Old School

first_imgPINEHURST, N.C. – Bubba Watson compared the new and improved No. 2 course at Pinehurst to the rough-around-edges layout he grew up playing in Florida’s Panhandle. Chris Kirk figured the nip/tucked Donald Ross gem more resembled a linksland layout. “Except around the greens,” Kirk hedged. To be fair, most players walked off Pinehurst on Tuesday not exactly sure what that was. The layout’s makeover is all at once sweeping and subtle. From the tee, players at this week’s U.S. Open will be greeted with vastly different visuals since the last time the national championship was played here in North Carolina’s sandhills. Ubiquitous native areas dotted with love grass have replaced the acres of thick rough that ringed the fairways in 2005 and 1999, and a particularly hot and dry spring has resulted in hard, firm fairways baked to a golden brown. It is one of the most unique Open venues in modern history, which was exactly what Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore hoped to create when they were tasked with restoring the storied layout to Ross’ original condition in 2010. Crenshaw, Coore and those pulling the strings at Pinehurst say Ross would be pleased with the result. U.S. Open: Articles, videos and photos As for the 156 players tasked with solving the Scot’s refurbished riddle, the jury is still out. “Native areas – it’s funny, me, Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum, we grew up at a golf course called Tanglewood in Milton, Fla.,” Watson said on Tuesday. “Looks like the same golf course I grew up on – a lot of pine trees, sand everywhere – we don’t call it ‘natural area’ we call it … not very good conditions where I grew up. So I’m used to hitting out of sand and hardpan with, again, we call it weeds where I grew up.” Whether the changes translate to a memorable Open remains to be seen, but the new-look layout has certainly left a mark on many in this week’s championship. “I thought it was really cool how unique it was,” Kirk said. “They found a way to make it look completely different than any other course we play. Now, ask me again in six days and see if I still think it’s cool.” Whatever one’s perspective – be it weeds or love grass, native areas or scrub, unique or overcooked – the essence and exam of Pinehurst remains the same. The turtlebacked greens remained virtually unchanged during the makeover and are still No. 2’s primary defense. Those swales and hollows have been magnified by the dry conditions so far this week, but that could change with the forecast which calls for an increased chance for showers on Thursday. But for two practice days it has been the perfect storm for the USGA and Pinehurst. “It’s glassy and that’s what Pinehurst should be. It makes it that much more interesting and elusive,” Crenshaw said. “The international players really like it because I think it reminds them of maybe Australia a little bit, some of the British (Open) courses. It’s kind of a neat mix.” But then one man’s pristine can easily turn into another’s punishment when the line is as thin as it will be this week, particularly with next week’s U.S. Women’s Open looming. “Firm and dry,” one caddie said when asked about the course conditions. When pressed if he thought the layout was fair he figured, “So far . . . yes.” It’s been some time since the USGA overcooked an Open venue, although some will contend last year’s championship at Merion was dangerously close. But if player reaction is any indication the USGA won’t have to color too close to the lines to be sure Pinehurst maintains its tough-but-fair history (the combined winning score at the last two U.S. Opens played on No. 2 is 1 under par). For Crenshaw, the Pinehurst project went well beyond the need for shock value. Ross’ original intent was to be unique, maybe even a little surprising if early player feedback is any indication. By comparison, reverting to the original plan was as easy as following directions. That, however, doesn’t make this week any less stressful. Late Tuesday afternoon Crenshaw was making his way down the practice tee under a sweltering sun when he was asked if he felt any apprehension coming into this week. “Always,” he smiled. “You hope they find it interesting and it’s a good test for them and it’s something different than what they find on a regular basis. That’s what Pinehurst is anyway.” So far it’s certainly proven to be a different U.S. Open venue.last_img read more

