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2017-03-26

Lee and Kerr Repeat History At Kia Classic

Topic:
  • cristie-kerr
  • mirim-lee
  • kia-classic
  • Tournament News
Photo Credit: 2017 Getty Images

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2017-03-26

Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 5

 
 
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Here's how things played out Sunday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin CC, where Dustin Johnson held off a hard-charging Jon Rahm to add another WGC trophy to his growing collection. Click here for the full bracket:

Final

Dustin Johnson (1) def. Jon Rahm (21), 1 up: Johnson earned his third victory in as many starts, but it wasn't quite as easy as it appeared at the halfway point. The top seed stormed out to a huge lead, winning four straight holes from Nos. 3-6 and taking a 5-up lead through eight holes. But Rahm began to chip away, then kicked it into high gear with three birdies from Nos. 13-16. That cut Johnson's lead to 1 up with two holes to play, but Rahm couldn't get any closer as Johnson closed with a pair of pars for his second straight WGC title to further tighten his grip on the top spot in the world rankings.

Consolation match

Bill Haas (42) def. Hideto Tanihara (54), 2 and 1: Tanihara authored the shot of the tournament when he aced the par-3 seventh hole, and he carried a 2-up lead to the back nine. But Haas quickly turned the tables, winning four of the next five holes to take his first lead of the match. When Tanihara made a bogey on No. 17, all Haas needed was par to snag third-place honors for his best result since last year's Quicken Loans National.

Semifinals

Match 1: Jon Rahm (21) def. Bill Haas (42), 3 and 2: So dominant in his previous three matches, Rahm got off to a slower start Saturday morning. After he and Haas traded early lead back and forth, Haas squared the match at No. 7, and he'd never win another hole. Following five straight halves from Nos. 8-13, Rahm birdied 13, 15, and 16 to run away and secure his place in Sunday's final. Rahm, who already has a win to his credit this year at Torrey Pines, is a perfect 6-0-0 this week.

Match 2: Dustin Johnson (1) def. Hideto Tanihara (54), 1 up: The world No. 1 was pushed to the limit, but eventually found just enough to squeak past the bracket's lowest remaining seed. Johnson appeared to be cruising early, taking a 3-up lead to the eighth tee, but Tanihara eventually squared the match and forced Johnson to the 17th tee for the first time. There, the reigning U.S. Open champ stuffed a wedge for a pivotal birdie, then closed out the match with an up-and-down par on No. 18 to set up a much-anticipated duel in the final.

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2017-03-25

Match Play keeping things weird in Austin

 
 
 
 
 
 
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AUSTIN, Texas – A few years ago the Austin Independent Business Alliance launched a unique campaign entitled, “Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town.”

For three days there has been no better example of the weird and odd than the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the PGA Tour’s annual version of March Madness that has been made infinitely more maddening with the addition of round-robin play three years ago.

In theory the concept is simple, with groups of four vying for points to advance to the round of 16, when the action reverts to the traditional one-and-done reality of match play. In practice, however, the format has all the clarity of a Leo Tolstoy novel, with Friday’s final edition of group play defined by outrageous scenarios, like the possibility of a four-man playoff to earn a Sweet 16 bid and 23 players with no chance to advance.

Weird and odd about sums it up.

That’s not to say Friday’s action was too convoluted to enjoy. There were moments of unmanufactured pressure, like the three-man playoff between Charles Howell III, Tyrrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Hatton was bounced on the first extra hole after being penalized for not replacing his golf ball on the green after it moved.

Howell survived a vicious lip-out for par on the fourth extra hole when it appeared Cabrera Bello was on the ropes after finding a gully with his tee shot and bouncing his next attempt off a rock wall.


WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos


“Those are the things that happen in match play playoffs, right, where he makes a great up and down to make 4 and I three-putt and keep going,” said Howell, who won the playoff and advanced to the round of 16 with a birdie at the fifth overtime frame. “Like that shank I had yesterday to keep the match going, right, and you're just like, how does this happen?”

Or Kevin Na’s plight on Day 3 when he cruised out to a 4-up lead against Chris Wood needing only to earn a half point to advance to the Sweet 16, but watched as the Englishman went 5 under through his next six holes to win the match, 2 and 1.

Matthew Fitzpatrick completed Na's nightmare scenario by beating Justin Thomas, 2 and 1, to force the day’s second playoff.

“[Wood] made four birdies and an eagle in a nine-hole stretch and I couldn't keep up,” said Na, who birdied the first playoff hole to advance to the weekend. “On 16, I asked the walking scorer what happened to the match in front of me [Fitzpatrick and Thomas]. I knew if they halved, I would have still advanced with a loss today. I found out that Fitzpatrick came back and won. So my goal was I've got to put this behind me and go play one great hole.”

All total, there were five playoffs needed to complete the field of 16, with Bill Haas having the longest haul following a 4-and-2 victory over K.T. Kim in the morning and a six-hole playoff bout that ended with the American advancing after a 22-hole day.

