Lefty birdies the last, shares U.S. Open lead

By Randall MellJune 15, 2013, 1:40 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – You know Phil Mickelson relishes the drama of it all.

You know he lives for authoring storylines like these, unorthodox adventures full of peculiar twists and turns.

With the sun sinking fast on a frustrating Friday full of missed opportunities at Merion, Mickelson’s U.S. Open story continued to twist and turn toward what he hopes will be an unforgettable Father’s Day for his entire family.

On a day filled with missed birdie chances, Mickelson made us wonder if flying cross country after seeing his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation on the eve of this championship was as foolish as it was admirable. It made us wonder about this twist and turn because he looked as if he might already be running out of gas in the second round. He stepped to the 18th tee Friday without a single birdie on his scorecard. His first-round lead was gone, his momentum was fading, his story was beginning to sag.

And then, in the fading light, Mickelson sent a jolt through Merion.

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He put a spark back into his bid to win his first U.S. Open.

Mickelson rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the last hole to keep his story as the story of this 113th U.S. Open.

Mickelson’s birdie lifted him back atop the leaderboard, this time sharing the top spot with Billy Horschel as the leaders in the clubhouse in the suspended second round.

At 1-under 139, Mickelson and Horschel are the only players left under par.

Mickelson turns 43 on Sunday. Time’s running out in his bid to finally win this major, and that’s why his decision to return home and see his daughter, Amanda, give her graduation speech came with a risk. As wonderful as his motives were, as admirable as his devotion to family is, jetting cross country from his California home in the middle of the night to make his Thursday tee time isn’t the ideal way to prepare to win a major.

It’s all good again after Friday’s finish. That final birdie turned momentum back Mickelson’s way. It fuels his bid to trump the disappointment of five second-place finishes in 22 U.S. Open starts. It makes his decision to try to win the U.S. Open with no driver and five wedges in his bag continue to look good.

“It was great,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t expecting birdie there.”

It came with Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley hurrying to finish before darkness suspended Friday’s second round.

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“It was a nice way to finish,” Mickelson said. “I fought hard all day.”

Merion wouldn’t be slugged into submission again Friday, not by anyone.

While his 2-over-par 72 was more than respectable with Merion punishing so many of the world’s best players, Mickelson knew his round could have been so much better, nearly as good as his opening-round 67.

“Let a lot of birdie opportunities slide early and in the middle of the round,” Mickelson said. “I fought hard to stay in there and hit a lot of good quality shots.  Made a bunch of good pars.”

Mickelson made 10 consecutive pars in the middle of his round. That’s not bad around here, but don’t tell Mickelson that. He missed a 5-foot birdie chance at No. 2, missed a 4-foot birdie chance at No. 8, missed an 8-foot birdie chance at No. 9 and failed to convert yet another good birdie chance at the 11th hole.

On a day when Merion beat up so many players, just getting birdie looks was a minor victory.

Luke Donald made an early move atop the leaderboard Friday, but he made four consecutive bogeys coming home. He sits tied for third.

How tough was it? A trio of major-championship winners were cumulatively 40 over par through the two rounds they played together. Jim Furyk (16 over), Graeme McDowell (13 over) and Zach Johnson (11 over) will all miss the cut.

McDowell left saying he wouldn’t be surprised if 4 over par won this championship.

“It feels good being in contention heading into the weekend,” Mickelson said. “There are a lot of players right there, around par, a couple over.  I think this golf course provides a chance to shoot a low round, even though not many players have done it, and it's difficult.”

Mickelson likes his chances of being the guy who shoots a low round.

“The way I have control off the tee and as good as the putter is, even though it didn't show today, I'm very excited about the opportunity this weekend,” he said.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.