Jones Leads the Pack at The Players

By Sports NetworkMarch 24, 2005, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- With all of the talk about golf's 'Big Four' and the race for No. 1 in the world ranking, it was an unlikely candidate who claimed the top spot on the leaderboard at the Players Championship Thursday.
Steve Jones, the 1996 U.S. Open champion, who is currently ranked 743rd in the world, fired an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods could only manage a 2-under 70 on a muddy day at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Fred Funk, Zach Johnson and Lee Westwood are tied for second place at 7- under-par 65.
The Big Four posted mixed results on Thursday.
Vijay Singh, the No. 1 player in the world, carded a 5-under 67 and is part of a group tied for eighth place.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, ranked second and fourth, respectively, each posted rounds of 2-under-par 70. They are part of a logjam tied for 30th place.
Sawgrass took in a lot of water with storms this week and Woods suffered several times with mud on his ball. He was 2 under on the front nine, but recorded two bogeys and two birdies on his second nine, the front side at Sawgrass. Woods closed with an 8-foot birdie putt at his last.
'I missed some short birdie putts I probably should have made, and I just tried to get by with some mud balls out there,' said Woods, who won this title in 2001.
Mickelson had a much more erratic round. He birdied four of his first six holes, then dropped two shots with a double bogey at the par-3 eighth. Mickelson collected two more birdies at 11 and 12, but finished with three bogeys and one birdie in his last four holes, including an ugly drive at 18 that found the water.
'If you had given me 2 under I would have taken it gladly at the start of the round because I knew I was susceptible to a couple of squirrely shots,' said the reigning Masters champion.
Ernie Els, No. 3 in the world, mixed three birdies and two bogeys for his round of 1-under 71. He is tied for 51st.
These superstars are looking up at one of the most unlikely leaders possible.
Jones opened on the back nine Thursday and parred his first six holes. He tapped in a short birdie putt at the par-5 16th, then made it two in a row at the 17th. Jones hit a poor 7-iron into the 18th green, but drained the 60-footer to keep the birdie streak going.
Jones, who served as one of Hal Sutton's assistant captains at last year's Ryder Cup, two-putted for birdie at the second. He hit a 7-iron to 12 feet to set up birdie at the third, but caught an unlucky break at four. Jones' drive landed in a sand-filled divot, but he choked down on a pitching wedge from 90 yards out and stopped it a foot from the hole.
'That was a big turning point, because that could have been an easy bogey or double from that lie,' admitted Jones.
The 46-year-old tallied his fourth consecutive birdie at the fifth. Jones' 20- footer found the bottom of the cup after allowing for 12 feet of break. He missed an 8-foot birdie try at the sixth, but the former U.S. Open champion had one left in him.
At the ninth, Jones knocked a 9-iron to 10 feet and converted the putt for his two-shot lead.
'I was just really patient today and I knew a couple under would be a good score,' said Jones. 'I didn't pressure it much. I felt pretty good coming into this week.'
Jones hasn't felt good in some time. He missed all of the 2004 season with an injury to his elbow where the tendon was off the bone. Jones tried rehab, but eventually needed surgery.
At 46 and coming off a serious injury like his, Jones had some deciding to do about how serious he was about rejoining the PGA Tour. His last top-10 finish was at the rain-shortened BellSouth Classic in 2000, when he tied for fifth.
Jones regained some of his desire assisting Sutton at Oakland Hills, but a talk with Champions Tour star and fellow University of Colorado alumnus, Hale Irwin, got Jones back on track.
'The main thing he wanted me to do is to be positive, don't be a complainer,' said Jones. 'You have to ask yourself, do you really want to do this anymore. And I told him I do. And then we went into some other stuff, and that's just for him and I.'
Funk and Johnson played together on Thursday and combined for 15 birdies and one bogey. Johnson dropped a shot at the 15th, while Westwood was flawless in the first round.
European Ryder Cup partners Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia shot matching rounds of 6-under 66 and were joined by J.L. Lewis in a tie for fifth place.
Padraig Harrington, who has been the runner-up the last two years, posted a 67 to join Singh, Brett Quigley, Bob Estes and Bob Tway in a share of eighth place.
Defending champion Adam Scott opened with a 3-under 69 and is tied for 20th place.
Related Links:
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    Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

    Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

    McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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    Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

    Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

    However, he never saw it go in.

    Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

    A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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    Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

    By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

    Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

    Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

    Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

    Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

    ''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

    Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

    ''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

    ''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

    The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

    ''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

    Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

    ''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

    Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

    Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

    ''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

    She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

    ''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

    Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

    Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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    With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

    By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

    Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

    She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

    A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

    Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

    Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

    “It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

    “They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

    Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

    “It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

    Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

    A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

    “One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

    Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

    “Just good for me,” Kim said.