Pursuit of No. 1 unites new Big 3

first_imgThey are from such different parts of the world. There’s the Ulsterman, Rory McIlroy, and the Texan, Jordan Spieth, and the Australian, Jason Day. They speak with distinctly different accents from cultures with such different views of the world, and yet they’re alike in so many ways. These three young stars atop the world of golf share a charm, an eloquence and an openness that make the game feel accessible in ways it hasn’t since Arnold Palmer ruled over it. They’re Palmer-esque in so many ways. Day, 27, feels that in the youthful energy running through the top of the sport. “I think it’s kind of refreshing for the game of golf right now,” Day said Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “The kids these days, especially Jordan, Rory and Rickie [Fowler], it’s a very approachable group of kids, who you can easily be fans of. “I feel like back in the days 10 or 15 years ago, it was harder to approach the top players in the world. For me to be able to be in that trio, it’s neat.” McIlroy, Spieth and Day may share a certain charm, but it’s another quality that is driving their names together. Deutsche Bank Championship: Articles, photos and videos They share an ambition that belies their generous dispositions. They share an ambition that doesn’t want to share this grand stage in golf at all. Day will tell you this in the same breath he shares his admiration for his rivals. He wants to rule more than he wants to share. “I want to be on top of the trio,” Day said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. It’s going to be tough for me to do that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to top those guys.” We heard McIlroy, 26, and Spieth, 22, present the same bold desires in the same gentlemanly language. “Golf is in a cool place right now with young guys who aren’t afraid to win,” Spieth said. McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world rankings this week, with Spieth falling back to No. 2 and Day holding firm at No. 3. They’re here at TPC Boston, though, to take what the others covet most. They’re here to plunder trophies, FedEx Cup points, money and rankings. “No. 1 is my No. 1 priority in life,” Day said of his career goals. “Rory and Jordan are the two I’m shooting for. I’m just a little bit behind them. It makes me hungry to try and go catch them.” Spieth said Day is probably already the real No. 1 in the game, given his current form. Day is looking this week to win for the fourth time in his last five starts. Spieth is enjoying a terrific year, too. He won the Masters and the U.S. Open and was in the hunt until the end of the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. McIlroy, who missed much of the summer with an ankle injury, won the last two majors of last year. Together, this trio has combined to win five of the last six majors. “Seeing Jordan and Jason being in contention so much over the summer, definitely it’s motivation for me to get out there and try to play the best that I can,” McIlroy said. “I’m with those guys for a little bit, and I’ll obviously try to surpass them.” McIlroy said one of his goals this year was to build his world ranking average to further separate himself from challengers. “The guys are coming at me,” McIlroy said. “I don’t mind being in this position. It’s a good thing. It makes it competitive. It gives you guys a great narrative to run with. I’m just enjoying being part of that conversation.” Last week, Spieth downplayed giving the No. 1 ranking back to McIlroy, but he acknowledged Thursday he didn’t part with it as well as he made it appear. “It stinks to lose that position, it really does,” Spieth said. Spieth finds the Big Three talk motivational. “It’s enjoyable,” he said. “It was the Big One. And after the Masters, it was the Big Two. And Rickie won The Players, and then it was the Big Three. The U.S. Open happened, and it was the Big Two again. And Jason won three out of four weeks, and it was the Big Three again. I just hope I stay in the `Big’ moment, whenever it changes next. I hope I’m the one staying in that space.” Or, preferably, atop that space.last_img

Olesen leads Alfred Dunhill by three through 54

first_imgST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark took a three-shot lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Saturday after a 7-under 65 at St. Andrews in the third round. Olesen started with a bogey on the first hole but then had eight birdies the rest of the way – including four on the last five holes – for a 17-under 199 total. ”I started off badly by hitting it in the water on the first but I got over it and played some good golf,” Olesen said. ”My putter started to get very hot out there and I holed a lot of great putts. So yeah, it was good fun.” Florian Fritsch of Germany was second after a 64 at Kingsbarns, with Benjamin Hebert of France another shot back after a 67 at Carnoustie. The players alternated among the three courses on the first three days, with the final round held at St. Andrews. Fritsch had six birdies and an eagle in his bogey-free round. After starting on the 10th tee, he eagled the par-5 third hole and had three birdies on the next four. ”I hit a couple of good putts and ended up rolling in a few birdies and an eagle,” the German said. ”That was a little extra.” Jimmy Mullen, who held a share of the overnight lead, could only manage a 74 at Carnoustie to plummet down the leaderboard. Ernie Els continued his resurgence with a 66 at St. Andrews to sit in a tie for eighth, six shots back.last_img read more

