Pettersen leads North Texas Shootout by 1

first_imgIRVING, Texas – Suzann Pettersen was prepared for a much longer break from the LPGA when she started having more back problems. When she had similar pain a decade ago, she was out of action for about eight months. But Pettersen missed only a month this time, and the 33-year-old Norwegian is already on top of the leaderboard again after a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Thursday in the first round of the North Texas LPGA Shootout. ”I feel good. I mean very patient. Just really just trying to enjoy being back,” Pettersen said. ”I got to kind of pace myself a little bit. I can’t do too much early in the week. So I have a lot of spare time to fool around with. … I really can’t go hit balls on the range. I play whatever I need to play and then just try to give my body a little bit of break.” Pettersen had a one-stroke lead over playing partner Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Caroline Masson, Christina Kim, Cydney Clanton and Dori Carter. Pettersen is playing her second tournament since withdrawing before the Kia Classic in late March, and being told rest was the way to heal her back. The world’s fourth-ranked player tied for 28th in San Francisco last week. ”It’s been a little bit achy early this week. So taking it a little bit careful,” she said. ”But last week was nice to be back. It’s always tough when you come back from something like that when you’re so out of play. You’re not even close to be playing. And then next thing you know the pain is gone and you can start hitting balls, and to bring back the mentality straightaway.” Pettersen took sole possession of the lead when she birdied Nos. 7 and 8, her 16th and 17th holes of the day at Las Colinas Country Club. Among the 35 players under par was Juli Inkster, the 53-year-old with eight major victories who shot 69. The last of Inkster’s 31 career victories came in 2006. Wie is playing with confidence and just trying to have fun, and had her 15th consecutive round of par or better. All have come in a stretch when she was the runner-up in the season’s first major, won at home in Hawaii for his first LPGA victory in nearly four years and then had another top-10 finish last week in San Francisco, not far from alma mater Stanford. ”Definitely, my confidence level is up from last year, ” said Wie, whose five top-10 finishes are already one more than she had in 26 tournaments all last season. Top-ranked Inbee Park, the defending champion, and Texas native Stacy Lewis, the highest-ranked American at No. 3, both shot 71. Park had four birdies, but the South Korean also had a bogey at the par-5 third hole, and made double bogey at the par-4 15th. ”It was just one of those kind of days,” Park said. ”Nothing went really wrong, but just a couple of bad shots that really penalized me today.” Lewis’ round included two three-putts and a one-stroke penalty when she unintentionally kicked her own ball in the No. 10 fairway. Kim hit 17 of 18 greens, while needing 31 putts in a bogey-free round that was her lowest score this season. The 30-year-old hasn’t won an LPGA event since 2005, and her best finish last season was tying for 11th at North Texas. ”Just played steady,” Kim said. ”I struck the ball really well and just kept the ball in front of me and was able to find it after every swing.” Masson started the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout last year with a bogey-free 64, and the German also was the second-round leader. ”On one hand I know I can go low here and shoot a good score. On the other hand, I kind of feel like I want to make up for the last round last year,” said Masson, who finished 15th last year after a closing 75. ”It’s positive memories, though. I mean it was a great week for me last year, just to really get going. … It’s never nice to shoot a bad last round, but I don’t have it in my head too much.”last_img read more

