Thompson starts strong in Women's Open

By Randall MellJuly 5, 2012, 10:41 pm

KOHLER, Wis. – Gerina Piller is 27.

After nearly winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship last month, she teed it up Thursday in her first U.S. Women’s Open.

Lexi Thompson is 17.

She is playing in her sixth U.S. Women’s Open.

Piller did not begin playing golf until she was 15.

At the same age, Thompson was playing in her fourth U.S. Women’s Open.

Sometimes you have to look around Thompson to see just how special she is.

With a 2-under-par 70 on Thursday, Thompson jumped into contention at the U.S. Women’s Open.

A big hitter, Thompson bombed her way around Blackwolf Run in the first round, hardly using her driver. She hit it six, maybe seven times. She averaged 274 yards per drive, ranking second in driving distance in the morning wave. As powerful as Thompson is, though, her fate rests mostly with her putter.

A solid ball striker, Thompson struggled with her putter earlier this season. She missed too many short putts at the Kraft Nabisco, where she still managed to tie for 22nd.

That was an especially disappointing week on the greens because Thompson visited putting guru Dave Stockton before the event.

“We brought Dave in, and he gave us a lot to think about, maybe too much to think about,” said Scott Thompson, Lexi’s father. “That’s why she struggled at Kraft. She putted absolutely miserably. Since then, she is doing things in slow bits and pieces. It’s all about confidence.”

Lexi wasn’t put off at all by Stockton. She liked what she heard. She believes she just tried to incorporate too much, too fast. She worked with Stockton again this week at Blackwolf Run.

“Lexi likes Dave,” Scott said. “She believes in him. She’s gotten more positive with it.”

Scott is no longer on Lexi’s bag as caddie. That job is Greg Johnston’s, but Scott followed his daughter Thursday. Scott has switched over to caddie for his oldest son, Nicholas.

“I hadn’t seen Lexi play in a while, and she told me her ball striking has become really good, and that’s what I saw out there today,” Scott said. “She was on the money.”

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Photos: U.S. Women's Open

Jim McLean is Lexi’s swing coach. They worked together early this week. McLean also is helping simplify the putting approach.

Lexi took 30 putts on Thursday.

“Her putting is coming around,” Scott said. “It’s getting better.”

If Thompson’s putter gets hot, look out. She won the LPGA’s Navistar Classic last September. She won the Dubai Ladies Masters three months later on the Ladies European Tour.

Thompson is well trained in the art of smashing age barriers.

At 12, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. She would love to become the youngest winner of it this week, but she showed a veteran’s smarts when asked about winning after her fast start.

“It would mean a lot,” Thompson said. “That’s a pretty big achievement right there, but there’s a lot of golf to be played, three more days on a challenging golf course. So, I’m just going to go out and play the course and try to do my best.”

If Thompson does win this championship Sunday, she would be 17 years, 4 months and 28 days old.

She wouldn’t just be the youngest winner of a U.S. Women’s Open. She would be the youngest man or woman in the history of golf to win a major championship. She would be 10 days younger than Young Tom Morris was when he won the British Open in 1868.

That’s heady stuff, and it’s way too early to focus upon, but Thompson makes such feats seem possible the way she keeps racing to achievements faster than any player ever has in the women’s game.

Thompson qualified for that first U.S. Women’s Open at 12 years, 4 months and 1 day old.

She turned pro at 15. She became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 16. She became the youngest professional to win a Ladies European Tour event at 16. She became the youngest player to earn LPGA membership while still 16.

Thompson isn’t an inexperienced teen trying to figure out the puzzle that is the U.S. Women’s Open this week. She’s a seasoned veteran figuring it out. She tied for 10th at the U.S. Women's Open two years ago. She's looking to top that this week.

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”