Newsmaker No. 8: Fowler

first_imgRickie Fowler wasn’t the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year He didn’t win a major in 2015. He didn’t do enough to challenge Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day for “Big Three” consideration. He did, however, deliver the most spectacular performance of the season during a breakout year that recast him as one of the game’s most formidable and deserving young stars. The key word there is “deserving,” because even some of Fowler’s peers apparently didn’t believe he was worthy of all the hype he received before delivering three impressive victories this year. Fowler began redefining himself with his spectacular finish at The Players Championship in May, winning with one of the boldest Sunday charges you’ll ever see. Named early that week with Ian Poulter as the most overrated players in the game in a magazine player survey, Fowler delivered the most eloquent answers to all his critics. He hit more clutch shots coming down the stretch at TPC Sawgrass than most players will hit in a year, more than some will hit in an entire career. Fowler won The Players with a birdie at the fourth playoff hole, sticking a gap wedge to 4 feet and 8 inches at the famed 17th. He played the island hole three times that Sunday and birdied it all three times, twice in the playoff. He birdied 15 and eagled 16 in regulation, and then birdied both 17 and 18 to get into the playoff with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner. “Obviously, he’s not overrated,” Kisner said afterward. “I think he proved that.” Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee liked the manner in which Fowler answered his critics. “I cannot remember a more in-your-face victory,” Chamblee said. Butch Harmon, who began working as Fowler’s swing coach about 16 months before the victory, wondered who voted Fowler most overrated. “They must feel silly now,” Harmon told Sky TV. The Players wasn’t Fowler’s lone statement. A year after recording top-five finishes in each of the major championships, Fowler broke through to win on three large stages in 2015, just not major championship stages. That’s about all Fowler didn’t do while proving himself a formidable closer this year. He closed out memorably in all three of his victories. After winning The Players, Fowler won the Scottish Open in July with birdies at three of the final four holes. He beat the strong field assembled in Scotland a week before the Open Championship. Two months after that, Fowler came from three shots behind Henrik Stenson on the back nine at the Deutsche Bank Championship to win a FedEx Cup event. “It’s been a good year as far as being able to get the door knocked down,” Fowler said. “Last year, I put myself in positions to win, and this year I finally took care of business. I’ve been able to rack up a few trophies.” Harmon knew what The Players would do for Fowler. “He got so much confidence at The Players, not only in what he’s doing, but in what he can do in competition,” Harmon told USA Today. “He believes in himself now. The beauty of Rickie now is he knows how good he is. He knows all the hard work he’s done has paid off.” Fowler will be looking to make his mark next on the majors after reaching most of his goals in 2015. “The only goal I didn’t get was winning a major,” he said. “I guess we’ll keep that one on the list for next year.”last_img read more