One for the Ages

first_imgLucy Li’s swing was awfully good for someone who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. Joby Ross remembers her practicing for hours at Mariners Point Golf Center, near Li’s home in Redwood Shores, Calif. Ross is a teaching pro at Mariners Point, but Lucy didn’t come for instruction. She was getting that from her mother and aunt, who did not even play golf. “I think they were just teaching her out of books and magazines back then, and doing the best they could,” Ross said. “It’s pretty amazing. Occasionally, if I saw something that wasn’t quite right, I would come over and mention it, like `She’s taking it away too far inside.’ But that was it.” While it’s being reported Li picked up the game when she was 7, Ross says she was actually 4 or 5 when she began showing up at Mariners Point, where there is a driving range, a short-game practice area and a nine-hole par 3 course. Watching from a distance, Ross was impressed. “After she stopped coming to our place, I remember telling the guys to keep their eye out for this kid, because we were going to hear about her again,” Ross said. “She was going to do something special down the road.” Make that extra special. The 11-year-old’s list of feats grew Monday when she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. Li, just a sixth grader, won the U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier at the Old Course at Half Moon Bay outside San Francisco. She promises to be one of the star attractions when she tees it up with the best in women’s golf at Pinehurst No. 2 next month. Li shot rounds of 74 and 68 at Half Moon Bay. Her even-par total was seven shots better than anyone else in that sectional. She breaks the age mark of Lexi Thompson as the youngest qualifier to a U.S. Women’s Open. Thompson was 12 years, 4 months and 18 days old when she competed in the 2007 Women’s Open. Li, who turns 12 on Oct. 1, will be 11 years, 8 months and 19 days old when she tees off in this year’s Open on June 19.  “It’s pretty unbelievable, quite the amazing story,” said Jim McLean, who has been teaching Li since her parents brought her to him four years ago. “I know how good she is, but I was still surprised.” Li made international news this week. McLean said he has been contacted by countless major news organizations wanting the scoop on this gifted 11-year-old. Lucy hasn’t done any interviews, though. The family is guarded with a flood of requests pouring in to them. “Lucy is very honored to have qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, and to have the opportunity to compete in this most prestigious national championship,” the family said in a statement released by the USGA. “Her time spent playing last year’s USGA Championships, as well as her win at the Drive, Chip & Putt, have provided her with many good opportunities that she will consider as she prepares for the U.S. Women’s Open. “We are very grateful for the support Lucy has received, both from the golf community and the media. She is looking forward to playing Pinehurst.” Li won her age division last month in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National on the Sunday before the Masters. Last year, she became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur and also the youngest to make it to match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. McLean says Li was 7 when her parents first called him at his base at Trump Doral in Miami, asking if he would teach her. He’s not sure she had any regular, formal instruction before they approached him. “She was probably a little too young for me to start working with her,” McLean said. “But they came out here, asked me to watch her hit shots and said they were serious about having her move here for the winter.” And they did move Lucy to Miami for the winters. Lucy’s mom, Amy, and her aunt, Tao, first accompanied Lucy. Tao got an apartment near Trump Doral and stays with Lucy while she works at McLean’s golf school four months of the year. Warren, Lucy’s father, is a computer consultant working in the Bay Area. “You never know with young kids, how interested they are going to be, or what might derail them,” McLean said. So early on, McLean was curious how much of this intensity of interest in golf was coming from the family, and how much was coming from Lucy. He said he quickly learned how much she loved the game in their winters together. Ross said he had the same questions when he first watched Lucy at Mariners Point. Back when Lucy was 5 or so, Ross remembers seeing her in tears on the range. Ross was concerned, and he approached the family to see what the fuss was about. “They would come and practice for hours,” Ross said. “I wondered if they were practicing too hard, and maybe that’s what the tantrum was about. I went over and asked if she was OK.” To Ross’ surprise, he discovered that it was Lucy’s mom and aunt who were getting tired and wanted to go home, and that Lucy was in tears protesting because she wanted to stay and keep hitting balls. “She was upset because she didn’t want to leave,” Ross said. McLean says Lucy may seem quiet and shy at first, but she has “quite the personality” and is “very funny” and likes to laugh. She also enjoys music and is very artistic. She likes to draw and will doodle impressively on scorecards. She also likes to make things, like necklaces and bracelets. Lucy’s golf skill comes with some athleticism. Before golf, she was in ballet and tap dance and even did some 10-meter diving in a swimming program, even though she wasn’t a very good swimmer. The family’s close, McLean said, and Lucy is very attached to her older brother, Luke, who is a student at Princeton. In fact, that’s how Lucy got started in golf. Her brother played and she would watch him practice, eventually picking up a club and hitting balls. “I’m sure there will be a tremendous amount of scrutiny on her at Pinehurst,” McLean said. “I think she’ll deliver. She has the game, but it’s tough. You’re going up against the best players in the world. It’s jumping up a lot of levels.” McLean will be there, confident that no matter how Li fares, she should celebrate the fact that she made it there.last_img

