San Francisco Bay area golf has championship pedigree

By Travel ArticlesMarch 16, 2012, 4:00 am

When it comes to championship venues, the San Francisco Bay area has it over southern California: More tournaments on more courses, more history, more memories and even more opportunities for avid golfers to sample.

This overview doesn't include the Monterey Peninsula and courses like Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. These are courses in the San Francisco Bay area proper and includes its newest member, TPC Stonebrae, a private course atop the Hayward hills overlooking the entire bay. It is the site of the TPC Stonebrae Championship held in April on the Nationwide Tour.

From the start Stonebrae promised to be unique. Just coming to life included an appeals process that took more than 20 years. But the result is a stunning, memorable, trying course by David McLay Kidd, who also designed the first course at Bandon Dunes.

Kidd's rolling, swooping, climbing and descending routing features devilish greens, deep bunkers and, on about 14 holes, amazing views of the bay. There are five bridges in the San Francisco Bay and Stonebrae is one of the few places in the region you can see all five.

When the Nationwide pros play it, the tour flips the nines so the tournament ends at the temporary clubhouse overlooking what is the members' ninth green. It measures 7,133 yards from the tips, but even the Nationwide pros don't usually play it that long.

Capable of bedeviling even the most talented young pro, Stonebrae requires long carries on some tee shots but also on two second-shot forced carries on par 5s. The sloping terrain enabled Kidd to expand his greens to include shallows and ridges like few courses in the world. Stonebrae challenges better golfers every day and is one on which higher handicappers have to approach with diligence.

Stonebrae ranks as one of the toughest courses on the Nationwide Tour, but challenging championship venues are part of the Bay area tradition. Consider:

The Olympic Club, San Francisco

History: The Olympic Club held the 1955, '66, '87 and '98 U.S. Opens and will hold its fifth this June; it also hosted the 1981 U.S. Amateur and '93 PGA Tour Championship.

Of note: Mike Davis, the head of setting up courses for the U.S. Golf Association, has said that Olympic in 2012 will be the most difficult Open course in years.

Need To know: The Olympic Club is a private athletic club dating back to the 1860s and its first course opened in 1919. It has three, the Ocean, a par 3 and the Lakeside, which hosts the championships. Playing down slopes to Lake Merced (hence the name), the doglegs force golfers to shape tee shots to stay in the fairway (which the USGA just loves). Add in small greens protected by flaring bunkers, you get a demanding test.

Harding Park, San Francisco

History: Held 2005 American Express Championship, the 2010 President's Cup, several Charles Schwab Cups and will also be the site for a WGC event in the next two or three years. Harding Park also held the PGA Tour's Lucky Open in the 1960s.

Of note: From the 17th tee you can look across Lake Merced and see the 15th tee at Olympic Lakeside. Harding Park is the home course for the City Championship, an amateur tournament that attracts the region's best. The 1956 final had Ken Venturi and E. Harvie Ward in front of a gallery of 10,000.

Need to know: Harding Park opened in 1925 and always has been a public entity. After a remodeling headed by former USGA President Sandy Tatum, it now ranks as the best urban public course in the country.

Silverado Resort, Napa

History: Silverado served as the site of the Kaiser Open on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and the Transamerica Open on the Champions Tour.

Of note: This resort features two courses, the North Course, originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and recently upgraded by Johnny Miller, and the South Course, which Jones did most of the work.

Need to know: After golf, this resort serves as a fantastic jumping-off point into the famous Napa Valley wine region.

CordeValle, San Martin

History: Host of the Open on the PGA Tour.

Of note: CordeValle has hosted the Open on the PGA Tour for two years. This resort course opened in 1999 as a sort of 'country club for a day' for Silicon Valley executives. Since then it has evolved into one of the country's best, if relatively unknown, high-end resorts.

Need to know: Tiger Woods brought lots of attention to this Robert Trent Jones Jr. resort course south of San Jose when he returned to PGA Tour play in the fall of 2011.

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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.