Spieth, Kaymer showdown looms for Players Sunday

By Rex HoggardMay 11, 2014, 12:34 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Even without the healthiest grass in St. Johns County or the world’s top player, TPC Sawgrass and the PGA Tour’s crown jewel will offer a surprising number of storylines when Sunday’s soiree gets underway.

From a completed comeback to a much-anticipated coronation, the stage is set thanks to a rare miscue from Martin Kaymer at the iconic last hole.

Had the German scrambled for his par from behind the 18th green, or done anything of note to complete his round on a gusty day on the Stadium Course, officials may have been inclined to start etching his name into the crystal.

He had, after all, moved two strokes clear of Jordan Spieth with a birdie at the ninth hole in his journey back to relevance after two dismal calendars. Instead, he played the star-crossed final loop in 1 over par, his first over-par nine of the week, and begins Sunday’s 18 tied with the heir to the American golf crown.

“It was very tricky to do it today, you didn't have as many birdie chances as the first two days,” said Kaymer, who signed for a 72 and is at 12 under par. “I think it played tough today. Even when you hit fairways, it was gusty and therefore a little bit difficult to attack the flags.”

After three days of the world’s best players running amok on Pete Dye’s playground, in large part thanks to softer-than-normal greens, TPC Sawgrass swung back on Saturday.

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Through three rounds, the 2014 Players looked more like the old March edition, spongy and scoreable, than the May version with its dry-roasted greens and fiery fairways. But thanks to a week of perfect weather, the greens have slowly but surely been on the mend following a chemical snafu that rendered some of the Stadium’s putting surfaces unplayable as recently as last week.

“This is a bit more of what we are used to seeing here,” said Sergio Garcia, who is tied for third place, three shots back after a third-round 69.

Garcia & Co. are hoping for more of the same on Sunday if they are going to catch Kaymer and Spieth, who is fresh off his runner-up finish at last month’s Masters and looking more in control of his emotions than ever.

Although the kid’s putter went cold on Saturday – he needed a week-high 28 putts – he still didn’t disappoint, winding shots through trees and over mounds at Nos. 14, 15 and 16 on his way to a 1-under 71.

“Augusta left me feeling a little hungry for it again, and here we are, and I have an opportunity to kind of really draw back on that round and the positives, the negatives and everything in between and go out there tomorrow and try and play the same way I played the first two rounds, and not exactly today, but I got some good bounces today,” said Spieth, who also entered the final round at the Masters tied for the lead but faded with a closing 72.

Like Augusta National, however, Spieth will have to deal with his emotions as well as an increasingly difficult golf course, which may favor his German playing partner.

The ultimate cruise control player on a thinking man’s golf course.

“There isn't a hole out there that's one that you can play brain‑dead. You've got to focus and it gets your full attention from the word go,” Lee Westwood, who is tied for eighth after a 71, said earlier this week.

But Kaymer has gone the other way. “Too much thinking is crap,” Kaymer said after a course-record tying 63 to start the week.

Born from the abyss of the last two seasons has been a simple reality that from a controlled fade come big things, like a PGA Championship and the looming possibility of a Players title.

Kaymer can now hit a draw – which was the ends that prompted him to retool his swing after winning the ’10 PGA – like at the sixth, when he drilled a low bullet into the fairway.

But on Sunday he is going to find out if he can do it when it counts, on a Sunday with a title, be it major or otherwise, on the line.

And for those scoring at home, Sunday’s comings and goings could also have an intriguing undercard with four players vying for the world’s top ranking.

Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar can all overtake Tiger Woods, who has been on the DL since the WGC-Cadillac Championship, with various finishes, but Scott may have the best chance.

Although he is tied for 28th, Scott needs only a top-16 finish to claim the top spot, while Stenson (he needs a top-6 finish), Watson (solo second) and Kuchar (win) are all tied for 13th place.

Turns out, the grass is plenty green enough at TPC Sawgrass.

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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.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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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.