McIlroy builds six-shot lead at Royal Liverpool

first_imgHOYLAKE, England – Rory McIlroy looks as if he has just thrown a knockout punch at the British Open, and it was only Saturday. When he rolled in a 10-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a 4-under 68, he straightened his back, stared defiantly at thousands of fans crammed into the horseshoe arena around the 18th green at Royal Liverpool and lightly pumped his fist. He went from being tied for the lead to six shots ahead of Rickie Fowler in just over an hour. And suddenly, the biggest challenge facing the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland was reminding himself that he had one more round left. McIlroy can’t afford to picture his name etched on the base of that silver claret jug. He can’t think about what it will be like next April to drive down Magnolia Lane at Augusta National with a shot at becoming the sixth player to capture the career Grand Slam. ”I’m not taking anything for granted,” McIlroy said. He knows that from experience, good and bad. He blew a four-shot lead at the Masters in 2011 and shot 80 in the final round. He had an eight-shot lead at the U.S. Open two months later and set two scoring records to win by eight. And just two months ago, McIlroy came from seven shots behind to win by seven. It looks like a lost cause for Fowler, Sergio Garcia and anyone else trying to chase down a guy who has won both his majors by eight shots. The six-shot lead was the largest at The Open since Tiger Woods led by six at St. Andrews in 2000. Even so, McIlroy was doing his best to preach caution. ”A lot can happen,” he said. ”And I’ve been on the right side of it and I’ve been on the wrong side of it. You can’t let yourself think forward. You’ve just got to completely stay in the moment, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow.” History is on his side. Open Championship full-field scores Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos No one has ever lost a six-shot lead in the 121 years that The Open has been contested over 72 holes. Boy Wonder would not seem to be a candidate. ”What you have with him is he’s just so explosive,” Jim Furyk said after a 71 left him 10 shots behind. ”He won the U.S. Open by eight shots. He obviously doesn’t have any issue as the front-runner, and has no issue trying to extend that lead, much like Tiger used to.” McIlroy was at 16-under 200. ”If I’m able to go out and get off to a good start, maybe I can put a little bit of pressure on him,” Fowler said after a 68. ”Because he’s definitely in control of the golf tournament right now.” Fowler tried to do his part on a cloudy Saturday with occasional rain, but not nearly what the R&A expected when it went to a two-tee start of the first time in history. Fowler, who was six shots behind going into the third round, ran off three straight birdies to start the back nine and shared the lead when McIlroy made bogey on No. 12. It all changed so quickly. Fowler made a bogey on the 14th hole. McIlroy, playing in the group behind, drilled a 35-foot birdie putt that put his lead back to two shots. ”Rickie was just getting close to me,” McIlroy said. ”I could hear the cheers in front of me. I just wanted to get ahead. To hole a putt like that was huge.” And that’s when he turned it on. McIlroy blasted a drive on the par-5 16th hole and hit 4-iron from 252 yards over a pot bunker to the left side of the green and made a 15-foot eagle putt. That restored his lead to five shots, for Fowler had driven into a pot bunker and made a bogey. Fowler recovered with a superb shot out of the pot bunker on the 18th to tap-in range for birdie. That put the American into the final group for the second straight major, both times a long way out of the lead. He trailed Martin Kaymer by five shots going into the last day of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Fowler didn’t get closer than four shots from Kaymer in the final round. Garcia, who played in final group with Woods at Royal Liverpool in 2006, certainly had his chances. He was only three shots behind at the turn until missing a short birdie putt on No. 12 and failing to convert so many other chances. Garcia had a 69 and was seven shots behind, along with Dustin Johnson (71). ”It’s going to be difficult,” Garcia said. ”But we’ll give it a shot.” This was Rory’s show, just like it was at Congressional, just like it was at Kiawah Island when he won the 2012 PGA Championship. And yet the biggest crowd belonged to Woods, the sport’s biggest star who is playing his first major since back surgery four months ago. Woods narrowly made the cut on Friday, opened with two straight birdies and that was about all the excitement. He made another double bogey, another triple bogey and shot 73. Woods was 19 shots out of the lead. The biggest challenge for McIlroy might be to avoid looking ahead. It was hard. Asked what it would mean to be one major away from a Grand Slam at 25, McIlroy said, ”It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year.” ”I’d be in pretty illustrious company,” he said.last_img read more

