Luck finds Spieth, and he takes advantage

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2017, 8:53 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Jordan Spieth is leading The Open. He’s 6 under par, two shots clear of the field following a gritty 69 on a windy and wet day along the Irish Sea. He was lucky.

Given Friday’s conditions and his play relative to the rest of the field, the 23-year-old’s play should be appreciated, cheered even. He avoided the kind of links pitfalls that awaited so many of his frat brothers, like the fate of his friend Justin Thomas, who might still be playing the sixth hole from the thick hay if not for a merciful drop that led to a quintuple-bogey 9.

Spieth converted crucial putts when he had to, largely kept his emotions in check and finds himself atop a Grand Slam field after a round for the 12th time since the beginning of 2015.

But make no mistake - he was lucky.

He was lucky that Friday’s forecast, an apocalyptic outlook that called for a 100 percent chance of rain and the kind of wind that turns decent shots into disasters, never materialized.

“I would have gladly stayed on the couch. I was watching the coverage this morning and for even par I'd still be there right now,” he smiled. “I knew it was going to get windy. It was up to 95 percent by 4 [p.m.], chance of rain 100 percent 4 or 5 [p.m.].”

Instead, Spieth and the other afternoon starters were met with only periodic bouts of showers, with one particularly strong deluge causing a short suspension of play, and gusts that eased to more manageable levels than those faced by players in the early wave.

He was lucky at the 10th hole when he chipped in for par after making a mess of the par 4.

“Obviously stole one there,” he said.

He was lucky at No. 15 when he caught his 3-wood second shot from the first cut of rough off the heel of the clubhead, but watched in amusement as his ball trundled around a pot bunker to 20 feet.

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“I mis-hit the shot, which is probably why it looked so gross on the ShotTracker,” he acknowledged. “It just one-hop scooted around the group of bunkers there, and then it was obviously fortunate to get all the way to the green and keep on going towards the green instead of over towards the left bunker.”

Spieth easily admitted that luck played a factor in his round, but then he also understands that luck has a tendency to favor the prepared.

He was poised, for example, to endure anything and everything Mother Nature had in store for him despite starting the day secure in the knowledge that he’d probably ended up on the wrong side of this week’s draw.

Instead, he caught a break. Call it luck, fate, karma, whatever you want, because even though Spieth knew fortune smiled on him on Day 2, he’s also keenly aware that those kinds of bounces are worthwhile only if you take advantage of them, and he did.

After making the turn in 1 over for the day and tied for the lead with Matt Kuchar at 4 under, Spieth followed his chip-in at No. 10 with a 35-footer for birdie at the 11th and a tee shot to tap-in range at the 12th. Although he stumbled with bogeys at No. 14 after finding a greenside bunker and the 16th where he three-putted, the world’s third-ranked player finished with a hard-fought 69.

“To chip in for par after being in trouble on 10, and then he holes a 35-footer or something for birdie across the green and then hits it stiff on the next,” said Henrik Stenson, who was paired with Spieth on Friday. “That could have easily been three, four shots difference over those three holes. If it’s your week and you’re going to be up there, a lot of times you need one of those kind of momentum keepers.”

There have been so many accolades heaped on Spieth over the years – endearing, focused, thoughtful – but the one trait that stood out on Friday on his way to the halfway-house lead was how resolute he remained throughout a difficult day.

“I felt like we were toughened a bit by today,” Spieth said. “My patience wore a bit thin around the turn. I was able to regroup.”

Although this is just his fifth Open Championship, the links learning curve for Spieth has been fast-tracked, highlighted by his near miss two years ago at St. Andrews when he finished a stroke out of a playoff, and a Friday 75 in similarly brutal conditions last year at Royal Troon.

“We played in that afternoon on Friday in the worst stuff I've ever played in. It was just absolutely sheets of sideways rain is how I described it,” he recalled. “I thought that was very important last year going through it. I actually talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a bit about it during the round; this isn't even how bad it was at Troon. We've got spots to play out here that we can hit greens from.”

At this rate, Spieth will likely need a little more luck to add the claret jug to his major portfolio. He managed to find just four of 14 fairways on Friday and ranks 124th this week in driving accuracy. On a links course like Royal Birkdale that kind of wayward play can catch up to you quickly.

But he proved on Friday that he’s prepared to take advantage of those fortunate bounces, and that’s the most important part of being lucky.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.