McIlroy in command at Open after Friday 66

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2014, 8:30 pm

HOYLAKE, England – TGIF.

It’s not exactly been Rory McIlroy’s catch phrase of late. Truth be told, the young Northern Irishman has played professional golf’s version of hump day like he is being pursued by Jason Voorhees, the fictional character who terrified a generation in the horror classic “Friday the 13th.”

But on Day 2 at a wind-whipped Open Championship “Rors” may have made history, proving that perhaps one can win a tournament on Friday.

They do tend to go all 72 at these major gatherings and the weekend forecast has even the locals concerned (one English scribe labeled the Saturday forecast as “varying shades of awful.”) which is reason enough for the rest of us to panic, but Friday was always going to be the rubber match for the two-time major champion.

A month of unfortunate Fridays had piled up to become McIlroy’s Achilles heel. Round 2 miscues had become a bad habit, like last week’s 78 at the Scottish Open after an opening 64; or another 78 on Friday at the Memorial Tournament after he cruised out to a first-round 63.

There was a second-round 74 at The Players, a 76 at the Wells Fargo Championship, a 77 at Augusta National and a 74 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It all added up to a 72.89 second-round scoring average which left him ranked 181st on PGA Tour Fridays, just 10 places out of dead last.

His Friday swoons had become so ubiquitous that even after an opening 66 at Hoylake vaulted him to an early lead, it was the first thing the gathered scribes wanted to talk about.

“Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there's not many expectations. You're going out there and you're trying to find a rhythm, and you're just trying to play your way into the round,” said McIlroy in signature honesty.

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“When you go back out on Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on the golf course. So you're going out with some expectations compared to on Thursday you're going out with not many.”

He went on to explain that the challenge on Friday, and beyond, is adjusting his mindset, but when he bounced and bounded through the first green for an early bogey, his first of the week, it smacked of the status quo.

It would be McIlroy’s last miscue of the day.

He calmly birdied the fifth, sixth and eighth holes as the wind that battered the morning wave abated and he turned in 33.

Even when things didn’t go his way, like at the par-5 10th hole when he tugged his second shot into hay left of the green, he managed to navigate the knee-high fescue with a delicate chip for another birdie to move to 9 under and three clear of the field.

McIlroy then did what major champions do on the closing loop, known in these corners as the metaphorical downwind leg. He avoided disaster and picked apart the final nine’s three par 5s to post a 6-under 66 for a 12 under total and four-stroke advantage.

His 6-under card beat his season average on Friday by more than 6 1/2 strokes and the day’s windblown scoring average by a staggering 7 1/2 shots.

So much for the Friday curse. But then all curses end, just ask a Boston Red Sox fan.

“It was just another solid round of golf. I didn’t have that (his Friday blues) in my head at all,” he said. “It’s more to shoot a good round today so I don’t have to be asked about it.”

If that sounds overly simplistic it’s because it is.

Much like he did at Congressional when he won the 2011 U.S. Open, McIlroy overpowered Hoylake hitting 9 of 14 fairways while averaging 358 yards off the tee. The idea that he would somehow fold under the pressure of a mystical curse was, in retrospect, outrageous.

“I wouldn’t have expected anything different from yesterday,” said Jordan Spieth, who was paired with McIlroy for Rounds 1 and 2. “Everybody talked about what he’s done on Fridays, I think that was just random days he was off with his swing.”

McIlroy knows there is still work to be done. There will be no early engraving on the claret jug, not with 36 to play and a Saturday forecast fit for a duck. There is still room for error, remember this is the same player who was four clear through 54 holes at the 2011 Masters and finished tied for 15th place. It’s the same complicated competitor who went 63-80-69-68 in 2010 at St. Andrews.

But on Thursday a weary Adam Scott offered some cautionary commentary, “I don’t want (McIlroy) running away with it. We’ve seen him do it. He wins majors by eight (shots).”

The world No. 1’s words left a foreboding feel after Friday’s change of fortune for the frontrunner. Consider that at the 25-year-old’s first major walk-off (2011 U.S. Open) he was a half dozen clear at intermission.

Much remains to be decided, but McIlroy may have climbed his most difficult mountain on Friday.

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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.