Lee outlasts Lewis, Park, Hedwall for 2nd LPGA title

first_imgBEIJING – South Korea’s Mirim Lee won the second title of her rookie LPGA season, shooting a 5-under 69 in the final round on Sunday to capture the Reignwood Classic by two strokes. Starting the day tied for third, Lee birdied three holes on the front nine and added two more on No. 16 and 18 to offset one bogey. She finished at 15-under 277. Lee’s first LPGA victory came just two months ago at the Meijer LPGA Classic, where she beat her third-ranked countrywoman Inbee Park in a playoff. ”I really didn’t think I would get my second win this quickly,” Lee said. ”I was a lot more nervous this time than first time around.” Top-ranked Stacy Lewis and Caroline Hedwall, the co-overnight leaders, both fell short on a windy final day at Pine Valley Golf Club. Hedwall, who was aiming for her first LPGA title, shot a 73 to finish second at 13 under. ”It was tougher out there today,” the Swede said. ”I think most girls out there were struggling a little bit with the wind, because it’s a tough golf course in the wind.” Lewis, meanwhile, started off her round with a birdie, but bogeyed No. 7 and added three more bogeys on the back nine to slip out of contention. She shot a 75 to tie for sixth at 11 under. Lee said she learned a lot playing in the final group with Lewis, who was aiming for her fourth title of the year. ”Usually when I play my rounds I don’t watch the other players,” she said. ”Today I really observed how Stacy played, and she was such a phenomenal player. It shows why she is the No. 1 player in the world.” In 17 events this year, Lee has made the cut 13 times and has four top-10 finishes. With the win, she will move up 11 spots in the world rankings to No. 18. Park shot a 71 to finish in a share of third with fellow South Korean Haeji Kang (69) and American Brittany Lang (72) at 12 under.last_img read more

