Pettersen patient, navigates difficult conditions in 69

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2015, 6:09 pm

TURNBERRY, Scotland – The wind and stinging rain lashing off the Firth of Clyde raked away whatever it could Friday at Trump Turnberry.

Confidence was separated from players almost as quickly as loose shots were.

The Ricoh Women’s British Open left one player after another cursing, muttering and snarling, but Suzann Pettersen wasn’t among them.

While the 34-year-old Norwegian isn’t exactly known for her long patience, she was unshakably in control through her morning round.

“I felt I was in 100 percent control of the ball, the flight, the spin,” Pettersen said. “Everything you need in conditions like this. So this ranks pretty high as a good round of golf.”

Pettersen’s 3-under-par 69 was the round of the day through that morning wave, the only round in the 60s. In fact, it was the only round under par in that first-half wave. It moved Pettersen to 7-under 137, which looked like a safe bet to leave her atop the leaderboard at day’s end with first-round leader Hyo Joo Kim struggling in tough conditions.

The ball striking exhibition Pettersen put on was another sign that the changes she is making with swing Butch Harmon are fully taking hold. Pettersen left David Leadbetter for Harmon in November of last year. She’s bidding to win the third major championship of her career.

“I always felt like I had a different gear in my body,” Pettersen said. “I’ve said it many times. I feel some of my best golf is still ahead of me. To get there, I feel like going to Butch was the right thing. One, from a technical standpoint, simplifying everything. Ease up the kind of pressure on my body. I feel like I’ve had a lot of injuries throughout the years.”

Harmon has made Pettersen’s swing wider and more shallow.

“It’s just a much easier move,” Pettersen said. “Mentally, it’s probably never been this easy for me . . . Essentially, handshake-handshake. It’s super simple.”

Pettersen believes her new swing is easier on her body, makes it easier to practice more and might prolong her career.

“Butch has pushed me quite a lot,” Pettersen said. “He’ll give it to me if I don’t play well, for sure.”

Pettersen has won two majors, the 2007 Women’s PGA Championship and the 2013 Evian Championship. She’s had close calls at the Women’s British Open. She tied for second last year and tied for fourth the year before.

Spared playing in the heavier rains in the afternoon, Pettersen still contended with winds gusting to 25 mph.

“The ball is not flying anywhere in the wind,” Pettersen said. “The first five or six holes play a fraction easier, but as soon as you turn the corner around the lighthouse, you hit the wall on 12. It’s really tough.”

At the 12th, Pettersen had 156 yards to the flagstick into the wind. She hit a hybrid and still came up short.

“I flushed it,” she said.

James Walton, Pettersen’s caddie, said she managed her way around shaping shots. She hit 11 of 14 fairways, and she hit 14 greens in regulation, impressive in the conditions.

“She can shape the ball both ways in these winds,” said James Waltson, Pettersen’s caddie. “It makes a massive difference.”

Rounds like Thursday’s fuel Pettersen’s belief her best golf is yet to come.

“I have a lot of goals left out there that I want to achieve,” she said.

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.