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Kraft Nabisco Championship preview: Take the plunge

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By Vince Robitaille

GolfWRX Contributor

For most, the words “take the plunge” bring up images of, either, launching one’s self in a new hazardous endeavor, or of a British-sounding fictional anthropologist clamoring the refreshing virtues of one of Kraft’s biggest competitor’s products. Neverminding an ironic twist of fate in the world of advertisement and sponsorship, for LPGA fans, however, the expression takes on an entirely different meaning: that of a 23-year-old tradition of victory. As players have happily fled to Rancho Mirage after suffering from the ever lethal poa annua greens of the early American swing — Suzann Pettersen voiced her relief at the idea yesterday in her pre-tournament press conference — all seems set in the Coachella Valley, mere hours away from the first major of the season.

While all long for the opportunity to get their mits on the Dinah Shore Trophy – a soaked up polo shirt and a warm towel on their back – for one player, the primary focus is too delay the impending, and most probable, moment until 6 p.m. EST on Sunday. As a matter of fact, this week’s favorite by a landslide, 7 to 4 according to betting mogul BoDog to be precise, Yani Tseng still lingers over her pre-round trophy-lifting celebration that, not only in an expression that we do not philosophically subscribe to, yet seems common, jinxed the World no.1, but has also drawn mild criticism from editorial boards. Speaking of misfortunes, while the objective consequences of superstitions are nil, the subjective ones, i.e. the relationship of the individual with his own symbolic ritual, is undoubtedly probant. Although the April 3 letdown served as the totemic motivator that, from her own account, drove up her work ethics last year, the same fact might prove to be her hardest challenge to overcome this weekend.  In fact, the confrontation of Tseng with that which represents her biggest “failure” — if there were such a thing in her case — has her, logically, concerned: “After that I won’t touch a trophy again,” she said. “I will never see it again. Even when I see it I would just pretend I’m not seeing anything.”

Will it destabilize her enough to keep her from going four-straight? That remains to be seen, but a definite ruffling of her feathers is foreseeable.

Attempting to keep the most dominant golfer, out here, from obtaining her 6th major victory on a 6,738-yard-long course with four par-5’s, a fact which gives an edge to long hitters, will be a slew of American players. Amongst those, however, look for the best ball strikers of the Midwest to shine as the desertic conditions of Mission Hill Country Club, hard and dry playing surfaces as well as gusty winds expected to reach 30 mph, will make them feel right at home. Ever lurking around, expect Forth Worth’s other golfer, Angela Stanford, as well as defending champion Stacy Lewis to be right there, breathing down Tseng’s neck, come Sunday afternoon. Both players have maintained themselves in the top 30 when it comes to scoring average over the past three months. Lewis had led the way with 71.15 strokes a round, and has obtained great results in the Coachella Valley. Stanford finished in a tie for 3rd last year and no lower than 15th since 2006. Both have gone head-to-head with the World No.1 and took her down; Stanford happening to be the last one to do so, in Singapore, a month ago. If anyone can make sure that Tseng keeps her promise of not handling the trophy, even stretching the deadline that she set herself past Sunday night to April 2013, these two seem like the most likely curators.

Click here for more discussion in the LPGA/Ladies golf talk” forum.

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: Moriya Jutanugarn and Andrew Landry win their first titles

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It was a week of firsts on two of the world’s major professional tours. Moriya Jutanugarn claimed her first LPGA title in an impressive manner, while 2016 U.S. Open surprise Andrew Landry seized control in Houston to inscribe his name on the winner’s trophy for an initial time. Elsewhere, a pair of underdogs upset the favorites at the Champions Tour’s Missouri affair, while two veterans added additional titles to their resumes in Europe and on the Web.Com tour. It’s an interesting brew in this week’s cauldron, so let’s give it a stir and see what we taste in this week’s Tour Rundown.

Landry holds off resurgent trio to claim Houston Open

Andrew Landry led that U.S. Open at Oakmont after day one, and hung around the top of the leader board until the fourth day. When his name resurfaced at this week’s Tour stop, few were certain he could hold off a resurgent Zach Johnson, the two-time major winner. Well, few other than Zach Johnson thought Landry might pull it off.

How Landry locked in

From the 10th hole on Friday, through the same hole on Sunday, Landry made zero bogeys. He had 13 birdies in that stretch, on a course that gives a few up, but not in buckets. That 36 hole run of brilliance, including birdies on Sunday’s first three holes, staked Landry to an advantage that he would not relinquish. For the entire week, only four bogeys dotted his scorecards, and two of those came on Thursday. Landry’s putter was hot all week, and his driving game was laser-accurate. The sum total: welcome to the winner’s circle, Mr. Landry.

Click here to see the clubs Landry used to win the 2018 Valero Texas Open

Who made a run?

It wasn’t Johnson. Iowa’s favorite son hasn’t won since the 2015 British Open, although his game has shown its old fire of late. Johnson couldn’t find a groove on day 4, making as many bogeys in that round as Landry did all week. In the end, Johnson had a top-5 finish, amid signs that another victory may not be far in the offing. Sean O’Hair had the low round (66) of the day, and that magic was enough to boost him to a second-place tie with young Trey Mullinax, who followed a Saturday 62 with a notable 69 to rock steady. Jimmy Walker, finally recovered from a bout of illness, had the day’s 2nd-lowest score of 67, and he moved all the way to 4th spot.

Mighty Moriya holds off Korean trio for first tour title

Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand has been close before. She has seen little sister Ariya hoist victory awards before. On Sunday, it was her turn. Jutanugarn and Marina Alex were two of the leader with no title to their credit, heading into the closing 18 holes. While the key to victory still eludes the young American, it was Jutanugarn’s turn to triumph.

