Stage is set for dramatic Sunday at U.S. Women's Open

By Randall MellJune 22, 2014, 12:05 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Call them drama queens.

With so much curiosity surrounding how the men and women would compare with the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open being played for the first time in back-to-back weeks on the same venue, the women are distinguishing themselves in a way the men couldn’t.

The women seem determined to deliver all the drama the men did not in the closing scene of this historic experiment.

A week after Martin Kaymer ran away with an eight-shot victory, there’s more than one intriguing possibility looming for the women’s finish.

Can Michelle Wie turn a share of the 54-hole lead into the most important victory of her resurgent career?

Can Amy Yang tighten South Korea’s chokehold on this championship and give her homeland its sixth U.S. Women’s Open title in seven years?

Can Australian 18-year-old Minjee Lee become the youngest player ever to win a major championship and the first amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open since Catherine Lacoste in 1967?

Can 53-year-old Juli Inkster deliver the most improbable storyline of all and win the U.S. Women’s Open in her 35th and final appearance?

Fasten your seatbelts, this Sunday finish looks like it’s going to be a wild ride.

It looks like it might be more about who isn’t going to beat themselves than it is who’s going to win.

Wie, 24, started the day with a three-shot lead and looked like she might have a chance to Kaymer the field as she pulled away from Lexi Thompson early in their final pairing, but Wie stumbled coming home, playing the final eight holes in 4 over par.

Fighting to post a 2-over-par 72, Wie will start Sunday tied for the lead with Amy Yang (68).

At 2-under-par 208, they’re four shots ahead of Inkster, whose 66 was the day’s low round, and Lee (72). Also four back are Na Yeon Choi (71), who is bidding to win her second U.S. Women’s Open in three years, and Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow (69), who is playing in just her second U.S. Women’s Open.

“I'm happy that I'm in contention,” Wie said. “I'm just really grateful for another opportunity to get a major championship.”

This will mark the third time Wie takes a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open. She first did so in 2005 at Cherry Hills when she was 15 but ended up tying for 23rd. She did so again in ’06 at Newport Country Club but fell short tying for third.

Wie also took a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April but got beat by Thompson in their final-round duel.

Through all her struggles, all the adversity and the slumps, Wie never quit imagining the chance she is giving herself Sunday. She said she has been imaging it since she was that precocious teen who stormed the women’s game with all that promise.

“This is exactly where I wanted to be,” Wie said. “That's why I work hard. I want to be in positions like this. I want to be in the final pairing of the U.S. Open, and it's just great.

“When I was 15 and 16, the troubles that I came into when I was younger, I tried to plan my life, and a lot of times things don't happen the way they should, or the way they should in my mind,” Wie said. “So I'm just kind of going out there, living it day by day. Just a lot of fun when hard work pays off.”

Wie will play with Yang, 24, who is trying to give the South Koreans their fourth U.S. Women’s Open title in a row, their sixth in the last seven years. Yang won the HanaBank Championship last year for her first LPGA title, but her major championship record makes her look poised for a breakthrough on the game’s largest stage. Yang has six finishes of T-5 or better in majors. She was runner up when Choi won the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run two years ago.

What did she learn in her close calls?

“I’m still working on it, but I'm much better at controlling my emotion and controlling the nervous feeling,” Yang said.

Lee is trying to make history surpassing Morgan Pressel as the youngest winner of a major. Lee is 18 years and 24 days old. Pressel was 18 years and 10 months old when she won the Kraft Nabisco in ’07.

Lee, the Aussie born of Korean parents, won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2012. She’s No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. She nearly won the Australian Ladies Masters earlier this year, finishing second to Cheyenne Woods in the Ladies European Tour event.

“I’ve been in this position, but not in a big tournament,” Lee said. “It’s going to be different, and I’m just going to try my best.”

Inkster has been in this position countless times as a seven-time major championship winner with two U.S. Women’s Open titles to her credit. If she wins at 53, she will surpass Fay Crocker as the oldest woman to win a major. Crocker was 45 when she won the Titleholders in 1960. Babe Zaharias is the oldest woman to win the U.S. Women’s Open. She was 43 when she won it in 1954.

Can she pull it off?

“You can dream all you want, but the bottom line is you've got to come out and make the shots,” Inkster said. “So, tomorrow, I've got to come out and make the shots. And if I'm tied for the lead coming up 18, then maybe I'll think about it.”

Inkster? Wie? Yang? Lee? Or somebody else?

Pick your drama queen, because Sunday is loaded with dramatic possibilities.

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.