Casual Freddie

first_imgSAN DIEGO – Dressed in board shorts with an Air Jordan hat pulled low on his forehead, Fred Couples ambled up the ninth fairway on Torrey Pines’ North Course joking with Tiger Woods and making fun of Joe LaCava, his former caddie. Couples said he ventured out to Torrey Pines this week to pay off a few Super Bowl bets that went south for him. “It was ugly,” smiled the lifelong Seattle Seahawks fan who estimated he lost about 10 bets with various friends, including LaCava. Few, if any, from outside Woods’ inner circle are afforded an entire morning with the former world No. 1. Couples moves just as easily around Phil Mickelson as he does Michael Jordan and disarms all with equal parts charm and chumminess. It’s why Freddie emerged as the clubhouse favorite to captain the next U.S. Ryder Cup team before the European victory celebration had wrapped up. Farmers Insurance Open : Articles, videos and photos “You have to have the ability to let your ego down and let a system that has worked in the past, that allows us to be more prepared, like the [Paul Azinger] system in 2008,” Mickelson said on Wednesday. “Fred is absolutely one of the guys that would fit that bill.” Players en masse threw their support behind Couples to be the next American skipper both publicly and privately. It’s why he had a meeting with PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua in early December to talk about a Couples captaincy. While Couples can at times go astray in conversations, rambling off topic with amusing anecdotes and observations, on this he was very direct when asked about the opportunity. “I’d love to do it. Whoever is the next captain I believe they want other players involved who would be the next few captains,” Couples said. “It would be fun.” Fun has been a central theme in all three of Couples’ victorious turns as a Presidents Cup captain and the Ryder Cup task force, which met on Monday in San Diego, has touched on everything he would bring to the table. In his signature style Couples said he is content to let the process unfold at its own pace as he awaits a second meeting with PGA president Derek Sprague in the next few weeks “I haven’t asked. I’ve played a couple of rounds with Phil and I just walked nine holes with this cat (Woods),” said Couples of the two task force members. “You know, they know what they’re doing.” And Freddie knows what he is doing when it comes to team competitions. At the root of the American Ryder Cup woes, at least as far as Couples is concerned, is a format that forces captains to juggle lineups and sit players during the team portion of the competition. “The Presidents Cup is easier. At the Ryder Cup you have to sit someone,” he said. “I think there is sometimes animosity when our guys are sat, and I’m not talking about Phil [who at the 2014 matches sat an entire day for the first time in his career]. It’s hard when everyone wants to play every single match.” There are parts of the gig that don’t exactly fit with Couples’ laidback persona, including a two-year window of intense media exposure and a hectic week during the matches filled with off-course obligations. “Well, I was Presidents Cup captain and flew to Australia for a media day. That didn’t really interest me,” he said honestly. But for Couples, being a captain is not complicated. It’s all about the players in the weeks leading up to the matches and when the first tee shot goes in the air it’s about letting them play. “If I was the captain I would have nothing to do with Minnesota [site of next year’s Ryder Cup]. What am I going to tell them? I can’t tell them to chip better or putt better or drive it better. They are doing the best they can,” he said. He also made it clear that whatever the PGA has been doing the last 10 matches, a span in which the U.S. has won just twice, needs to be fixed. No endless dinners, no time-consuming team meetings, just golf. “When we go to Augusta you don’t go to black-tie dinners, you do everything on your own. I’m not saying the Ryder Cup needs to be that way but I’m saying it should be catered to the players,” he said. “It’s all about the players.” Even the closing ceremony is an obligation Couples would rather do without, explaining as only Freddie can that no one wants to sit through another hour or so of speeches, win or lose. “I saw a fistfight at the end of the New England-Seattle game, I mean do we want to go sit and listen to a closing ceremony? When and if we win in Minnesota will they [Europe] want to go listen to that? I don’t think that should happen but I’m not running it,” he said. Most of all, Couples thinks the decision should be up to the players whether that choice is Freddie or someone else. “The next guy they choose will be someone the players want,” he said. “I know that sounds harsh, but I think if you sat with our top 50 players and had them write who they wanted as a captain two years ago, I don’t think many guys would have chosen Tom Watson. “I idolize Tom Watson, he’s helped me with my game, but I’m just talking about the players.” In short, Couples would be the ultimate players’ captain, a leader who owns the team room with a smile and a joke. Maybe even a few friendly wagers. He does, after all, need a few bets to go his way after the Super Bowl.last_img read more

