Hooks & Cuts: Ballin' at the Sony

By Rich LernerJanuary 9, 2014, 3:43 pm

HONOLULU – After island hopping from Maui to Oahu for this week’s Sony Open, here are a few Hook & Cuts, including a little basketball fun.

• Zach Johnson’s the “Together Man.” He’s got it together physically, tactically and spiritually.

• During the FedEx Cup Playoffs late last season I asked Jordan Spieth to explain his success. He said, “I try to play a veteran’s game.” That means he plays to the correct side of a fairway to better access the hole location, doesn’t fire at every flag and tries not to short-side himself. That means Spieth thinks clearly.

• The Tour’s resident humorist, Paul Goydos, returning to action after a year and half away to repair his left hand, took note of all the strapping young talent milling about at the Sony Open: “They all look like 20-year-old middle linebackers.” 

• Remember Ryo Ishikawa? He’s been forgotten as countryman Hideki Matsuyama’s soared. They’re good friends, and yes, Ishikawa says that Hideki’s success has motivated him. “It gives me energy,” he said. “He’s a huge talent.” Ishikawa’s healthy after being hampered by back issues early last year – able now to practice more rigorously – and he did show promise late last season with a strong performance in Las Vegas.  Ishikawa played the Presidents Cup when he was 18, and played well. Now 22, he joked, “I’m getting old.”

• Roger Cleveland has built and sold his share of wedges and he’s noticed, as many of us have, a marked improvement in short-game artistry across the Tour. “Wedges are getting better and so is technique,” he said.  Pat Perez, working with Cleveland, added, “Just about everyone out here can hit it. Your short game HAS to be better.”

• Sean O’Hair tuned up for the Sony Open after a four-day match against three scratch-handicap buddies at PGA West in La Quinta. It was their best ball of three against him. The pro won. The pros are good.

Sony Open: Articles, videos and photos

• John Daly knows a little basketball. On his golf bag, he displays the logos of his favorite teams – University of Arkansas, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Celtics. I asked him for his favorite Celts and he said, “Tough to beat Bird, Parrish and McHale.” I replied that I loved how Kevin McHale used to hold the ball above his head, survey the floor and then turn, shoot and score. Daly noted, “That’s because his arms were longer than his legs.”

• Guan Tianlang, engaging and speaking good English, told me he’s added 10 yards to his tee ball since the Masters. He’s done some training at the Titleist Performance Institute in California and has added eight pounds to his frame. At this point, his plan is to go to Florida, where he’ll work with Sean Foley. He didn’t rule out the possibility of going to high school in the United States.

• Andrew Loupe, a long hitter out of LSU, echoed the prevailing rookie sentiment as they continue their PGA Tour journeys this week at Wailae Country Club. “This is something I worked for since I was a kid,” he said. “I used to say, ‘This chip to win the Masters.’” It’s a big moment for his family, too. “My dad always took me to the course, starting when I was 3 years old.”

• Goydos on Johnson: “Inside 150 yards it’s a par 2.”

• Jordan’s not the only athletic Spieth. His brother Steven’s a starting freshman guard at Brown University, averaging a respectable six points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

• Guan spoke effusively about the lengthy conversation he shared with Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial last spring. “He told me that golf shouldn’t be the only focus in my life,” said Guan. “He said it’s important to have friends, to enjoy other sports and do other things.”

• When I watch Johnson, I’m reminded of the legendary former Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carill, who used to back-door bigger and faster opponents to death. He wrote a book that perfectly applies to Zach. It’s entitled, “The Smart Take From the Strong.”

• As long as we’re weaving a basketball thread, I recently shot a story with one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, Rick Barry. It will air on “In Play with Jimmy Roberts” in the near future. Barry’s almost 70 and a Masters Division long-drive champion, regularly belting 340-yard drives. What’s his NBA all-time starting five?  Wilt, Russell, Magic, Michael and Rick. That’s right. LeBron comes off the bench and spells Rick Barry at small forward. The best give no quarter. And Barry was one of the best, averaging 40 before the three-point line in the 1967 finals against Wilt Chamberlain and that great 76er team. 

• I still play in a men’s league. We don’t say, “Hey, hustle back on D.” We say, “When you get there, you get there; take your time.”  

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Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

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Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.