McConaughey a fan of Fowler, Team USA in Rio

first_imgRIO DE JANEIRO – The man famous for, among other things, delivering the “alright, alright, alright” line at the Oscars two years ago was following Rickie Fowler Friday at the Olympics saying “nestle, nestle, nestle” when the American star hit a chip shot on the 16th hole. Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey has been living it up this week while attending the Olympics for the first time. He’s watched men’s and women’s rugby, beach volleyball, table tennis and swimming. Friday, it was golf, before flying back to the U.S. later in the evening. “It’s been a blast,” he said in his signature Texas twang. “We’ve covered some ground, man. “One, I’m obviously over here rooting on the red, white and blue. Two, I’m over here, my wife’s Brazilian, so I came over here to root for this country to pull it off, which I think they’re doing a pretty good job of that.” McConaughey, 46, wanted to catch up with Fowler before his trip ended and, four days ago, reached out to Fowler to see if it’d be OK to come watch him play. The two had never met, although they have been in communication in the past according to Fowler. McConaughey says he’s always admired Fowler’s style and the way he handles himself and wanted to show him, and the other Americans, some support. “Just shows you how big the Olympics is,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of people that come in to watch.” McConaughey, wearing a newsboy hat and Presidents Cup pullover with an American flag emblazoned on the back, is said to be a single-digit handicap even though he contends he only plays golf once a year during his annual charity event. Or, as he describes it, he’s “good enough to want to keep picking them up, but not so good that I’m pissed when I don’t.” Brazilian ties aside – McConaughey married model Camila Alves in 2006 and they have children ages 8, 6 and 3 – he’s a sports junkie, so the Olympics has always been smack in the middle of his radar even though he’d never been able to attend one before this year. [[{“type”:”media”,”fid”:”1513716″,”view_mode”:”wysiwyg”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:”1080″,”width”:”1920″,”class”:”media-element file-wysiwyg”}}]] For more photos of McConaughey’s excellent Olympic adventure, click the photo above Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos “It is pure sport,” he said. “Some people I heard the other night said they come here and they are reminded why they wanted to be competitive at whatever sport it was when they were a kid. “The common denominator is the sport. You come here and everybody has different styles of play, different chants and cheers on the sidelines, different ways how they go about playing the game, different religions, different politics … and the equalizer is the game.” McConaughey was here as a respite before returning to the U.S. to work on five projects before the end of the year, including two animated features and two Christmas movies. “I got tired of people saying ‘what’s your kids’ favorite film you’ve done’ and I said, ‘I haven’t made anything they can see yet,’” he said. “I’m not going to sit my kids down and let them watch ‘True Detective’ yet. There would be a lot of explaining to do.” “True Detective” is the HBO crime-drama television series in which McConaughey and Woody Harrelson starred together for Season 1. Difficult to tell these days which role McConaughey is most known for; the aforementioned Oscar speech, “True Detective,” “Dallas Buyers Club” or even the laid-back car commercials where he nonchalantly cruises around town and waxes poetic.  Fowler confirmed, McConaughey didn’t try to sell him a Lincoln.last_img read more

Dominating Thompson reigns at Kingsmill

first_imgWILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Lexi Thompson hopes she can finally put the ANA Inspiration rules mess behind her. Thompson shot her third 6-under 65 on Sunday to finish off a nearly flawless wire-to-wire victory in the Kingsmill Championship with a tournament-record 20-under 264 total. She broke the record of 19 under at Kingsmill’s River Course set by Annika Sorenstam in 2008. The victory came in Thompson’s third event since she lost the ANA Inspiration in a playoff after being penalized four strokes for a rules violation reported by a television viewer, and she said she hopes chatter about that situation can finally be put to rest. ”I’m so over that. It is in the past. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s time to move on and this puts a lid on it,” she said. At Rancho Mirage in early April, Thompson was given the four-shot penalty with six holes to play in the final round. She had a 15-inch putt on 17 in the third round when she stooped to mark the ball, and quickly replaced it about an inch away. The television viewer contacted the LPGA Tour the next day, and officials determined it was a clear violation. Thompson was assessed a two-shot penalty for where she replaced the ball, and because it happened the day before, she received a two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She went from a three-shot lead to one shot behind, and eventually lost to So Yeon Ryu in the playoff. The victory Sunday, Thompson’s eighth, gave her at least one in five consecutive seasons. That matches top-ranked Lydia Ko for the longest streak on tour, and Thompson said after three solid ball-striking days, she had to work a little harder in the final round. ”Today I was a little off off the tee and kind of steered it around the golf course, but I’m not complaining with a 65, that’s for sure,” she said. ”I just felt very in control of my game and a lot more relaxed in between shots and my caddie was a big help with that.” Thompson, who skydived to the first tee for the Pro-Am on Wednesday to highlight her charitable partnership with the SEAL Legacy Foundation, wore blue camouflage for the final round to ”bring awareness to them and this foundation.” In Gee Chun, playing with Thompson, shot a bogey-free 67, but was no match for the leader, finishing five shots back. Thompson also was bogey-free and finished the tournament with just two bogeys, both on the par-3 17th hole. ”I had great round today,” Chun said, ”… but she play was so good. Really enjoyed play with her. So I learn a lot from her today.” Thompson began the day with a three-shot lead and quickly added to it, rolling in long birdie putts on the par-4 first hole and the par-5 third. ”It definitely helps to get the birdie at the start just to kick-start things,” she said. Chun used birdies on the third, par-4 fifth and par-5 seventh to get within two shots, the latter prompting a large roar from her fans. But Thompson drew a roar of her own with a birdie putt on the par-4 ninth and then made three birdies in a four-hole span on the back nine. She eclipsed Sorenstam’s record with a birdie on the par-5 15th, pushing her lead to five shots. The birdie was made possible by a 9-iron she hit about 180 yards out of a bad lie in a bunker, and she finished it off with about a 10-foot putt, all by erasing any lingering suspense. ”I wasn’t planning on it to go 180 yards, 190 yards through the fairway, but I caught it very clean,” she said. ”I knew it was a shot that I definitely needed to pull off to be able to get my approach shot in there for birdie.” Angela Stanford closed with a 66 to finish third, and Danielle Kang was fourth after a 68. The top-ranked Ko began the day five strokes off the lead, and shot 73 to tie for 10th at 7 under. She is winless since last July.last_img read more

