Can anyone prevent a Scott coronation?

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2012, 9:21 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – It seems apropos that on a scoreboard that includes self- deprecating Scot Paul Lawrie there may need to be a Jean Van de Velde moment to keep Sunday’s final turn from becoming an 18-hole coronation.

But if a flurry of unforced errors is what it will take to transform the 141st Open Championship from rout to race it’s not from a lack of effort by those in pursuit.

In order, the 54-hole leaderboard is a who’s-who of major championship golf starting with Tiger Woods and Stevie Williams . . . make that Adam Scott,

Scott, a non-starter in so many majors until he started figuring things out last year, and Woods, vying for his 15th major but playing like he did to collect No. 11 at Royal Bunt & Bounce in 2006 down the coast at Hoylake, will head out into an English summer five strokes adrift and 10 minutes before Scott.

With apologies to Williams, Woods’ former caddie who caused a stir in 2011 when Scott won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the New Zealander announced it was the “best win of my career,” just imagine how fulfilling a claret jug would be for the Kiwi?

First, however, Scott will have to negotiate gusts that are forecast to reach 30 mph, a resurgent Woods and a leaderboard with a combined 22 major bottle caps.

“A four-shot lead doesn’t seem to be much this year,” said Scott, who followed rounds of 64-67 with a flawless 68 for an 11-under total and a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker. “The good part is if I play a solid round tomorrow it will be very hard for the other guys to catch me.”

And so it begins, the “Great Chase” Lytham-style on a links that has been on the softer side of Royal & Ancient this week. For three days, however, it seems as if Scott has been running downhill.

Early on Saturday U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis dismissed the idea that a Scott victory at Lytham – which would be the third by a player using a long putter in the last four majors – might expedite the ongoing review of the long putter’s future. Perhaps, but at the rate Scott is going the implement’s shelf life may quickly be nearing an end.

For the week Scott has a 1.59 putting average, no three-putts and is 4-for-4 from the ubiquitous greenside bunkers. To put that in context, he has a 1.776 putting average on the PGA Tour this season and ranks 142nd and 187th in one-putt percentage and three-putt avoidance, respectively.

If ever the stage was set for Scott to break through and win his first major this is it. The only nagging thought is the group assembled behind him.

Scott will head out in the final game with McDowell, who will be playing in the last group on Sunday at the second consecutive major, and, having grown up on the venerable Royal Portrush links in Northern Ireland, may be the player best prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for Sunday.

“He’s going to have to go win it,” said McDowell, who carded a 67. “But there is a distinct lack of 65s on this golf course. Perhaps we’ll need a little wind to make that job easier.”

McDowell came up one stroke short at last month’s U.S. Open and has the advantage of having won a major (2010 U.S. Open) and would become the second consecutive Northern Irishman to claim the claret jug.

Snedeker, however, has been learning on the job this week. Your 36-hole, record-setting front-runner played his first 40 holes without a bogey, finding a bunker or posting a three-putt. Unfortunately he hit a bump in the road to Lytham and bogeyed five of seven starting at the fifth on Saturday and will begin the downwind leg of this regatta four strokes back after rallying with two late birdies.

“I’ve come from behind before, I can do it again tomorrow,” Snedeker (73) said. “The conditions will be tough, which is good. So hopefully I can keep it going.”

He will begin Sunday paired with Woods – whose game plan of playing the percentages off the tees with irons, like he did in ’06 at Hoylake, has put him within five strokes of his fourth claret jug but has done little to help his birdie average.

If Woods fails to win his first major since 2008 it seems a certain armchair analyst will dissect his conservative play this week on the Irish Sea, at least for the first three days when conditions more resembled a Tour stop.

But if Woods had any interest in changing blueprints on Sunday he wasn’t letting on following his even-par 70 on Day 3.

“We’ll see what the forecast is,” Woods said. “Let’s see what actually happens. If the wind blows or not, I’ve still got to go out there and post the round that I know I need to post and execute my plan.”

At least Woods & Co. find themselves within a touchdown of Scott. Zach Johnson, a winner last week at the John Deere Classic, and Ernie Els, who has finished inside the top three in both his Opens at Lytham, are tied at 5 under and will need a combination of weather and vastly shifting fortunes to close the gap.

“I feel something special can happen,” Els said. “I’ve put in a lot of work the last couple of years; something good is bound to happen.”

Whether it’s a collapse, a comeback or a coronation, there’s little doubt about that.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.