Westwood moving forward, eyes first major

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2013, 7:58 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – It was signature Westy, delightfully dry with just enough subtle honesty to leave both the questioner and the queried feeling vulnerable.

Less than 48 hours removed from a closing 73 at the European Tour’s flagship event, Lee Westwood was asked his level of disappointment of having come up short at the BMW PGA Championship, again.

“Gone now,” he offered with a sheepish grin. “Only lasts about three beers.”

It was straight out of Worksop, England, and perfectly dovetailed with that most profound British axiom – just get on with it.

The man most-often tabbed with the dubious title “Best player without a major championship” has had a lifetime of moving on. On eight occasions he’s finished fourth or better at a Grand Slam stop only to walk away empty-handed.

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Sunday’s shortcoming at the European circuit’s faux major, which Westwood has never won, was just the most-recent near miss, but even in the fog of jet lag he played to the high side of the second-guessing game.

“I’m playing pretty consistently,” Westwood understated.

He’s finished in the top 10 in his last five events, hasn’t missed a cut anywhere in the world since last year’s PGA Championship and came within a single misstep on Quail Hollow’s famed green mile of his third-career PGA Tour victory earlier this month.

In the grand scheme of things, Westwood’s grand plan has proceeded almost perfectly.

Westwood decided to uproot his family this year and move to South Florida and focus his efforts on playing the PGA Tour. The weather was better, the jet lag was mitigated and his practice more intense.

“He is playing a lot of social golf in Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.). He never did that in Worksop . In England he was always practicing and never really played money games, but it’s allowed him to work hard on his short game,” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s manager with International Sports Management. “He’s enjoying life and his wife and family are happy.”

The “money games” at Old Palm and The Floridian have drastically improved Westwood’s short game, which has long been considered his Achilles’ heel. He ranks 87th on Tour this year in strokes gained-putting, up from 175th and 138th in that category in 2012 and ’11, respectively.

If anything, Westwood’s ball-striking, considered a benchmark on Tour, is not as sharp this year relative to his normal efficiency, Chandler said. In many ways, that fact makes Westwood’s climb back into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (No. 10) that much more impressive.

While it hasn’t produced the wins some thought it would, by almost every measure Westwood’s relocation to warmer climes – he just recently completed the sale of his home in England, the “last piece of the jigsaw,” Chandler said – has been a success.

“It’s made my life way easier,” Westwood said. “Not having jet lag – or as much jet lag – and being able to come home on Sunday night (instead of) not come home until Tuesday morning. There’s really not been an adjustment for me to make.”

All of which brings the discussion back to his missing major.

After two rounds in April, Westwood was just three strokes off the lead at the Masters before a third-round 73 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard; and next month’s U.S. Open at Merion, considered a ball-striker’s ballpark, has the look and feel of a perfect fit for the Englishman.

Westwood hasn’t finished worse than 23rd at the national championship since 2008 and he crafted his schedule, last week at Wentworth and this week’s cameo at Muirfield Village, with Merion in mind (he had a scouting trip planned to the Philadelphia-area gem on Monday but canceled at the last minute).

In 2008 at Torrey Pines, Westwood posted a 2-over 38 on his closing nine to miss the playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate by a stroke. The next season he nearly completed the “near miss” slam, finishing tied for third at the British and U.S. Opens and runner-up at the 2010 Masters.

Bringing his talents to South Beach, or thereabout, has helped, but Westwood has come close enough times to know nothing is guaranteed.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said when asked about his missing major. “I don’t think it’s one of those things you can force. … I suppose if I won a major championship now, would it make my career a great career? I don’t know. That’s for other people to decide.”

For now, the newly minted 40-year-old from Worksop is content with the road ahead. Just get on with it.

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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.