Lewis poised to end victory drought

By Randall MellJanuary 30, 2016, 11:55 pm

Stacy Lewis isn’t wasting any time trying to end her drought.

With a 6-under-par 67 Saturday at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, Lewis moved one shot off the lead at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the LPGA’s season opener. She’s looking to win for the first time in her last 40 starts.

Lewis, who is seeking her 12th LPGA title, said the most difficult part of going winless last year was being asked about not winning in so many post-round interviews.

Of course, Lewis was asked after Saturday’s round about how she felt being in position to win for the first time since she claimed the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship 18 months ago.

“My goal this week was to be in this position right here, to be in that last group going into the final day,” Lewis said. “And, honestly, the best thing about this week is how I'm so happy with how my ball striking is.

“If I win tomorrow, that's great, but my golf swing is where it needs to be. My wedges are getting better. I am still not quite trusting them, so there's room to improve there. I haven't played anywhere close to my best golf yet this week, and I've got a chance to win tomorrow. That's getting back to where I was before.”

Though Lewis didn’t win last year, her first winless season since 2010, she finished second or third in about one of every three starts. In 26 events, she finished second six times and third three times. It had to be maddening, especially coming off her three titles in ’14, when she became the first American in more than 20 years to sweep the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy and money-winning title.

Joe Hallett, Lewis’ swing coach, told GolfChannel.com that Lewis didn’t allow the frustrations of so many close calls to derail her approach to the game.

“Stacy’s focus has not changed from last year and the year before and the year before that,” Hallett said. “Our goal is to put ourselves in position. Our goal is to make sure we are consistent.”

Since her last victory, Lewis has 19 top-10 finishes in 39 events.

At No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Lewis is the highest ranked player in the field this week. No. 1 Lydia Ko isn’t making her first start until next week and Inbee Park withdrew Thursday with a bad back. Park is out for the next month.

Lewis trails Anna Nordqvist and Charley Hull by one shot going into the final round, but Lewis will be looking them both in the eye on the first tee box. With a birdie at the last Saturday, Lewis got herself in the final group.

With the winds down over the Ocean Club Saturday, Lewis took advantage in a bogey-free round of six birdies.

“I think tomorrow is supposed to be even less wind, maybe a little more calm,” Lewis said. “So you're going to have to make some birdies. You're going to have to shoot a good score, but you're not trying to force things. That's the biggest thing for me tomorrow, is just to stay patient and trust my golf swing.”

Lewis opens 2016 much more settled than she did a year ago.

At the start of last season, Lewis teed it up frustrated over her search to find a golf ball to replace the version of the Titleist ProV1 that she had played since 2009. Before the start of last year, Titleist decided to cease manufacturing of the '09 ball and did not resubmit it to the conforming list.

She went through different versions of Bridgestone balls until finding what she liked midway through the year in the Bridgestone 330S. She also struggled to find a driver early last year. That driver-ball combination helped contribute to a drop-off of 10 yards per average drive. With a TaylorMade M1 in her bag now, Lewis likes the driver/ball combo.

“That little lost distance that we talked about last year, it's almost 90 percent made up with equipment right now,” Hallett said.

Lewis is happy where she is at in her personal life, too. She got engaged to Houston golf coach Gerrod Chadwell in November and bought a new home in Houston.

“Personally and professionally, I think Stacy’s in a very good place,” Hallett said.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”