St. Andrews perfect spot for major history

By Randall MellJuly 30, 2013, 1:00 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Her story is almost too enchanting to be true.

If there is an author to the scripting of Inbee Park’s career, the master storyteller couldn’t have led her to a more dramatic stage than St. Andrews in her historic march this week.

“I feel like the whole world is watching me,” Park said.

Is it really coincidence Park will be trying to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a single season at the Old Course, where more history has been made than any other golf venue in the world? Of all the places this magical story could go, how does the page turn here, to the revered home of golf, in just the second time the women have been allowed to play a major championship here?

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Hall of Famer Pat Bradley is a believer in golf’s cosmic architecture.

“For Inbee Park to be going to the home of golf to do this, it feels like destiny to me,” said Bradley, who made her own Grand Slam bid in 1986, when she won three of the four major championships in women’s golf. “It is such a storybook venue. For St. Andrews to be in the rotation for this, with all the history there, it really seems destined.”

Bradley is not alone believing fate is a force every bit as real over the Old Course as the winds that blow off the North Sea.

Lorena Ochoa believes, too. She felt it at St. Andrews.

When Ochoa won the first women’s major ever staged at the Old Course in 2007, she felt an overwhelming sense that she was being led to the moment. She felt this before she even teed it up that week. She felt it when she arrived Sunday before the championship began.

Fresh off the plane after the Evian Masters, Ochoa made it to the Old Course with the sun about to set. It was too late to play, but she walked around the 18th hole with her brother, Alejandro. They lingered, just soaking up the sense of history in the stillness of dusk.

Ochoa stood there imagining the finish she wanted.

“There was just this feeling,” Ochoa said. “I pictured myself there on the 18th green, lifting the trophy. It was like it was meant to be, almost like I knew it was going to happen.”

To fully appreciate the power of that moment, you have to understand the pressure Ochoa was under, the doubts up against her in majors. At that point, at 25, she had already won a dozen LPGA titles and overtaken Annika Sorenstam as the Rolex world No. 1, but Ochoa still had yet to win a major. In fact, she had squandered chances to win a few of them, raising questions about her ability to handle major championship pressure. Just a month earlier, she had a chance to win the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles but couldn’t hit a green in regulation over the final five holes. She tied for second behind Cristie Kerr. She also squandered a chance at the Kraft Nabisco that spring. The co-leader halfway through, she shot 77 on Saturday with a quadruple bogey at the 17th hole.

Ochoa, though, showed all her brilliant promise at St. Andrews, breaking through in dominating fashion in a four-shot rout. She emphatically established herself as the best player in the game.

“After winning at St. Andrews, you realize things happen for a reason,” Ochoa said. “I had chances and had come so close at the U.S. Open and Kraft Nabisco before going to St. Andrews, but looking back, it helps you understand how golf works, how life works. There was something special waiting to happen for me. It happened at St. Andrews.”

Park arrives at St. Andrews with destiny oddly intertwined with her name.

Yes, she’s South Korean, but the name Park is revered in Scottish golf. Willie Park Sr. won the very first British Open ever played back at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860, beating the favored Old Tom Morris by two shots. Park won four British Opens overall. His brother, Mungo, won the Open in 1874. Willie’s son, Willie Park Jr., won two Open titles.

Inbee arrives with more than Scotland watching. She’s the first woman to win the first three major championships of the year since Babe Zaharias in 1950. While amateur Bobby Jones won the four majors of his era in 1930, Park is looking to become the first man or woman to win four professional majors in a single season.

The fact that she’s trying to do it on the most historic venue in golf heightens the drama.

Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam played St. Andrews when it first hosted the Women’s British Open six years ago. She appreciated being among the first women to play the course in a major.

“It’s like holy ground,” Sorenstam said.

The first time Park qualified for the Women’s British Open, it was at St. Andrews. She had just turned 19 when she tied for 11th there. She fell in love with the course and is eager to return.

“I can’t wait,” Park said. “Everything about the golf course is very special.”

Bobby Jones won the second of his three British Open titles at St. Andrews in 1927. Sam Snead won the British Open there in ’46, Seve Ballesteros in ’84 and Nick Faldo in ’90. Jack Nicklaus won two Opens there in ’70 and ’78. Tiger Woods also won two there in 2000 and ’05.

From Old Tom Morris to Young Tom Morris, from Jones to Nicklaus to Woods, nearly all the game’s greats have at least walked St. Andrews’ fairways, if not won there.

Back when Bradley was fashioning her Hall of Fame career, the LPGA never got to play at St. Andrews. She so yearned to play there, though, she drove to the Old Course on the Monday after the ’92 Solheim Cup was played at Dalmahoy Country Club in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the first and only time she ever played there, and she relished it.

“It was a beautiful day, and as I was playing, I was thinking of all the footsteps I might have touched from over the years,” Bradley said. “I’m playing, and I’m thinking, ‘Am I touching the footsteps of Old Tom Morris and Bobby Jones?’ It was wonderful.

“I’m rooting for Inbee Park so much. I really believe that St. Andrews is where the Grand Slam is to be won.”

It would be a storybook finish for golf’s most storied venue.

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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 fired 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.

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).

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Local favorite Yu Liu was in sole possession of seventh place 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.

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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.

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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.