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Peterson-Gribble defy odds in alternate shot

By Ryan LavnerApril 27, 2018, 9:11 pm

AVONDALE, La. – No format strikes fear in proud PGA Tour players like alternate shot, so the idea of two slumping pros teaming up on a hazard-ridden course?

No one of sound mind would sign up for that.

And yet John Peterson and Cody Gribble have approached this Zurich Classic with short memories, with the nonchalance of a member-member and the belief in each other that can only be earned after nearly 20 years of friendship.

For anyone else, there’d be reasons to fret here at TPC Louisiana: Playing on a major medical extension, Peterson has only four events remaining to make more than $300,000. If he doesn’t, he’s putting away his clubs – for good. His partner, Gribble, won in his rookie season but doesn’t have a top-10 since, is statistically one of the worst players on Tour this season and enters this week with seven consecutive missed cuts.

But there they are, near the top of the leaderboard, only three shots back, after shooting 68 in alternate shot – the format that’s supposed to expose those who are struggling.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” Peterson explained afterward. “It’s a really hard format, but it can be a lot harder if you barely know the guy. If you barely know the guy and hit a bad shot, you’re gonna feel way worse than if you’re gonna go drink beers with him after the round no matter what.”

Peterson and Gribble have known each other since they were 10, growing up in the Fort Worth area. For two decades, they’ve hunted and fished and never taken themselves too seriously. When asked if they had any fun memories from their amateur golf days, Gribble wondered aloud if they’d roomed together for the Porter Cup. “If we did,” Peterson said, “then I wouldn’t remember it.” Their walk-up song on the first tee Saturday is George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” if only because it was the most ridiculous song Peterson could think of. (Their backup choice: “Hakuna Matata.”) Their idea of a perfect day isn’t spent on the course – it’s on Gribble’s land in West Texas, with a bow and a beer.

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“I love golf, and I love what I do,” Gribble said, “but I love being away from it at the same time. That’s something we have a lot in common.”

And it’s the mindset they’ve needed to navigate the travails of pro golf.

A former NCAA champion, Peterson’s career has been derailed by a wrist injury. He’s been pain-free for the past eight months but “just haven’t played like it.” He’s also felt the pull of home more than ever. He got married a few years ago. He and his wife welcomed a baby boy late last year, and he’s rarely slept more than a few hours each night.

“I enjoy my time at home much more than I do my time out here,” he said. “It’s not frustrating for me to miss a cut. It’s obviously frustrating because you’re not getting paid or feeling the competitive juices, but I love being at home.”

The clock is ticking on his career. Including this week, he has only four more events to earn 239 FedExCup points or $332,712. Not that he’s concerned. He’s already planning for life after golf, lining up a gig with some buddies in Fort Worth to get into commercial real estate and business development.

“We’re gonna see how it all pans out,” he said.

Gribble, meanwhile, is trying to work his way out of a miserable slump. He ranks 182nd in driving accuracy and 201st in strokes gained: tee to green, but because he’s exempt through next season after his win at the 2016 Sanderson Farms, he at least has time to figure it out.

“It’s been slow,” he said. “Really slow. … I don’t think anybody is shocked that I’m a streaky player, but you just have to believe that if you put in the work, it’s going to pay off.”

Gribble and Peterson, who have combined for no top-10s in the past 18 months, set two rules for this week: 1.) Have a blast, which for them is never a problem; and 2.) No apologies.

They thought they had a smart game plan, with Peterson taking the even holes, but no one could have expected them to follow their opening 66 with a 4-under round Friday in the tricky alternate-shot format.

“We’re extremely happy,” Peterson said.

Interestingly, the top of the leaderboard is littered with players who arrived in New Orleans in poor form.

Leader Michael Kim (who is teaming with Andrew Putnam) doesn’t have a top-20 in the past 15 months.

Daniel Summerhays (with Tony Finau) has banked only $53,000 this season.

Nate Lashley and Rob Oppenheim are Nos. 161 and 163, respectively, in the FedExCup.

Chad Campbell and Matt Jones each described their seasons as “pretty poor” and “terrible” – they’ve combined to miss as many cuts (13) as they’ve made – and yet they’re also in the mix here.

“Maybe just being with him, knowing he’s confident in me, maybe gives each of us more confidence,” Campbell said.

And perhaps that’s at work with Peterson and Gribble, too.

After their rounds Friday, they were asked whether this format was just what they needed.

“To break our current hot streak?” Gribble said, laughing. “We’ll tell you on Sunday.”

“Yeah,” Peterson said, jumping in, “let’s wait a couple of days. We’re only halfway done.”

Then they headed off for the clubhouse, for lunch and the post-round beers they had promised, no matter what happened.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.