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Stanford finally wins major battle at Evian

By Randall MellSeptember 16, 2018, 9:25 pm

This is how it had to end.

With one last agonizing trial to endure.

With one last punch in the gut leaving her to stagger off the 18th hole feeling as if she squandered yet another chance to win a major championship, maybe her last chance.

It all made sense.

That’s what Angela Stanford so eloquently explained through raking sobs of joy with her name being inscribed upon the Evian Championship trophy.

At 40, Stanford understood how the emotional upheaval she battled over the last four holes defined more than this day.

It defined her career.

“I know myself very well,” Stanford told “I make a lot of bad swings, a lot of bad decisions, but, ultimately, I had to be me.

“I’m a fighter and a grinder, and I told myself `Let’s just keep fighting to the end.’ Whether it was going to end up good or bad, I wasn’t going to give up.”

That’s the attitude Stanford says she sees in her mother, Nan, who is amid a second battle with breast cancer. Stanford’s backstory made this victory all the more emotional. She won knowing her mother was back in Saginaw, Texas, watching the finish on TV with her father, Steve.

“My mom continues to blow me away with her attitude,” Stanford said. “Yes, she has her good days and her bad days, but she is a fighter.”

Stanford called her mom twice after winning, the first time as she walked to the trophy presentation. They couldn’t get much out the first time.

“I was crying; she was crying,” Stanford said.

They FaceTimed after she had the trophy in hand.

“I showed her the trophy,” Stanford said. “She may be the first to drink from it.”

Stanford has watched her mother sick in the mornings going though chemotherapy, but she marvels at how she bounces back. She could see the excitement in her parents during their video chat.

“I think they were starting the party without me,” she said.

It’s a party a long time in the planning.

“Eighteen years in the planning,” Stanford said.

Stanford arrived at Evian 0 for 76 in the majors.

She broke through all the scar tissue and doubt that built up in those disappointments.

“As the years go on, and you have all the near misses, you think, `Wow, am I ever going to get that close again?’” Stanford said. “For the longest time I thought I was a major winner. I thought I was good enough.

“Not getting it, doubt starts to creep in.”

Full-field scores from Evian Championship

Evian Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Fifteen years ago, Stanford gave herself a chance to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Hilary Lunke beat her and Kelly Robbins in a playoff, but Stanford played as if it were only a matter of time until she won a major. She went on to win five LPGA titles and become a staple on the American Solheim Cup team.

The majors, however, became a string of disappointments.

“God is funny,” Stanford said. “He catches you off guard, just when you think maybe you’re done.”

Stanford looked as if she might be done more than once over the dizzying final four holes Sunday in France.

Five shots behind at day’s start, Stanford mounted a charge, tying Amy Olson for the lead after an eagle at the 15th. With 217 yards to the front of the green, she roped a 7-wood to 6 feet and made the putt.

Stanford punched the air in celebration.

A hole later, she felt like she got punched.

She double bogeyed the 16th. She pushed a terrible tee shot to the right, into thick rough, hacked her pitch through the green and nearly into a creek, then watched her next pitch come up short and roll back to her feet.

What was she thinking?

“I wanted to throw up,” Stanford said.

Old demons came to visit.

“Here you are again,” Stanford said to herself. “This is as close as you've been in I don't know how long. So now what?”

How about a finish no one saw coming?

Stanford holed a 25-foot birdie at the 17th to get back within one shot of Olson.

Stanford said she felt like throwing up again.

At the 18th, a tough finishing hole, Stanford hit her approach to 15 feet to give herself another birdie chance.

Still, true to the arc of her career, Stanford endured another blow. Her birdie putt somehow cruelly curled around the cup, dying behind the hole.

The miss weakened her knees. She dropped into a squat, before gathering herself and gazing up into the sky for the longest time.

“I thought, `I’ve lost another one,’” Stanford said. “I really thought I needed to make that to get into a playoff.

“That's when I started crying. I was like, `Man, it doesn't matter what I do, I'm never going to catch one of these.’”

Stanford was one shot back with Olson finishing up behind her, but fate veered Stanford’s way when Olson pulled her final tee shot into the rough. Olson had to pitch out and ended up making double bogey.

There was angst for Stanford as she signed autographs waiting behind the 18th green.

Olson, Mo Martin and Sei Young Kim all had putts inside 20 feet that could have forced a playoff. They all missed.

“Obviously, disappointed to finish the way I did,” said Olson, who had at least a share of the Sunday lead until missing that last putt. “Honestly, I did everything I could.”

Stanford’s victory is a popular one on tour.

Kristy McPherson, a close friend to Stanford, was early in her round at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout in Arkansas when a Symetra Tour official tracked her down to inform her Stanford won.

“I had chill bumps,” McPherson said. “Winning a major has always been Angela’s goal. She would have traded her five LPGA victories for a major.”

Stanford rose as high as No. 6 in the world after winning twice in ’08 and again early in ’09. She went to majors expecting to win back then. Fellow tour pros could see Stanford’s frustration build as she failed to claim one. She entered this week No. 76 in the world rankings.

“I’m just really happy for her,” said Stacy Lewis, a two-time major winner and fellow Texan “For a long time, I think she let the fact that she hadn’t won a major define her and her career.

“But the last few years, you could see her more excited going to the majors again. She had a better attitude going to them. A win like this, it’s worth the wait.”

Both Lewis and McPherson said Stanford’s victory bolsters yet another major ambition Stanford holds.

“Angela really wants to be the American Solheim Cup captain,” McPherson said. “This really helps her with that.”

Stanford began working with a new coach last year, Todd Kolb in Sioux Falls, S.D. He also works with Kim Kaufman, who recommended him.

Winless since 2012 and about to turn 40, Stanford went to Kolb looking to rebuild her game. They went to work on her putting, short game and helping her find “clarity” in knowing how to address her misses, especially a hook off the tee.

“Watching Angela play those last four holes, it really exemplifies what she’s all about,” Kolb said. “She plays with a lot of grit. She’s tough, and tough people, they keep fighting.”

Stanford’s victory delivered more than a defining moment to her career. It delivered one for Evian, an event that has struggled to thrive in its new status as the tour’s fifth major.

Stanford helped make Evian everything you wanted in a major, with the risk/reward nature of Evian Golf Resort paving the way for bold charges, dispiriting stumbles and more drama than we’ve seen there in Evian’s first five years as a major.

With a week under blue skies providing a respite from its weather-plagued history since being moved to September as a major, Evian showed the promise it brings in a move to July next year.

Stanford will cherish the memories she won on the mountainside in the shadow of the French Alps. She will cherish the trophy, too.

“This thing may go everywhere with me for a while,” Stanford said. “I'm going to stare at it for a long time.”

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Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's 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 into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), 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 behind overnight leader Scott Piercy 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 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: 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. Cabrera Bello will round out the final tee time with Koepka and Poulter.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

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.

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Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.