver, the best weapon in her bag when she was at her best. She was hitting it all over the place.

“I think Ariya started losing trust in what she was doing,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist went to work on improving both Ariya’s and Moriya’s transition, on their move into the ball and impact position. Gilchrist also said they worked on changing their focus to what was working instead of what wasn’t working.

Slowly, confidence began to return.

“At one point, Ariya told me, `I’m going to win this year,’” Gilchrist said.

That was before the ANA collapse, but Gilchrist said Jutanugarn was more emboldened than discouraged finishing solo fourth at the ANA Inspiration.

“She walked away saying `I can do this, I can win,’” Gilchrist said. “If she didn’t believe she had what it takes to win, she wouldn’t have won this one.”

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

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

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1