Stenson could put on show on, off course this week

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2014, 4:46 pm

HOYLAKE, England – When Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world, walked into the vast media center here at the Open Championship, he was greeted by about, oh, a dozen scribes. He almost looked depressed.

Henrik Stenson can take over the top spot this week at Royal Liverpool. If he does, a hundred people might cram into his next presser – if only to see the entire comedy routine.

Here is a sampling of his work Wednesday:

• Reminded by the moderator that he had a pair of third-place finishes at the Open, Stenson interrupted him: “And now you’re going to find out what I really want.”

• Informed that Tiger Woods has his own dedicated TV channel this week, Stenson’s eyes widened: “Where did mine go?”

• Asked, jokingly, whether he thought Tiger feared playing with him, Stenson grinned: “Yeah, I think it would have been a lot of sleepless nights for him as of late. When did the draw come out? He looked tired, didn’t he?”

• Told by a reporter that he has a very good life, and has enjoyed a very good career, and has made a lot of money, Stenson stopped him mid-sentence: “You need a loan?”

• Finished with a 30-second answer in Swedish, Stenson peered down at the confused transcriptionist: “Did you get all that?”

Heck, even Woods seems to be eagerly anticipating the first two rounds of this Open.

“He’s fun to play with,” Woods said. “He’s got a very dry sense of humor. He always tells jokes throughout the whole day.”

There are countless fun-loving characters in golf, but Stenson provides both big laughs and a big game.

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Fortunately, we’ve seen plenty of him lately, at least between the ropes. No one in the OWGR top 10 has played as many events in the past two years as Stenson’s 57. For the sake of comparison, Scott has appeared in only 41 tournaments during the same window.

Stenson’s jet-set lifestyle has proved lucrative. Playing the best golf of his life last summer, he captured both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai, a haul worth nearly $20 million. If you actually were in need of a loan, he’d seem a good target.

But racking up so many air miles also has its consequences. At times this season he has battled burnout. It’s why he struggled at the start of the year, failing to record a top 10 until Bay Hill in late March. It’s why he faded on Sunday at the U.S. Open, shooting 73 when “there was not much left in the tank.” It’s why he skipped last week’s Scottish Open, opting for some more rest at home in Florida.

“I just couldn’t keep on going,” he said. “Coming into a major championship being tired is always a recipe for disaster, because you’ve got to have a fresh head on to take the challenges and the hard work that you need to put in this week.”

Road-weary or not, British oddsmakers love Stenson’s chances this week (listed at 16-1), and for good reason. Coming into the Open he has five top 7s in his last six starts, and he’s finished inside the top 3 in this event in two of the past three years.

A major title represents the crowning achievement for any player, of course, but it’d be particularly satisfying for Stenson, who at age 38 has already endured two career-altering slumps. That he’s once again among the game’s elite is a testament to his doggedness.

“I’ve come back from a very low pulse a few times,” he said. “I know I can do it a third time, if need be, but I’m not striving to put myself in that position again. If you keep doing the right things and keep your mind to it, then I shouldn’t be playing as bad as I’ve done a couple of times throughout the years.

“But the game is an interesting one, and you can never know for certain. I’ve had probably some bigger downs and potentially some bigger ups than a lot of players. But nothing is just a straight line. If it is, I don’t think we’re in the right place. Might be a coffin or something around us then.”

Even if he doesn’t get off the major schneid this week, Stenson can still ascend to world No. 1 for the first time. If he does win, he’d need Scott to finish outside the top 3. Two other possibilities: Stenson could get to No. 1 if he finishes solo second and Scott finishes outside the top 17; or Stenson could finish tied second with another player if Scott misses the cut (provided Justin Rose or Bubba Watson don’t win).

Whatever. Stenson isn’t worried about the complicated math. He’s more focused on trying to prolong another career resurgence.

“It was a boyhood dream to play in the Ryder Cup, and the other one was to win the Open Championship,” he said. “So just because I’ve had some great success, I don’t think that dream has gone away. It’s the last thing on my CV (résumé) to make it complete, more or less, in my eyes. I will try my hardest to make it happen.”

If he does, just imagine all of the late-night media tours and the commercials and the packed news conferences. At long last, his comedy routine would get even more exposure. 

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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.