Hooks and Cuts: Krafty Ladies

By Rich LernerMarch 31, 2011, 4:27 am
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Hall of Fame member and past Kraft Nabisco champion Juli Inkster says the walk up to the 18th green at Mission Hills, around the pond and in front of the grandstands, is “a great goose bump walk if you’re in contention.”

Another Hall of Fame member Amy Alcott, in 1988, was the first to jump into Poppie’s Pond, spurred by her caddie Billy Curry. The tradition stuck when Donna Andrews took the plunge in 1994, and every winner since has made the most coveted leap in the women’s game.

Here are some more Hooks and Cuts from the year's first major:

  • Natalie Gulbis crystallized the winning formula this week – and at every major for that matter. “You really need to drive it well,” she said. “And make your 5-footers.'
  • Christina Kim, assessing her good friend Michelle Wie: “She’s at a great place in her life right now. She’s doing everything she wants. She’s going to college, playing golf and living a normal life, or as normal as you can get when you’re an iconic figure.”
  • Under the heading, 'As It Should Be,' there’s a bronze statue of the late, great Dinah Shore as players cross the bridge at 18. At a time in the early ‘70s, when the women were playing for purses of $30,000, this tournament debuted with a purse of $110,000, thanks to Dinah. Outside of the U.S. Open, this is the most famous tournament the women play, largely because of Dinah’s love for the LPGA.
  • Gulbis echoed the feeling of plenty of American players, saying, “It’s nice to have three domestic events in a row.”
  • On what separates world No. 1 Yani Tseng from her peers, Kim explained that Tseng “swings like Anthony Kim. She goes at it differently. No one compresses the ball like she does.”
  • Tour Championship winner Maria Hjorth of Sweden says the major she’d most like to win is Women’s British Open. You hear the same sentiment from most European men. 
  • Bumped into Grace Park, back after injuries and burnout. She was once the darling of the LPGA.  “I think I would’ve enjoyed my life a little more,” she said of regrets. “Everything revolved around golf. I was like a machine. It almost became regimented instead of doing it for the love of the game. It’s crucial to have balance in your life. Today I appreciate the gift that is this game.
  • With her pint-sized Jesper Parnevik-style hat, Kim could have been doing stand-up comedy as she recounted a shot she hit last week at the Kia Classic: “I shanked a 5-iron into a tree and couldn’t find it. It came down three groups later.” 
  • Two-time Kraft winner Karrie Webb’s resurgent at 36 with two wins already this year. “Her putting cost her last year,” said Hjorth. “But she’s getting her confidence back in her putting and she’s always been a great ball striker.”
  • Park was part of one of the great finishes of the last decade at this event, and there’ve been so many. In 2004, Aree Song, then a rookie, drilled a 30-foot eagle putt on the final hole to tie Park. Park answered with a 6-footer for birdie and the win, her only major.
  • The par-5 finishing hole is a classic risk-reward that makes for great drama. Two years ago, Kristy McPherson led by one and laid up on 18. Brittany Lincicome bucked up from 210 yards and stuffed her second shot to a few feet, holed the eagle putt and won a major.
  • I told Kim I’d pay good money to watch her jump into Poppie’s Pond after a victory. Bold and bawdy, she cracked with a big laugh, “With a white shirt no doubt.”
  • Talented young Spaniard Beatriz Recari was paired with Wie last week at the Kia Classic. Recari’s caddie is Andreas Thorpe, whose brother Marius plays professionally in Europe. Andreas provided this scouting report on Wie: “She hits it a long ways and really works the ball different ways. She plays more like a man. There aren’t many women who hit a stinger 3-wood like Wie. I’ve seen Suzann Petterson and Sophie Gustafson and they’re considered strong hitters, but even they don’t hit the shots that Michelle hits.”
  • The greens are running at a good 12 on the stimpmeter. If the wind blows, and it can in the desert in the afternoon, Mission Hills could be very difficult.
  • This is the 40th playing of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the man who’s really responsible for it is David Foster, the late English war hero who was head of Colgate-Palmolive in the 1970s. He looked at women’s golf as a way to push his household products. Eventually, Foster helped jump start women’s events with Colgate’s backing in Japan and Great Britain.
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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.