LPGAs young Americans look promising

By Randall MellOctober 2, 2009, 3:25 am

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Alexis Thompson thought the Navistar LPGA Classic would be a nice warm-up for next week’s big junior golf event.

It had, after all, been six weeks since the 14-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., last teed it up in competition.

With school back in session, she knew she needed to knock off some rust before playing in the American Junior Golf Association’s Ping Invitational in Oklahoma.

“I haven’t played for awhile, and my dad was like, `You want to go up and try to qualify for this [LPGA] event?” Thompson said. “I was like, `Yeah, sure, why not?’ I might as well get some competition out of it and get me ready for my other events coming up.’”

Thompson didn’t mean to make light of leaping into contention in the first-round Thursday at the Senator Course at Capitol Hill on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. She was just being honest. This wasn’t in her grand golf plan this year. It wasn’t in her schedule until just recently. She played her way into the field through a qualifier after making the 11-hour drive from South Florida with her father, Scott, who also caddies for her.

Michelle Wie Navistar LPGA Classic
Michelle Wie reacts after making a birdie on the 18th hole during first round play in the Navistar LPGA Classic. (Getty Images)

There has to be something exasperating for tour pros to watch a ninth grader turn up at the last minute and shoot 7-under-par 65 after nearly a month-and-a-half away from any kind of competition. By the way, it was Thompson’s lowest score in competition, bettering the 66 she once shot in the PGA Junior Championship.

As it turns out, Thompson didn’t need to knock off any rust. She birdied her first two holes Thursday. She posted her score in the morning wave and her name stayed atop the leaderboard until nearly sunset. That’s when Janice Moodie birdied the final four holes, six of the last seven, to take a one-shot lead on Thompson.

Michelle Wie is in the hunt, too, two shots back with Lorena Ochoa. Wie seemed to rediscover her brilliance with a new putting stroke honed by Dave Stockton at the Solheim Cup. Her performance there motivated American teammate Juli Inkster to predict Wie would break through to win her first LPGA event before this season ended. The season’s nearly over. Wie will play just two more LPGA tournaments after this week.

Wie, 19, is in position to end a certain slump going on in women’s golf.

No player from the United States has won an LPGA event in 14 consecutive tournaments, the longest American drought within any of the LPGA’s 60 seasons.

Thompson and Wie, an amateur and a rookie, are the top two Americans on the leaderboard.

Thompson, of course, has a long way to go, but if she somehow keeps the magic going to Sunday she’ll be bidding to shock the world. She’ll be trying to become the first amateur to win an LPGA event since JoAnne Carner won the Burdines Invitational 40 years ago. She would be the youngest LPGA winner by about three-and-a-half years. Marlene Hagge was 18 years and 14 days when she won the Sarasota Open in 1952. Thompson would be 14 years, seven months and 24 days old on Sunday.

Yeah, that’s a large dream, but nobody who knows anything about Thompson was shocked to see her on the Navistar LPGA Classic leaderboard.

At 12, Thompson became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. She has already played in three of them and made the cut this year at Saucon Valley in Pennsylvania. Thompson tied for low amateur honors at the Kraft Nabisco earlier this year while playing on a sponsor’s exemption. She won the U.S. Junior Girls’ last year, has claimed two Junior PGA championships and made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur this summer.

In her post-round interview, Thompson was asked if she planned to go to college or turn pro. She gave the day’s best answer.

“I have no clue,” Thompson said. “I mean, I’m in ninth grade. I’m going to take it one grade at a time.”

Spoken like a true golfer.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

@CallawayGolf via @goodwalkspoiled on Twitter

Watch: Phil flops ball over guy's head from 2 feet away

By Nick MentaJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

Sure, you trust Phil Mickelson to hit a flop shot. But would you trust him to hit one over your head from 2 feet away?

Evidently, this guy did, and his faith was rewarded.

Callaway Golf sent out this Twitter video on Tuesday taken by Mickelson's bother and caddie, Tim, ahead of this week's Open at Carnoustie:

If you look closely, you can see the guy holding his ... breath.

Yeah, that's it. His breath.