Def. champ Feng part of 7-way tie in Japan

first_imgIBARAKI, Japan – Defending champion Shanshan Feng fired a 6-under 66 on Friday to share a seven-way lead after the first round of the LPGA tour’s Toto Japan Classic. Feng carded six birdies in a bogey-free round at the Taiheiyo Club and was joined at 6 under by Americans Lizette Salas and Jane Park, Japanese players Saiki Fujita, Ai Suzuki and Nasa Hataoka, and Ming-yong Lee of South Korea. Feng was only 1 under through 11 holes, but made five birdies in her last seven holes to climb into a tie for the lead. She is aiming to become the first player on the LPGA to defend a title in 2017. ”I did start the day slowly, just like usual, and then I got my first birdie on the eighth hole finally,” Feng said. ”After that I was like ‘that’s just the first of many,’ and then my ball striking was very good on the back nine,” Full-field scores from the Toto Japan Classic Anna Nordqvist was a further stroke back at 5 under, tied for eighth with South Koreans Sei Young Kim and Chae Young Yoon. Lexi Thompson offset three bogeys with seven birdies for a 68 and was tied for 11th in a group of 13 players including No. 1-ranked So Yeon Ryu, Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis. In her last six starts, Feng has finished in the top seven five times, and is riding a hot streak into her title defense this week. ”What I did today was good, and I think I just stick to my same plan,” Feng said. ”I believe if my ball striking is as good as normal then I’ll give myself a lot of birdie chances every day. So, if my putting is working I should be able to shoot lower scores.” Salas, who bogeyed her first hole of the day but rebounded with seven birdies over the rest of her round, is also on a hot streak. She has finished in the top five in three of her last four events, but is still looking for her first title of the year. ”I feel really confident with these greens,” she said. ”They’re slick (and) they’re fast, which are the kind of greens I like. My iron play has been improving so far, and I’ve been making clutch putts when I need to.”last_img read more

Paisley tops Grace for first Euro win at SA Open

first_imgJOHANNESBURG – With his wife as his caddie, Chris Paisley beat hometown favorite Branden Grace to win the South African Open by three shots on Sunday and claim his first European Tour title. Starting the day ahead by a shot, Paisley shot a final-round 6-under 66 at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg to finish at 21 under and win by three. The Englishman made six birdies and didn’t drop a shot in a flawless finish on the way to his breakthrough win on the tour. Grace, an eight-time European Tour winner, started with a birdie and an eagle and held the lead briefly before his challenge faded after a double bogey on No. 6 and a bogey on No. 12. He finished strongly, with an eagle and two birdies in his last six holes to card a 68. Full-field scores from the BMW South African Open The 31-year-old Paisley, with wife Keri carrying his bag for the first time, kept his nerve during Grace’s early charge and kept the title in English hands after Graeme Storm won last year. Grace finished in second while another South African, JC Ritchie, finished third after a Sunday 65. Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent and South Africans Jacques Kruyswijk and Jacques Blaauw were tied for fourth at 14 under. Chase Koepka, the younger brother of U.S. Open champion Brooks, finished with a 71 and in a tie for seventh.last_img read more