By comparison, Marc Leishman needed only two holes on Day 3, a playoff with Lee Westwood and Pat Perez, to advance to Saturday after sitting out his Friday match because of Jason Day’s withdrawal earlier in the week.

Odd, indeed.

And that doesn’t even include those 23 players who arrived at Austin Country Club on Friday with no chance to earn a spot in the knock-out rounds, like Rory McIlroy and Emiliano Grillo, who found themselves involved in one of four meaningless matches between two players with no chance of advancing.

“It is odd whenever you have nothing to play for. I guess that's both of our faults. We didn't win our matches on the first day,” said McIlroy, who lost on Day 1 to Soren Kjeldsen, didn’t play on Thursday after Gary Woodland withdrew and was eliminated when Kjeldsen won his Day 2 match. “If it had been the old format [one-and-done match play], I would have already been home. It is what it is and I just needed to play better on that first day to at least have something to play for today.”

McIlroy was the highest seeded player to not make it to the weekend, and he was joined on the sidelines by Jordan Spieth who has now failed to advance out of round-robin play twice since it began in 2015.

In what was a devastating blow to chalk, the second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and ninth-seeded players all failed to make it to the Sweet 16, a statistical absurdity only partially explained by Day’s withdrawal.

If there was an outlier to that trend it was Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1 continued his dominate performance with a 5-and-3 victory over Jimmy Walker and enters the weekend having not trailed in any match.

“No matter what ranking I am, I feel like I should win. I'm playing well, but anything can happen in match play,” said Johnson, who is vying to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win back-to-back World Golf Championships following his victory earlier this month in Mexico City. “I feel like I've got a little bit of an advantage just because I'm playing really well.”

Given how weird the week has gone, it was no surprise that Johnson’s dominance has been rivaled only by Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played the weekend at the Match Play since 2004 but rolled to the Sweet 16 with three easy victories. Odd, right?

But that’s the new-look Match Play, doing its part to keep Austin weird.

 
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2017-03-19

Wife's health gave API winner Leishman perspective

By

Ryan Lavner

March 19, 2017, 8:16 pm

   

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Three feet from victory Sunday, Marc Leishman thought about his son’s nagging question.

For the past year, his 5-year-old son, Harvey, has asked, “Daddy, why don’t you ever win a trophy?”

It wasn’t for a lack of effort, of course. Leishman has desperately tried to snap a five-year winless drought. He nearly won two majors during that span, at the 2013 Masters and 2015 Open. He has been in final-round contention in all but one tournament this year. No trophy, though, and so the questions continued.

It didn’t help that Jason Day won eight times over the past two seasons, and each time was bum-rushed on the 18th green by his two young kids, Dash and Lucy.

“Hey, why can’t I run out on the green?” Harvey asked. 

And so the kid wasn’t about to miss out Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, even though the end result was still in doubt. He and brother Oliver, 3, raced onto the green to congratulate their dad, who had pitched to 3 feet and made the slippery par putt to post 11-under 277.

When neither Kevin Kisner nor Charley Hoffman made a closing birdie to tie, Leishman scooped up his kids in a bear hug to celebrate the long-awaited title.

“You won, Daddy!” Harvey squealed. “Let’s go get the trophy!”

This Arnold Palmer Invitational meant so much more than just the shiny silver trophy.

Two years ago, Leishman was told that his wife, Audrey, had a 5 percent chance of surviving after a series of infections put her in a medically induced coma.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


While Marc was at Augusta National preparing to play in the following week’s Masters, Audrey came down with a 102-degree fever and flu-like symptoms, and that worsened into strep throat and pneumonia, and that became acute respiratory distress syndrome and toxic shock syndrome. By the time Marc returned home to Virginia Beach, Va., his wife was hooked up to a ventilator, her lungs were filled with fluid, and the prognosis was dire. Leishman spent the next 96 hours by her bedside, barely able to eat, his mind racing, as the thought of being a single father of two young boys became a distinct possibility. 

“I was ready to give it away,” he said.

Two days before the Masters – and after a doctor’s critical decision to turn her on her stomach – Audrey’s condition improved and she regained consciousness. Marc returned to the Tour later that month, and he lost a playoff at The Open a few months later. 

“They went through their nightmare when I was in my coma,” Audrey said. “When I woke up, it was a big relief for them, and that’s when my nightmare started. That’s when I realized what had happened to me and how sick I really was.”

Audrey’s health has remained a concern over the past two years. She routinely developed some kind of respiratory infection. There was even a minor complication at this event last year, when a family trip to the theme parks ended up with Audrey in the hospital to receive IV fluids and steroids.

Her health finally began to turn around last May, when she underwent a tonsillectomy. In September, she was cleared by her infectious disease doctor.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” she said. “He said that I was released and told me to have a good life. I’ve never left a doctor’s office being that happy.”

A month later, the Leishmans, both 33, were pregnant with their third child, a girl, now due in July.

The traumatic experience gave Leishman a much-needed dose of perspective on a tour full of charmed existences.

