America, get to know Thorbjørn Olesen (the underground McIlroy)

By Rex HoggardMarch 5, 2013, 8:37 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The relaxed 23-year-old with the infectious smile slumps back into a plush leather chair in the Dove Mountain clubhouse and considers his wholesale transition to Nike Golf gear this season.

“There are just some things you learn when you play tournament golf,” he reasoned. “It takes a little time.”

That is where the comparisons between Thorbjørn Olesen and Rory McIlroy end. Although they both transitioned to the Swoosh this season, the Dane’s jump has been much smoother and, by comparison, much less documented and dissected than McIlroy’s.

And that’s fine with Olesen.

“It must have been unbelievable for him,” Olesen said when asked about his Nike stablemate’s start with the company earlier this season in Abu Dhabi. “I have no idea how he felt, but it could not have been an easy week for him.”

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For the record, while McIlroy was missing the cut following rounds of 75 in Abu Dhabi, Olesen quietly finished tied for second place with world No. 5 Justin Rose.

At Dove Mountain, while the world No. 1 was enduring a Round 1 loss, Olesen beat Jamie Donaldson, the man who edged him in Abu Dhabi, and dropped a tough second-round match to Tim Clark despite a persistent groin injury he’d been battling since ... wait for it, falling off a camel earlier this year in Dubai.

American galleries will get their first real look at Olesen at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, just his third career start in the Lower 48, and a word of caution seems necessary – don’t let the sinewy, stoic exterior fool you.

Olesen (pronounced OO-les-en) is a collection of contradictions. Although his swing is effortless and efficient, he is not a product of a golf academy. Truth is, growing up in Fursø, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, Olesen spent the better part of his youth on a soccer pitch.

It wasn’t until he turned 15 and earned a spot on the national team that he began to focus on golf. Three years later he turned pro, a dramatic break from the norm with a singular intent – improvement.

“I felt like I learned more when I played pro tournaments than I did when I played amateur events,” he said. “I just decided to turn pro and learn how to play the game that way.”

And Olesen has continued to impress those around him ever since.

“He is a guy with a very good golf swing, very athletic, hits the ball a long way, like most kids these days,” said Clark when asked about Olesen at the Match Play. “He seemed to have a very good short game. He made a lot of good up-and-downs today, and then when the match got tight at the end, he hit a lot of good shots, too. He looks like a very good player.”

By 2011 Olesen had earned his European Tour card; by 2012 he’d already secured his first title on that circuit (Sicilian Open) and last July he jumped another rung on the ladder to success with opening rounds of 69-66 at the British Open that set up a Saturday two-ball with Tiger Woods.

That he matched Woods nearly shot for shot – he carded a 71 to Woods’ 70 – on his way to a tie for ninth at Royal Lytham was worth almost as much as the Sicilian victory in emotional capital and confidence.

“It’s good to get that experience so early,” he said. “After that I could go into every tournament and actually believe I could win the tournament. That belief is very important to me. You want to get that feeling back.”

At his current pace, more run-ins with Woods, or maybe next time it will be McIlroy, seem likely.

He’s already secured his first start at Augusta National later this spring and if he can maintain his place inside the top 50 in the world golf ranking (he’s currently 41st) through this week, he will earn a spot at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It is all part of a slow, steady and uber-serious progression that is sometimes masked by the inviting smile and flat-billed baseball hat.

“I think he feels like he’s meant for it. It’s not new because it is where he is supposed to be. He’s seems totally relaxed about it,” said Rocky Hambric, Olesen’s manager with Hambric Sports. “He never seems to be intimidated.”

Nor does he seem to take himself too seriously, which would explain his unique first name. Those who grew up with Olesen in Fursø knew him as Jacob, but in 2008 when he joined the play-for-pay ranks he switched to Thorbjørn, his middle name, because, “Jacob was a common name in Denmark and I just found Thorbjørn a little more special,” he said.

And while Thorbjørn (pronounced TOR-be-yorn) may be a tad daunting for American audiences, he seems to have fit in nicely here at the WGC-United Nations. It’s all part of a climb that even at his young age Olesen understands will eventually bring him to the U.S. full time.

“I want to try and be a worldwide player,” he said. “You have to learn to play well in America. That is where the biggest tournaments are.”

Until then he’s content being the other 23-year-old, the other freshman member of the Nike Golf staff, even the other Dane (he counts Thomas Bjorn as one of idols).

Just don’t expect that kind of anonymity to last for long.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”