Kim back in major contention after Kraft heartbreak

By Randall MellJune 28, 2013, 9:26 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Look who emerged from the ethereal mist rolling over Sebonack Golf Club with the lead through Friday’s morning wave at the U.S. Women’s Open.

I.K. Kim is back on a major championship leaderboard.

Out of the fog, out of her funk and maybe, finally, out of the shadow hanging over the most unfortunate turn in her career.

More than a year since her heartbreaking loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Kim is giving herself a chance to claim a prize that so cruelly escaped her at Mission Hills Country Club.

Anyone who follows the game knows the stunning turn Kim endured when it seemed certain she would claim her first major. Her inexplicable miss of a 14-inch putt at the 72nd hole broke more than her heart in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It broke the hearts of a legion of fans who love and admire her gentle spirit.

U.S. Women’s Open: Articles, videos and photos

All these months later, Kim, 25, is back as more than a sentimental favorite.

How can you not root for a player who gave away her entire $220,000 first-place check to impoverished students and Special Olympic athletes after winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2010?

That was the last of Kim’s three LPGA titles.

With a 3-under-par 69 Friday, Kim pushed ahead of Inbee Park just as Park was teeing off in the afternoon wave. When Kim signed her scorecard, she was two shots clear of Park, three ahead of Caroline Hedwall and three in front of Lizette Salas. Late in the day, Park vaulted into the lead with a 4-under 68.

Kim, though, isn’t about to get ahead of herself. She confessed to confidants she might have done that before jabbing her putt off the lip at Kraft Nabisco. There is a weekend of big shots and putts left and a formidable fellow South Korean to beat with Rolex world No. 1 Park trying to win the first three majors of the season.

“There’s a lot of golf to play, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Kim said. “That’s the beauty of major championships.”

The not-so beautiful part, too, but Kim said she feels good about her life and the strong supporting cast behind her. While there are a lot of players who want to win this week, you won’t find many who wouldn’t enjoy seeing Kim break through. Back in South Korea, a nation of golf fans would celebrate.

“Everybody is cheering for I.K.,” said So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “It was a really sad moment at Kraft Nabisco, and I think everyone really felt badly for I.K., and then she struggled with her game after that. So, she really has a lot of support, but I think she is just fine and hopefully she can continue playing well.”

After that Kraft Nabisco loss, Kim struggled with a wrist injury. She couldn’t really give herself a good chance to bounce back with a win, but she’s finding her form again this year. All that’s missing this season is a victory. She has a second-place finish, two T-4s, a fifth-place finish and a sixth-place finish. She is sixth on the LPGA money list so far in 2013.

Though Kim has not won a major, she has a strong record contending, especially in the U.S. Women’s Open. She tied for third in this championship in 2008, tied for third again in ’09, finished fourth in ’10 and tied for 10th in 2011. She has finished T-10 or better in 10 of her last 20 major championship starts.

“I.K. has been playing so well,” said Paula Creamer, who was paired with Kim in the first two rounds this week. “You feel like you’re shooting a hundred over watching her, and I’m only 1 over. She’s playing so well in these conditions.”

Jonny Scott, Laura Davies’ former caddie, picked up Kim’s bag six months ago. He did so believing in her ability to bounce back.

“She’s one of the best players in the world,” Scott said. “It was windy out here today, and she was really solid from start to finish. When it’s like this, if you don’t catch a shot right, the wind can take it anywhere here. She hasn’t missed much.”

While Kim’s putting came under the microscope at Kraft Nabisco, she’s actually, statistically, one of the best putters in the women’s game. Remarkably, she led the LPGA last year in putts per greens in regulation. She has had some issues with short putts in the past, even before the short miss at Kraft Nabisco, but there are a lot of players who wouldn’t mind having her stroke.

Creamer said the strongest part of Kim's game may be her ability to make so many birdie putts of 20-25 feet.

“I think her putting is great,” Ryu said. “I don’t think she has any weaknesses.”

Scott, though, watched Kim miss a 4-footer for par at the end of Thursday’s round. Of course, for the folks bunched around the 18th green at Sebonack, it brought to mind that miss in the desert last year.

“She’s made a lot of putts this week,” Scott said. “You don’t get to 7 under at a U.S. Open without holing a lot of putts. She looks comfortable. She’s not too nervous. She’s just enjoying this.”

Two more days like this, and she might enjoy one of the biggest rebound wins in women’s golf.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.