What Moriya discovered on Sunday

Actually, she dug deepest on Saturday. The older sibling opened round three with a double bogey, stood 3-over on the day after six holes, and appeared to be sinking. The ship’s wheel steadied with two birdies and hole-out eagle coming home, and then it began the final day with four birdies and no bogeys in the first 15 holes. A late bogey served only to add faux drama, as Jutanugarn calmly closed the deal for victory the first.

Park, Young and Yeon can’t win this case

Reading a bit like a law firm, Inbee Park, Jin Young Ko and So Yeon Ryu made their runs at Moriya. Inbee had a bogey at the turn, and needed perfection on Sunday. She didn’t get it, so a tie for second was in the offing. Ko might have had the best opportunity at day’s start, but a 2-over outward nine took her too far off pace for a 3-under inward half, to provide recovery. She also came second, at 10-under. Ryu put an opening bogey behind with four birdies through 12 holes, but could not go deeper over the closing stretch. Her fourth-place finish was her best of 2018.

Levy wins for third consecutive year on European Tour

France’s Alexander Levy nearly has a five-year win streak. His first two tour titles came in 2014. He skipped 2015, but hasn’t missed in the subsequent years. His work in Morocco this week added up to a one-shot win over a literal blast from the past, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros. Eight golfers finished within three strokes of the top spot, adding drama to the finish at Royal Dar-Es-Salaam.

Nothing spectacular leads Levy to win

There were no great streaks of brilliance, no runs of multiple birdies, for the 28-year old. All that he did, efficiently, was make enough birdies to stay ahead of his pursuers. After bogey at the antepenultimate hole on Sunday, Levy responded with a dart at the par-three 17th, to re-establish his lead. The win was the fifth of his career.

See the clubs Levy used to win

Oh so close for Oh so many

Let’s begin with Quiros. The Spaniard, compared with Dustin Johnson (for his length off the tee) in his early years, has been adrift. Sunday was his best chance in forever to secure a tour title. His first 16 holes were a tangle of bogeys and a pair of birdies. The Iberian closed admirably, with birdies at the final pair, to claim solo second, one back of Levy. Also close were Mikko Illonen (tied for third with three others at 7-under) and England’s Andy Sullivan, one more back at 6-under, in a tie for seventh.

Two more for the road: Axley wins on Web, while Broadhurst/Triplett claim Legends

Eric Axley would have preferred to win his 3rd professional event in glorious fashion. He’ll take a rain-shortened title at the North Mississippi Classic, his second career Web.Com title and his first title of any sort in 12 years. Waaaay back in 2006, Axley won the very same Houston Open (see above) contested this week on the PGA Tour, and a bit of success was predicted for the left-hander. Success, as we know, doesn’t come to all hands, and Axley was able to birdie his final two holes on Saturday to stake a one-shot advantage. Tied for second were the USA’s Willy Wilcox, Columbia’s Sebastian Munoz, and Korea’s K.H. Lee.

Triplett and Broadhurst birdie 1st playoff hole for victory

The rules for the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf are slightly simpler than those of field hockey, which means that they aren’t very simple. Both courses in use boast par-3 holes alone, but each has a different number of holes, so numbers on the scoreboard are meaningless. With the two Spaniards (Olazabal and Jimenez), the defending champs (Franco and Singh) and two major champions (Lehman and Langer) in the mix, the undervalued pairing of Kirk Triplett (he of the hat) and Paul Broadhurst (he of the …) were not anyone’s favorites to emerge. And here we are.

No one seemed bent on making any heroic moves on Sunday, so it came down to which teams would find their way. Lehman/Langer joined the eventual winners at the 9th hole. Triplett played the hole to perfection: tee shot into bunker, bunker shot into hole, thank you very much. No birdie putts were holed, and the title belonged to the unlikely pairing of Kirk and Paul.

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Popular Photo Galleries

Photos from the Web.com 2018 North Mississippi Classic

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GolfWRX is live today from the Web.com Tour’s 2018 North Mississippi Classic at the Country Club of Oxford.

Notables in the field this week include Stuart Appleby, Charlie Beljan, Zac Blair, Sam Burns, Roberto Castro, Erik Compton, Ken Duke, Tommy Gainey, Jason Gore, Ben Kohles, Dru Love, Daniel Summerhays, Willy Wilcox and more.

Check out all of the photos below from today at the North Miss. Classic!

Thursday’s Galleries

Discussion Thread: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the photos

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from Wednesday at the Valero Texas Open

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Welcome to 10 Interesting Photos (10IP? No? OK). It’s the final day of tune up ahead of the Valero Texas Open, which is, fun fact, the third longest-running (non major) tournament on the PGA Tour.

We got an in-hand look at The Tank, K.J. Choi’s weaponry, as well a four general galleries and some of the coolest custom stamped wedges you’ll see, c/o JT Poston.

Let’s take a look at the photos!

First up, some more love-em-or-hate-em Jordans from Keegan Bradley

Amid a pretty standard bag, an impressive Pingman putter cover

JT Poston, AKA, The Postman’s, 60 degree, ladies and gentlemen

Vintage X Hot sighting!

Kevin Chappell with the coveted Miura and Fourteen combo

K.J. Choi’s putter shaft! (AMI Stability?)

Scott Piercy remains the king of lead tape on Tour

K>J. Choi is gaming Ping G400 irons

And look at the face on (one of) his Ping putter(s)

Keith Mitchell’s Mizuno “MIZ” pom-pom headcover, though

 

Check out all our photos from Wednesday the 2018 Valero Texas Open below!

Wednesday’s Photos

Special Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the photos in our forums

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