Wie moves near Open lead with stunning 66

By Randall MellJuly 6, 2012, 11:05 pm

KOHLER, Wis. – From a couple hundred yards away, Suzann Pettersen could detect the difference in Michelle Wie’s game.

Playing behind Wie, Pettersen could see the most obvious sign that something special was finally coming back to Wie Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Pettersen could see a flurry of fist pumps.

“I know Michelle has been struggling this year, but I must say, playing behind her, I don't think I've ever seen her make as many putts as she did today,” Pettersen said. “She was fist pumping every putt she looked at.”

In what has already been a long, hard season, Wie found more than a lost putting stroke and lost swing. She found the joy that had been missing from her game.

“I’m pretty stoked to be back in contention and honestly not have to worry about the cut line,” Wie cracked. “It feels pretty good.”

The frustration of so many missed cuts this season melted away Friday with Wie posting a 6-under-par 66, a record score for the two U.S. Women’s Opens held at Blackwolf Run. It was three shots better than Wie’s previous best score in eight other U.S. Women’s Opens.

Wie, a two-time LPGA winner, has six finishes of fourth or better in U.S. Women’s Opens but no top-10 finshes in the event in six years.

Wie pulled this golden round from a season that has been too much of a mess for her liking. She arrived at Blackwolf Run having missed seven of her last eight cuts worldwide.

“It’s really a confidence boost for the weekend,” Wie said. “I’m just going to build on it.”

Wie’s putting stroke, such a troublesome facet of her swooning game, looked renewed in the second round.

Her uncertain jab was gone with Wie needing just 23 putts, 12 fewer than she needed in the first round. A smooth, confident stroke helped Wie with 13 one-putts.

This renewal also has spread into Wie’s full swing.

Enamored for a time of stingers and sawed-off, three-quarter shots, Wie displayed a swing that was longer and more fluid again. Asked earlier this week if she were becoming too mechanical, she said her problem was more a tendency to analyze too much and to try to be too perfect. She said she’s working more now on just hitting shots.

Brittany Lang saw the difference playing alongside Wie on Friday.

“She just looked more relaxed,” Lang said. “My brother made the point to me that Michelle looks like she’s hitting more full shots than she had been playing. She looks like she’s getting more tempo with her swing. She’s a great player hitting stingers, but with the full swing she seems to be hitting it more solid.”

Wie has sought so much help for her putting woes the last few years. She has gone to all the gurus: Dave Stockton, Dave Pelz and Stan Utley. She even experimented with the belly putter, an unwieldy device she tried to master with numerous unsuccessful grips. She has stuck with a standard-length Nike prototype blade the last three months and putts left-hand low.

Over a recent dinner near Wie’s South Florida home in Jupiter, Wie got some sound advice from a trusted mentor, Meg Mallon, the U.S. Solheim Cup captain.

“She is like my second mother,” Wie said.

Mallon’s help was wrapped in lots of encouragement.

“I told her you cannot talk to one great player who has not gone through trials and tribulation during their career,” Mallon said. “We talked about her putting and a couple things maybe she wasn’t thinking about. I watched her at Shoprite in Atlantic City, and I told her she was making better strokes with more commitment, just giving her positive reinforcement. ”

Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, another South Floridian close to Wie, also gave Wie a couple putting drills to work on.

Wie’s long-time coach, David Leadbetter, has helped Wie fight through all her struggles. Wie continues to rely on him and recently expanded her team to include Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott and their Vision 54 program. Vision 54’s focus is on the “mental, emotional and spiritual” dimensions of the game.

“We worked on a lot of different drills and just believing in yourself,” Wie said. “Even when you're kind of not playing well, kind of try to look at the positives, and at least bring out one positive, one good thing, that you did and keep working on it.”

Wie understands one great round doesn’t mean more struggles aren’t awaiting. She called Friday part of a work in progress. Still, she needed Friday. She needed the reward for the work she is putting in to turning her game around.

“When you are playing this badly, it can really define who you are,” Wie said before the start of this U.S. Women’s Open. “I want to become someone who gets through it and becomes a stronger person because of it. I’m trying really hard. I’m practicing really hard.”

Mallon likes the attitude.

“By no means does this mean she’s out of it now, but she is doing the right things,” Mallon said.

Getty Images

Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

Getty Images

Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

Getty Images

DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

Getty Images

Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.