Cold-cocked by Shinnecock

first_imgSOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Resting up at his rental home a few miles from Shinnecock Hills, with his afternoon tee time still hours away, Graeme McDowell faced a dilemma. As a U.S. Open champion, he is plenty familiar with the rigors and demands of a USGA setup. But even he had heard whispers of the carnage sweeping across eastern Long Island in the early morning hours Thursday, and he had to decide whether or not to turn on the television to watch it. “Part of me was thinking, like, is it better to get punched in the face by surprise, or is it actually better to be prepared to be punched in the face?” McDowell said. He opted to prepare. It didn’t help. After the leaderboards at Erin Hills were coated with red numbers a year ago, the U.S. Open returned to its bludgeoning roots Thursday thanks to an assist from Mother Nature, leaving destruction in its wake and nearly no player unscathed. With steady winds buffeting the sprawling layout, an already taxing course was pushed to the extremes. Despite doing some early homework, McDowell signed for a 79 after he and fellow past champions Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover played their first 13 holes without making a single birdie. But that still left him ahead of the 29 players who failed to break 80, a group that included major winners Rory McIlroy (80), Keegan Bradley (81) and Martin Kaymer (83). Despite world No. 1 Dustin Johnson sharing the lead after a 1-under 69, the top 10 players in the current world ranking combined to shoot 52 over par. The average score for the field on the par-70 layout was a stout 76.5. A pleasant stroll through the park, this was not. “I don’t feel like I hit it that bad, and I mean, I shot an 80,” said Scott Stallings. Stallings went out in the first group, bright and early at 6:45 a.m., and his troubles on the 14th hole were one of the first indications that players were in for more than the typical demands of a U.S. Open test. Facing a lengthy par putt, he could only watch as a stiff downwind breeze carried his ball from a few feet beyond the hole to clear off the green. U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage When he was done bouncing back and forth across the putting surface, he tapped in for a quintuple-bogey 9. His playing partner, Sebastian Munoz, managed a respectable double after following Stallings off the green from mid-range with putter in hand. “When’s the last time you heard of two guys that play golf for a living putt it off the green, uphill from 30 feet?” Stallings asked. “I mean, it just doesn’t happen.” Unlike the debacle of 14 years ago, blame for these eye-popping numbers wasn’t laid at the feet of a flawed course setup. USGA CEO Mike Davis spoke openly Wednesday about his group’s efforts to adjust their plans in the face of the harshest winds expected all week, and players by and large found the setup to be fair. But fair didn’t mean easy, or close to it. Whatever razor-thin margin for error exists around Shinnecock for a typical round was quickly eroded by a rare westerly wind, one that most players hadn’t faced in early-week practice sessions. Taking a break from his day job as an NHL referee, amateur Garrett Rank surveyed a delicate chip shot on the very first hole of his U.S. Open debut and knew that he was in trouble. Perched just left of the 10th green, Rank surmised that his 30-yard pitch would respond differently than any he had encountered during his preparation. So he adjusted accordingly, hitting the ball only half the distance he expected it would need to reach the hole. He hit the shot he planned, and watched it bound up to the hole. Then a little past. Then a few feet farther, and about 10 feet beyond the hole his ball caught a slope and headed toward Montauk. By the time it came to rest, Rank was staring down a 30-yard chip from the other side of the green. “I might as well have not even played a practice round,” said Rank, who shot an 83. “I felt like I hit three half-decent shots just to, like, ease in with a bogey, and now I’m grinding to make a double. It’s just hard.” Indeed, there was no easing into the 118th U.S. Open, where several big names are likely looking into Friday night flight plans. Jason Day joined McDowell at 9 over, while Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth were among the decorated group at 8-over 78, each humbled at different times throughout the day and now trailing exactly 100 players after only a single round. “There were a couple of (pin positions) that were a little dicey, but all in all it was more just very difficult to control the ball off the tee, getting it where you wanted to in this wind,” Spieth said. After watching Spieth, McIlroy and Phil Mickelson hack it around and subsequently failing to do much better, McDowell stood by his decision to prepare via broadcast this morning as a wry grin crept across his face. With plenty of experience and a U.S. Open title under his belt, he eventually came to the same realization as the players he watched mid-struggle: on this day, in these conditions, there was no ducking the punches at Shinnecock. “It was a, ‘If you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry’ sort of thing out there today,” McDowell said. “That was kind of my mentality today. Just find a happy place and stay there, because I knew it was going to test me to the limits today. It was hard.”last_img read more

