Westwood riding hot putter into Muirfield mix through 36

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2013, 5:22 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Lee Westwood marched to the scorer’s trailer on Friday with a pleased look on his face. Not even a final-hole bogey could sour his mood.

For one thing, he was done. His 3-under 68 in increasingly difficult conditions at Muirfield vaulted him up the ’board, right into the thick of this championship, just one shot off the lead.

Another reason he was delighted: Over the weekend, this 142nd British Open figures to turn into a ball-striking competition, or at least a contest of which players’ pure strikes can best hold the baked-out greens. And in that tussle, Westwood likes his chances. With 13 clubs, he’s lethal.

The key, as always, is how his 14th club behaves.

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Thus, the biggest reason for his post-round satisfaction Friday.

For years he has been a mechanical man with the flatstick. He stood over the ball and choked the life out of his putter, a motion that was heavy on technique and light on feel. That, along with his vastly improved chipping and pitching action, has kept the 40-year-old in a 0-for-career major slump.

Two weeks ago, however, he sought help from Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open winner-turned-CBS Sports analyst. They are neighbors and occasional practice-round partners at Old Palm in South Florida, and during their one-hour putting session there was a “light-bulb moment,” Westwood said.

Grip the putter lighter.

Loosen everything up.

Putt like a kid – free and easy.

And through two rounds here at Muirfield, it seems to have worked.

“I’m really happy for him,” Baker-Finch told GolfChannel.com from his home in South Florida. “He looked very comfortable on the greens the last two days. He’s much more relaxed with what he’s been working on.”

Through 36 holes, Westwood is hitting fewer than 60 percent of the fairways and greens – both worse than the field average – which would normally signal trouble. Not this week, however. Not when his putter, of all things, is keeping him in this Open.

On Friday he rode that hot flatstick to a blistering start – 6 under through 12 holes and into a share of the lead. He dropped three shots coming home – and so, too, will many in the field – but his 2-under 140 left him one shot behind heading into the weekend.

“I always seem to putt these greens well,” Westwood said afterward. “I got a couple of tips on getting tension out of my arms and having a bit more control. I’m getting it on-line nicely, and I’ve gauged the pace of the greens as well.”

Indeed, over the ball he looks like he’s gripping a putter, not a jackhammer. His 55 putts through two rounds – including just 26 on Friday – represent great progress, as do his 18 one-putt greens.

Though he missed putts inside 10 feet on Nos. 13 and 18, down the stretch he drilled the putts he absolutely had to make to keep his low round afloat.

A 6-footer for par on 14.

A 5-footer for par on 16.

A 10-footer for par on 17.

“He knows how to putt,” said Baker-Finch, who this week has kept in touch with Westwood via phone calls and texts. “He’s won 30 or 40 tournaments around the world, and you have to be able to putt to do that. I haven’t taught him how to putt; I’ve just reinforced some things that he may have deviated from. It’s helped him simplify his thought process under pressure.”

While watching the coverage at home, Baker-Finch said he’s more interested in watching how Westwood reacts to missed putts than made ones.

“There wasn’t a look of fear or inevitability or a here-we-go-again type of look,” Baker-Finch said. “It was a look of, ‘That’s OK, I made a good stroke. Let’s go to the next.’

“That means he’s comfortable, and he knows that over the ball he feels more relaxed and capable of making a good stroke. He’s not hoping to hole it. He’s expecting to hole it.”

Westwood may not recall the last time he felt so comfortable on the greens – “I don’t know, I go through spells where I’m feeling confident,” he said – but his performance at least caught the attention of one of his fellow playing competitors.

“Lee definitely surprised me,” Charl Schwartzel said. “I thought he putted beautifully. The putts that he needed to make, he has made. That’s been the difference with him so far – he’s made a whole bunch of par putts that just keep the momentum.

“You can see the way he’s walking and the way he’s playing. He’s definitely a danger, man.”

This time, with all of the 14 clubs in his bag.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner

On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell

On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."