Rose playing well at site of first U.S. win

first_imgDUBLIN, Ohio – Jack’s Place is where Justin Rose first got on the board in the United States, so it seems only fitting that the easygoing Englishman would use the Memorial to vault himself back into a crowded spotlight. The top shelf has been a busy stage of late, what with the twenty-something threesome of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler dominating the highlight reel with victories from TPC Sawgrass to San Francisco and beyond. While Rose hasn’t exactly been the forgotten man in all this, what with his victory at the Zurich Classic and a runner-up showing to Spieth at the Masters, in the uber-competitive world of professional golf a select few thrive on the concept of one-upmanship. Not that Rose would ever admit to such narcissistic underpinnings. He’s far too well-rounded for that. But beyond the easy smile and thoughtful answers dwells a competitor every bit as driven by the concept that “second sucks.” “Now I’m in a situation where I want to win every year,” said Rose, who carded his best round of the week (66) to move to 15-under 201 at Muirfield Village. “I’ve got that nice run going six years in a row [with victories]. Now there’s pressure to win every year, so you certainly don’t get complacent.” Since that win at the Memorial in 2010, Rose has recorded a victory each year on Tour including the 2013 U.S. Open. It’s a triumph that he links directly back to his breakthrough at Muirfield Village six years ago. “If you look at my career, to be honest with you, you could say it’s gone from strength to strength since getting the monkey off my back and winning here at the Memorial,” said Rose, who leads David Lingmerth (72) and Francesco Molinari (69) by three strokes. “I was definitely feeling the pressure for a number of years to notch my first PGA Tour victory, and it had become pretty elusive. As time ticks on, it becomes harder and harder.” The victory also began the legend of Rose’s ballstriking and explains a solid resume at Nicklaus’ central Ohio gem. Quite simply, he is the ultimate second-shot surgeon on the ultimate (outside of Augusta National, of course) second-shot golf course. Rose’s resume is littered with statements at ballstriking ballparks, from Congressional (2014 Quicken Loans National) and Cog Hill (2011 BMW Championship) to Merion (U.S. Open) he plays his best golf on layouts that reward calculated control from the fairway. For the week, Rose is first in approach shot distance to the pin, fourth in strokes gained-tee to green and has hit 30 of 42 greens in regulation. “Majestic,” swing coach Sean Foley said when asked to describe his man’s ballstriking the last few weeks. Rose didn’t make a birdie putt outside of 7 feet on Saturday and seemed to regain his momentum after a bogey at No. 9, his only miscue on Day 3, with a towering 5-wood that he called “risky” at the par-5 11th hole that set up a tap-in birdie to move to 15 under par and a field goal clear of the field. His form combined with his record at the Memorial, where he’s finished inside the top 10 five times and was runner-up in 2008, along with the assembled cast behind him gave Rose an air of invincibility when he calmly putted out for par at the demanding final hole Saturday afternoon. Combined, the top 10 players behind Rose heading into Sunday have 26 Tour titles – most of those belonging to Jim Furyk (17) who is alone in fourth place – and three majors, and he will be joined in the day’s final two-ball by Molinari, a European Tour staple playing his first full season on the PGA Tour. Furyk, who won this event in 2002, would be the most likely choice, but at 11 under par he would need some help from the front-runner and the weatherman on a golf course that has become increasingly more difficult as a rare dry week in Dublin has progressed. “It’s going to depend on the weather. I think it’s supposed to be more breezy tomorrow, supposed to come from the other direction,” Furyk said. “Justin is definitely in control at 15 under par. He’s got a lot of experience, obviously one of the best players in the world. He’ll kind of control what it’s going to take and a lot of the rest of us will have to chase him.” It’s a position that Rose has become exceedingly comfortable in since that first victory back in 2010.last_img read more

Fowler edges Kuchar to win Scottish Open

first_imgGULLANE, Scotland – Rickie Fowler birdied three of his last four holes to edge fellow American Matt Kuchar and win the Scottish Open by one shot on Sunday for his second victory of the year. Kuchar was on the practice range, preparing for a playoff, when Fowler sent his approach on No. 18 to within 18 inches. He tapped in the putt for a 2-under 68 – the same score as Kuchar – and an overall 12-under 268. It is the fourth title of Fowler’s professional career, coming two months after winning The Players Championship, and the second outside the United States after the Korea Open in 2011. And his links game looks in good shape ahead of next week’s British Open at St. Andrews. Raphael Jacquelin of France birdied the last hole for 70 to tie for second place with Kuchar, and claim one of three British Open places on offer along with third-round leader Daniel Brooks, the No. 528-ranked Englishman, and Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg. Fowler took the outright lead in the tournament for the first time with his last shot of the week, from the middle of the 18th fairway. Scottish Open: Articles, photos and videos After knocking in the putt, he doffed his cap and acknowledged the crowd. But he had to wait for the final pairing of Jacquelin and Brooks to play the last before really celebrating. Jacquelin was the only one who could force a playoff but he needed an eagle 2. That almost happened, with his approach spinning back to a foot from the cup. It was a successful return to Scotland for Fowler and Kuchar, who were last here for the American team’s loss to Europe in the Ryder Cup in September 2014. ”I think we’ll be OK,” Fowler said when asked how Kuchar will feel about being edged out. ”He did it to me at The Players (in 2012). Maybe this was payback.” Fowler decided to alter his schedule and play the Scottish Open the week before British Open for the first time last year, after seeing Phil Mickelson win both events in 2013. He is halfway toward emulating his compatriot two years on. Marc Warren of Scotland shot 64 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth on 10 under, with Eddie Pepperell (69) and Joost Luiten (70). Brooks started the final round with a one-stroke lead over Jacquelin, but his driving was poor and he was forced to scramble for a 73 that still clinched him an Open berth for the first time. He was tied for seventh with Luke Donald (66) and Ross Fisher (68).last_img read more