Korda’s win an across-the-globe family affair

first_imgNelly Korda didn’t have to wait long Sunday to hear from her big sister after winning the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship. Still on the 18th green, still dripping with champagne from the celebratory soaking she got after tapping in to win, Nelly turned to see Jodi Ewart Shadoff thrust a phone in her hand. Before Nelly could get to scoring, before she could even get to the trophy, big sis Jessica got to her. Glancing down at the phone, Nelly saw Jessica in tears, looking back at her in a FaceTime connection. “It was like Jess was right here with me,” Nelly said. “She was just bawling. I lost it, too. I was crying because of all the emotions.” Choking up, Nelly didn’t have to say anything. “Jess kept saying, ‘I’m so proud of you, I’m so proud of you, I’m so proud of you,’” Nelly said. “It meant a lot to me. “She’s like my best friend. To have her out here on tour, taking me under her wing, showing me the ropes and including me in everything, she made me the player I am today.”   Jessica may have been back at her home in West Palm Beach, Fla., glued to Golf Channel’s live stream of the event, but the distance didn’t matter. The sisters made history together in Taiwan. Jessica, 25, is a five-time LPGA winner. Nelly, 20, claimed her first in her second year on tour. The Kordas are just the third set of sisters to win LPGA titles. The Sorenstams were the first sister combo to do it. Annika won 72 LPGA titles, with Charlotta joining her with a victory in 2000. The Jutanugarns were the second. They joined the mix when Moriya won the Hugel-JTBC LA Open in April, following sister Ariya as a winner. Nelly’s victory radiated beyond sisterhood. It was a full family celebration. When Nelly checked her cell phone after leaving scoring, she saw a text with a photo from her father, Petr. He snapped a shot of a full champagne glass from the family home back in Bradenton, Fla. “He said, ‘This one’s for you,’” Nelly said. “I think they were having quite a breakfast. They were up all night.” Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field scores from the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship The Kordas are an extraordinary sports story. From mom and dad, to the sister combo and baby brother, they are all world-class athletes. Parents Petr and Regina were international tennis champions from the Czech Republic, with Petr taking a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 1998, and Regina climbing among the top 25 women in the world rankings and making the Olympics. Sebastian, 18, is the baby brother. He is the reigning Australian Open junior champ and No. 2 in the world in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings. Nelly was thinking about all of them in the wake of Sunday’s victory. “Just to be in the position we’re in, we are very grateful,” Nelly said. “It’s all because of our parents. They’ve always been there for us. They’ve always made sure our heads were in the right place, and they’ve always told us to be humble.” Korda didn’t look as if she were trying to close out her first victory Sunday at Ta Shee Golf and Country Club. She looked in total control, posting a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 to win by two shots. She hit 11 of 14 fairways. She hit 16 greens in regulation. Mostly, though, she overpowered her challengers. Korda was in the final pairing with Wei-Ling Hsu, the homeland favorite who was playing in front of massive galleries. Jin Young Ko, a two-time LPGA winner and Korean LPGA star, was also in the final pairing. They were no match for Korda’s power. She’s one of the tour’s big hitters, ranking 19th in driving distance. She averaged 274 yards per drive on Sunday and consistently hammered tee shots 30 yards past both Hsu and Ko. Hsu closed with a 74 and tied for sixth. Ko finished with a 73 and tied for eighth. While Hsu and Ko both played themselves into trouble, Korda never did.  “It’s definitely one of the best days of my entire life,” Korda said. FaceTime with Jessica added to the emotion. Nelly remembered back to when she was 13, when Jessica won her first LPGA title. Nelly huddled with her parents watching a live stream on her father’s computer. “I remember everything about it,” Nelly said. “When she won, my mom and I were bawling our eyes out.” Nelly had a chance to win earlier this year. She took a one-shot lead into the final round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, but she lost by a shot to Michelle Wie when her final birdie chance at the last slid away. “Jess was really there for me,” Nelly said. Nelly said she needed Jess early in the year, when she was battling through a mysterious stomach malady that lingered for almost three months, before the right antibiotics drove it away. “Jess has been there every step of the way,” Nelly said. “She knows exactly what I’ve gone through this year.” And knew more than anyone else what breaking through to win really meant.last_img read more