“It makes golf less important,” he said. “It’s not life and death. We have been in that situation and it’s not fun.” 

Leishman’s hard-earned victory was a fitting end to an emotional week that was always going to be about more than birdies and bogeys.

That tone was set early, with the unveiling of the 13-foot Palmer statue, and then continued throughout the week with the well-attended opening ceremony and the colorful umbrellas that adorned hats and bags and shirts, and the inspirational signage throughout the course.

The beloved tournament host always camped out on the 16th tee, and he would have loved what he saw from Leishman. Lining up his 50-foot eagle putt, Leishman realized that he’d struck virtually the same putt during a practice round Tuesday and missed 3 feet left. He backed off, readjusted his line, and holed the putt to leapfrog the leaders. Two solid pars to close gave Leishman his second Tour victory, and first since the 2012 Travelers.

"Very special," he said. 

The only thing missing was Palmer’s customary greeting to the left of the 18th green.

Fortunately for Leishman, Harvey and the rest of the family helped fill that sizable void.  

Article Tags: 

2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Marc Leishman

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2017-03-15

Top-ranked Ko still trying to improve

By

Randall Mell

March 15, 2017, 6:22 pm

   

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PHOENIX – The world No. 1 ranking can be a heavy weight.

It can be an onerous satchel of expectations the longer a player carries it, twisting reality to where winning is more relief than joy.

Lydia Ko carries the No. 1 ranking into the Bank of Hope Founders Cup this week, the 73rd week in a row she has been on top.

Only Lorena Ochoa (158) and Yani Tseng (109) have carried it over more consecutive weeks.

There was wear and tear in that long haul for both Ochoa and Tseng.

Ochoa retired with the No. 1 ranking to start a family, but you could see the effects of all the expectations on her at the end. While she was always a model of grace under pressure, Ochoa fought some growing frustration toward the end that she never really showed before.

Tseng conceded she nearly buckled under the pressure that grew so onerous near the end of her two-year run at No. 1.

“It just drove me crazy,” Tseng said back when she lost the top ranking. “Annika Sorenstam told me that world No. 1 is the loneliest place on the earth. As it becomes longer at No. 1, I feel more and more pressure.”

The men aren’t immune.

“I’ve never been more stressed in my life than right now,” Jason Day said on the eve of last year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont. “It’s just because being No. 1 in the world, having a lot of expectations on you, having to practice so hard to keep that No. 1 spot, trying to win as many tournaments as you can puts a lot of stress and pressure on your shoulders.”

Day carried the top ranking for 51 weeks before relinquishing it to Dustin Johnson a month ago.



Ko’s smile belies the idea that the No. 1 ranking comes with any extra pressure, because though she’s still a teenager at 19, she seems to enjoy the responsibilities that come with the top ranking as much as anyone ever has.

If you ask her about the pressure, Ko will tell you she deals with it by making the No. 1 ranking more a journey than a destination.

“There are expectations because you are the No. 1-ranked player, that you should play well every day, that you should be in contention every week,” Ko said. “I would love that, and I’m working towards being more consistent week in and week out.

“I’ve been thankful and lucky to have such a supportive team that has really helped me to stay in the moment that is coming up, what’s right in front, rather than think about what has happened and what might happen.”

There’s help in that thinking this week, because the pressure on Ko to stay on top is intensifying with her lead in the world rankings shrinking.

When Ko won the Marathon Classic last July, her world-ranking average moved to 15.47 points, which was 7.10 ahead of No. 2 Brooke Henderson.

After eight winless months, Ko’s average has shrunk to 9.69 points, which is just 1.89 ahead of No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn.

The strength of field won’t be finalized until Thursday’s play begins at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but Jutanugarn is within striking distance of finally overtaking Ko.

How does Ko deal with the mounting challenges from players behind her?

“I think more about how I can get better results in a tournament, rather than how can I keep my ranking,” Ko said. “All I can do is try my best. If somebody ends up playing better, that’s totally out of my hands. It’s a good way to think about things.”

Ko said she tries not to focus on the big picture, on winning or the No. 1 ranking. She focuses on the details that fill out the big picture.

“I don’t set how many tournaments I want to win as a goal for the year,” Ko said. “I set how many more fairways I want to hit, and how many more greens I want to hit. If those improve, naturally, my results will improve.”

That might explain why Ko made the sweeping changes in her game coming into this season.

A new coach (Gary Gilchrist), new equipment (PXG) and a new caddie (Gary Matthews) are details she hopes will end her eight-month winless spell.

Karen Stupples, the 2004 Women’s British Open champ and Golf Channel analyst, believes Ko’s changes are a reaction to the pressure other players are applying.

“They want to be No. 1, and they’re improving and getting better all the time,” Stupples said. “It’s hard as a player to sit there and watch the new players coming up, chasing you down, without thinking, `I need to do something to my own game. I need to get better. I need to improve.’”

Ko says her changes are all about improving, regardless where she ranks.

Article Tags: 

Lydia Ko, 2017 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, Ariya Jutanugarn

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