Merion stifling cheers at U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 16, 2013, 1:52 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – The USGA must be saving all the roars for Sunday, or maybe golf used up its allotted cheers at April’s Masters.

This much is certain: Through three grinding days at the U.S. Open Merion has proved every bit the grande dame she was 32 years ago when the national championship was last played along Philadelphia’s main line. Or maybe she’s a mercurial librarian considering the hush that fell over the East Course late on a sun-splashed afternoon.

Late Friday, USGA executive director Mike Davis said he imagined Saturday’s delayed third round would bring lower scores. Imagine if Davis & Co. had put Saturday’s pins in the hard spots?

While Merion’s “easy” stretch, Nos. 10-13, played the part, backing up an already congested leaderboard, the winding finish that starts at the 14th proved to be every bit the equalizer, culling the top of the marquee at every turn.


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When the trailing groups cleared the 13th hole, three players were tied for the lead at 2 under – Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel and Hunter Mahan. By the time dusk settled in over the historic layout just Phil Mickelson remained in red figures. But even Lefty, long love-crossed at his national championship, didn’t feel like celebrating after a bogey at the final hole.

“I need a good score tomorrow. I don't know what number that is, but I do believe I've got an under-par round in me tomorrow even with the difficult pins and the possibly firmer conditions,” said Mickelson, who turns 43 on Sunday.

Mickelson was hardly the only player who stumbled into the scoring trailer. Five of the top six players on the leaderboard made bogey or worse on the final hole, including Donald’s double bogey from a particularly nasty lie short of the green. In fact, the top 15 players played the closer in 14 over par, a foreboding finish for any would-be U.S. Open champion and a harbinger of things to come.

For Schwartzel and Mahan things came apart long before they stepped to the 530-yard 18th. Both bogeyed the final two holes, while Donald suffered a two-stroke swing when Mickelson rolled in a 13-footer at the penultimate hole and the Englishman made bogey.

The USGA says par is of little concern, which would make this week’s grind a happy coincidence of timeless architecture and a retro setup by Davis. A perfect fit for a suddenly subdued Lefty.

A five-time runner-up at the Open, Mickelson arrived in Philly with a game plan that was very un-Mickelson-like. He abandoned his driver – or what passes for a driver in his world – for a 64-degree wedge because, he figured, he could save more strokes with the wedge than with the driver.

The blueprint has worked to perfection through three days.

“He likes this place and he has a good game plan that he could work on in Memphis (at the Fedex St. Jude Classic),” said Mickelson’s swing coach Butch Harmon. “The thing I liked the most is I knew he wasn’t going to try to hit a driver, which, for Phil, is a good thing because you know he isn’t going to try and bomb the thing and hit it 400 yards. He’s had a very good game plan and stuck to that plan.”

In practical terms, that plan was tested early Saturday when he bogeyed two of his first five holes, but he played his closing nine in 3 under before his miscue at the 18th on his way to a third-round 70 and perhaps his best chance to make up for all those Open heartbreaks from Pinehurst to Bethpage.

Mickelson was nearly perfect on the closing loop before his most recent no-driver experiment backfired at the 18th when he hit his 3-wood just 265 yards, some 47 yards short of the iconic Ben Hogan plaque, and 260 yards to the green. He rifled a fairway wood through the green but couldn’t save his par.

That’s not to say the Mickelsons should start planning a combination birthday-Father’s Day-U.S. Open party for Sunday night. Fourteen players are within five strokes of Mickelson, well within the margin of error at this U.S. Open, including part-time player Steve Stricker (T-2), Donald (T-5) and Justin Rose (T-5).

Following Saturday, when Merion played nearly 4 1/2 strokes over par and just six players posted rounds in the 60s, a one-stroke – or even five-stroke – advantage is a statistical dead heat, a competitive reality that somewhat mitigated the sting of Donald’s closing double bogey.

“Through 16 holes, I could have been 4 or 5 under and really was playing as good a golf as I played for a while,” said Donald, who closed with a 71 and was in a three-way tie for fifth at 1 over. “I was pretty much in control of my ball and I'll forget about those two holes and carry on tomorrow.”

Two high-profile players who likely won’t be in that mix on Sunday are world Nos. 1 and 2, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who struggled  to rounds of 76 and 75, respectively, and will tee off on Sunday more than two hours before Mickelson.

For Woods, the problem has been too many missed putts; while McIlroy has had to play too many shots from the hay.

“It is certainly frustrating because I was feeling like I was playing well this week and I just didn't make the putts I needed to make,” Woods said. “The first two days, I had like three three-putts and I was four shots off the lead, and I missed a boatload of putts within 10 feet. So I really wasn't that far off.”

At Merion, being not “that far off” is all it takes, which explains the subdued masses that flocked to the East Course for Round 3 and sets the stage for what will likely be a silent Sunday.

At this U.S. Open they don’t cheer pars, only champions.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.


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''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


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Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."


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Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.


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''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.