Cantlay on verge of comeback

first_imgPALM HARBOR, Fla. – The game’s superstars, the Dustins and the Rorys and the Jordans, are used to the post-round routine. A stop with a TV network here, a chat with a radio station there, about five interviews in all, and they try to muster the most enthusiastic reply they can to the same question they just heard a moment ago. So, forgive Patrick Cantlay. It’s been a while. He’s playing in only his second event in the past 28 months, and it’s all happening so quickly. The low rounds. The surging confidence. And, yes, now the tiresome media obligations, which are no simple task for a kid with a bad back. After a second consecutive 66 Saturday put him four shots behind at the Valspar Championship, Cantlay put his hands on his hips, swayed and kicked up his knees to stay loose. By the end of the 15-minute session, he was worn out, ready to hightail it to the clubhouse for physical therapy. “Just out of season is all,” he said with a smile. Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos To everyone besides Cantlay, 24, and his team, it’s a surprise that the former amateur star is in the final group here at Innisbrook, so soon after his lengthy layoff. He hasn’t been right since the summer of 2013, when he sustained a stress fracture in his L5 vertebrae while warming up on the range at an event. In the months and years that followed, he searched all over the world, literally, for a solution, only to come up empty. His balky back was only part of the problem. In February 2016, just weeks after being told that he’d need to shelve the clubs for the next nine months to let his back calm down, he watched as his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident. With so much turmoil in his professional and personal life, Cantlay considered giving up the game and re-enrolling at UCLA. Ultimately, he forged ahead, slowly, with the help of his longtime swing coach Jamie Mulligan. The healing process is ongoing. “I try and separate the two, the injury and the personal stuff,” Cantlay said. “The back injury is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. But then my best friend dying far outweighs that. I don’t intertwine the two. “I’ve worked really hard to get back to where I am, and I’ve done a lot of good work. I’m happy to be here.” Playing on a major medical extension, Cantlay has nine events to earn either 381 FedEx Cup points or $606,849 to keep his card. (A solo second here would satisfy that, after a T-48 at Pebble Beach). He hasn’t played in a month, by design, to ensure that he gives himself the best opportunity to succeed. He’s not even sure where he’ll play next. “I did like the idea of him not playing golf because he felt like he had to play golf,” Mulligan said recently. “He could do it more on his own terms. I’ve never seen anybody not ready to play do well.” But this well, after accumulating so much competitive rust? Across the board, by any measure, he has been stellar – sixth in driving, fifth in approach shots, 22nd in putting. On the tricky Copperhead course, he has made only one bogey over his last 36 holes. The only player ahead of him on the leaderboard is Canadian Adam Hadwin, who, like Cantlay, is looking for his first Tour victory on Sunday. “It’s just shooting numbers,” Cantlay said. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s just a numbers game. My game has been good. I’ve been playing good, so it doesn’t really surprise me.” His back requires constant maintenance. His pre-round routine takes about three hours – “It gives me a good frame of mind” – and his trainer is on-site to help with some of the mobility exercises afterward. That part is different from when he was last on Tour. So is his perspective. In 2012, he was the can’t-miss prospect, the world No. 1 amateur, the NCAA player of the year, the low am at the U.S. Open, the fresh-faced, rising college sophomore who shot 60 in a Tour event. “Same guy,” he said, “but a few more highs and lows. At the time, things were rolling so good all the time. I didn’t think they could go any other way. But life hit me in the face pretty quick.” And now, one month into his inspiring comeback, he’s in position to strike back.last_img read more

