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Can anyone catch red-hot Simpson?

By Rex HoggardMay 12, 2018, 11:56 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Even on a course that has a history of favoring the late-breaking horse, this has all the makings of a runaway.

Webb Simpson, the soft-spoken father of four with the salt-and-pepper beard who doesn’t exactly have the look of a man accustomed to stepping on the throats of fellow competitors, carved up TPC Sawgrass for the third consecutive day on his way to a commanding seven-stroke advantage over Danny Lee.

In sports there are no guarantees - it’s why they prefer to go all 72 before doling out crystal on the PGA Tour - but consider that Simpson could spot his closest challenger a stroke a hole on the front nine on Sunday and still likely ease into the closing loop with a comfortable lead.

At 19 under par following a third-round 68 on a Stadium Course that was much more user friendly than many expected it to be, Simpson’s 54-hole advantage is the largest in Players Championship history.

This isn’t forgone - it never is when trap doors like the island-green 17th hole loom for any would-be champion - but anything short of a Simpson boat race certainly feels farfetched after three dominant days.

“I said to my caddie I would like to play the golf course he's playing,” Jason Day said. “He's clearly playing some tremendous golf and we're the best players in the world and he's making us not look so good.”

If Day and the rest of the field needed a paradigm of hope they could peruse The Players history books. This is, after all, where Alex Cejka rode a five-stroke lead into the final round in 2009 only to leave town with a ninth-place check and an abundance of scar tissue. In fact, of the 11 Players held since the event relocated to May, only three 54-hole leaders went on to win.


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It was no surprise that Simpson, a student of history, had no interest in premature celebrations.

“Eighteen holes, I have a lot of work to do,” said Simpson, who last won on Tour in 2014 and in eight starts at The Players has never finished better than 15th.

Although he was able to extend his lead on Day 3, Simpson wasn’t perfect, with bogeys at Nos. 8 and 14 wrapped around a birdie at the ninth and sand-shot eagle at the par-5 11th hole.

Some member’s bounces have certainly gone Simpson’s way this week, but his statistical dominance is every bit as impressive as those red numbers on the leaderboard.

For the week, he ranks first in fairways hit (34 of 42), second in greens in regulation (45 of 54) and first in strokes gained: putting, the latter being a telling statistic for a player who admits that his professional life took a bad turn when the anchoring ban took the belly putter out of his bag in 2016.

Simpson, whose unique putting action is described by his caddie as the (Matt) Kuchar-claw, has converted 39 of 41 putts from 10 feet and in, and punctuated his round with a17-footer for par at the last hole.

“I hope he doesn’t putt too well with that thing up the arm or they’ll ban that next,” joked Adam Scott, who has also dealt with his share of putting demons since the anchoring ban.

Various players made spirited attempts to close the gap on Simpson, most notably Woods who for two days largely hadn’t hit the ball close enough and when he did repeatedly failed to convert crucial putts.

But Saturday was different, with Woods igniting the early morning gallery, covering his opening nine in 6 under par on his way to a 65, his lowest score to par on Tour in 1,744 days.

“These guys are going to go low today again,” Woods predicted. “It's definitely gettable. I know there's a lot of pressure coming down the back nine here, but I think these guys, the way they have set up the golf course today, it's set up for these guys to go low.”

It was one of the few things Woods got wrong on Saturday. Other than Simpson, few players were able to make any meaningful movements, as evidenced by the fact that when Woods signed his scorecard before the leaders had even teed off he was in eighth place. When the dust finally settled on a muggy day he was tied for ninth place.

A few hours later, Ian Poulter was putting the finishing touches on another gem when he lost his way in a greenside bunker at the 18th hole and double bogeyed his way to a 69 and a spot alongside Woods. It was a particularly tough finish for the Englishman, who has a pair of runner-up finishes at The Players and knows as well as anyone how uphill the climb can be when you’re trying to play catch-up on a Sunday.

“When I was chasing Henrik [Stenson, 2009] down, Henrik played incredible golf in tough conditions. It's a hard golf course to press on,” Poulter said. “The greens need to be soft for someone to go very low to catch someone that's out in front. You're going to need to do what Tiger did on that front side tomorrow; you're going to need to be 6 under through nine.”

That gauntlet now falls to the likes of Day, who was on the other side of one of those lopsided races in 2016 when he began the final round at TPC Sawgrass leading by four and cruised to a four-shot victory.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, whose 69 on Saturday moved him to 10 under par and into third place, could press the issue; or maybe it’ll be Jordan Spieth, who matched Woods’ 65 earlier in the day and was tied with the 14-time major champion at 8 under.

But then every possible scenario ends with the same conclusion: Ultimately it will be Simpson who decides if Sunday’s last turn is a coronation or something closer to an actual contest.

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.



Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.