Record-setting Rock leads Scottish, eyes Open

first_imgGULLANE, Scotland – Robert Rock was already heading to Carnoustie next week to work at The Open in a coaching capacity. He might now have to take his clubs. Rock, ranked No. 244, set the record for the lowest 36-hole total since the Scottish Open was launched by the European Tour in 1972, adding a 7-under 63 in the second round Friday to his 64 on Day 1. So far, he has made 13 birdies and not dropped a shot. Not only did it give the English golfer a two-shot lead on 13-under 127 at Gullane, it also gave him a great chance of earning one of the final qualification spots for The Open just up the east coast of Scotland. ”It’s everything for me,” Rock said. On a day when players shot low scores because of a lack of wind, the course record was broken twice – by Connor Syme of Scotland (62) and then Hideto Tanihara of Japan (61). The layout has only been played once before, at the Scottish Open in 2015. Tyrrell Hatton (64) and unheralded Swede Jens Dantorp (65) were the closest challengers to Rock. Eddie Pepperell (63) and Rickie Fowler (66), the winner at Gullane three years ago, were a shot further back. One of golf’s more nattily dressed players, Rock is most famous for overcoming Tiger Woods in a last-group, final-round shootout at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2012. That remains the second and most recent professional win for a player who never wears a golf hat and seemingly never has a hair out of place. Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open Nowadays, the 41-year-old Rock – a former club pro – has started coaching again. Among his part-time pupils are Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and up-and-coming English player Matt Wallace, whose two wins this year have secured a place at The Open for the first time. ”My job is to be there with him (Wallace) and help him prepare. I was looking forward to that anyway,” Rock said, before adding with a smile: ”But I’d love to play there, of course.” To do that, he has to be one of the leading three players to finish in the top 10 and ties who are not otherwise exempt for Carnoustie. And that’s far from guaranteed with Gullane as defenseless as it has been this week. Hatton, likely to be in Europe’s Ryder Cup team against the United States in Paris in September, opened with a 65 and has only made one bogey this week. Dantorp, who is playing in his second full year on the tour and has only one top-10 finish, went down No. 18 needing a birdie to tie the lead. He made a bogey, his first of the week. Tanihara was 9 under par for his round after 15 holes and required two more birdies to become the first player in European Tour history to shoot a 59. He could only par his way home, but that still meant Syme’s 62 from the morning was the course record for about eight hours. Defending champion Rafa Cabrera Bello missed the cut, which came at 4 under, after a 67 left him on 1 under. Also sidelined at the weekend will be Phil Mickelson (69, for 1 under overall) and Hideki Matsuyama (70, for 2 under overall).last_img read more

McEvoy wins Euro Open as DeChambeau implodes

first_imgHAMBURG, Germany – Richard McEvoy won his first European Tour title at the age of 39 after a dramatic finish to the European Open in Hamburg on Sunday. The Englishman holed a 20-foot putt for birdie on the last hole to secure a one-shot victory ahead of Renato Paratore, Christofer Blomstrand and German amateur Allen John. McEvoy shot a final-round 1-over 73 for an 11-under 277 at Green Eagle Golf Courses. He won on his 285th European Tour appearance, 17 years after making his debut on the tour and just seven days after triumphing on the developmental European Challenge Tour. ”It’s incredible. I’ve waited a long time, 17 years as a pro on and off the Tour, from Challenge Tour to European Tour,” McEvoy said. Local amateur John produced a final-round 67 to creep up the leaderboard, while Blomstrand’s birdie on the 18th was enough to seal his share of second place. Full-field scores from the Porsche European Open McEvoy had started the final day in a share of the lead with Bryson DeChambeau but successive bogeys late in his round saw the American fall out of contention. DeChambeau (78) twice landed in the water on the final hole, with his triple bogey-8 dropping him to a share of 13th place, a stroke behind Masters champion Patrick Reed, who ended tied for ninth after a 4-over 76. Paratore was closest to forcing a playoff after a superb lay-up on the 18th led to the Italian narrowly missing an eagle chance. McEvoy became the first player this season to win on the Challenge Tour and European Tour in successive weeks after his triumph at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge last week.last_img read more