HONOLULU – A birdie on the final hole gave Chris Kirk a 5-under 65 and the outright lead in the Sony Open, and that’s about it. Cloudy conditions and only a gentle, Pacific breeze meant just about everyone was in the mix at Waialae Country Club – even John Daly. At one point, there was a six-way tie for the lead Saturday in the third round. An hour later, 14 players were separated by a single shot. Kirk got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 18th hole, making a 10-foot birdie putt that gave him the lead over Harris English (67) and PGA Tour rookie Will Wilcox (64), who is playing only the third PGA Tour event of his career. Kirk was at 12-under 198. Daly matched the low score of the third round with a 64 and was five shots behind. Masters champion Adam Scott wasn’t making up any ground, dropped two shots late in his round and finished with a two-putt birdie for a 71 and was two shots behind. Sony Open: Articles, videos and photos A dozen players were separated by three shots going into Sunday, a group that includes Kapalua winner Zach Johnson as he tries to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to sweep the Hawaii swing. Kirk and English both are going for their second win of this wraparound season that began in October. Kirk won the McGladrey Classic in November, his final tournament of the year before taking time off for the birth of his second child. English finished the year with a win in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico. The plan for both of them is to not worry about anyone else because there would be too many players to worry about. ”When it’s so close like that, everybody is going to be making some birdies here and there,” Kirk said. ”So I probably won’t look at leaderboards as much as I normally would. A lot of courses I think lend themselves to you need to know what your position is going into any given hole, but out here, I don’t think that’s really the case. They’re just so volatile with guys making birdies and bogeys. ”I’ll just probably try to keep my head down and make as many birdies as I can.” Former Sony Open champion Jerry Kelly (66) and Jimmy Walker (67) were at 10-under 200, while the group at 201 included Robert Allenby (65), Pat Perez (66), Retief Goosen (66) and Johnson, who had a 66. Brian Stuard, who had a one-shot lead going into the third round, had a 71 and also was still only three shots behind. Perez was among those tied for the lead until he four-putted the 14th, the final three putts from 3 feet. PGA champion Jason Dufner three-putted from 3 feet on the 18th hole for a bogey and was four shots behind. The long shot would have to be Wilcox, who learned to play from his mother, a golf pro at Pine Harbor in Alabama. Small for his age, he played at least 36 holes a day as a kid, a habit that only changed after he was old enough to drive. He played the Canadian Open when he was playing on the Canadian Tour. He qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, where his thrill was a practice round with Johnson and Padraig Harrington. And now this. Wilcox earned his card by finishing 10th on the Web.com Tour money list last year, though he fell back by not playing the Web.com Tour finals for what he said was ”personal stuff.” ”I didn’t know what was going to happen this week,” Wilcox said. ”Making the cut was a dream come true. Playing good on Saturday was a dream come true. Getting to have a decent shot tomorrow is ridiculous. We’ll see.” Having a decent shot might seem like a dream for Allenby considering where his game has been. He made only five cuts in 24 tournaments last year and had to use an exemption from career money (top 25) to get his card. Allenby has been making enough putts to at least give himself a chance, and for that, he credits the games he plays at home in Florida. What should have been taken as an insult as turned into a benefit. ”I’ve been playing the guys at Admiral’s Cove, all the 60-year-olds, and they make me putt out because they’re like waiting for me to miss,” he said. ”I keep shooting 7-, 8-, 9-unders and stuff with them. They’ve put me in a good mental state for out here on Tour.”
MELBOURNE, Australia – Karrie Webb won the Women’s Australian Open for the fifth time Sunday, shooting a 4-under 68 in the final round to beat Chella Choi by one stroke. Webb birdied the 18th hole to take the outright lead, then watched as Choi, who shot a course-record 62 on Saturday to take a share of the third-round lead, pushed a 10-foot putt wide of the hole at 18 to miss the chance for a playoff. Webb, who clinched her 40th LPGA title, finished at 12-under 276 overall. She previously won the Australian Open in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2008. ”I got off to a great start and I just did a great job mentally today,” Webb said. ”I can’t think of another time when I held myself together as well as that.” The win marked a remarkable change of fortune for the No. 8-ranked Australian, who was disqualified from last week’s Australian Ladies Masters after signing an incorrect scorecard. She had been the defending champion at the event. Webb started five shots off the lead Sunday, but made six birdies and only two bogeys as the other leading challengers struggled in a strong wind on the Victoria Golf Club course. ”I was happy to see the conditions were going to be a little tougher today,” Webb said. ”I felt like that gave me a chance to make up some ground.” Choi had played 14 holes and was at 11 under when Webb finished her round, leaving the Australian with an anxious wait to see whether her score would hold up. But the South Korean, who had two eagles and six birdies in her record-setting third round, couldn’t make a birdie on the back nine Sunday. ”When you’re on the course you feel like you have some control, but when you’re done you have no control and you just have to wait and see,” Webb said. ”I actually thought once Chella had that putt on the last, I’ve played with her quite a bit and I was expecting that one to go in.” Choi was trying to win her first LPGA title. World No. 2 Suzann Pettersen of Norway faltered in her bid to take over the top ranking from South Korea’s Inbee Park. Pettersen, who started the day three shots off the pace in fourth place, needed to finish first or second to pass Park, but had three double bogeys in a final round 80 to drop back into a tie for 28th. Sixteen-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, the world No. 4, was also unable to challenge Webb, struggling with her putt on the back nine and shooting a 73. She finished tied for third with American Paula Creamer (68) and Frenchwoman Karine Icher (71). Seventeen-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee, the co-overnight leader, had seven bogeys and a double bogey in an error-filled final round of 78. She finished in a share of 11th place.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – You won’t find any azaleas blooming along PGA National’s Champion Course this week. No dogwoods, either. But if you’re Tiger Woods, you can almost smell them anyway. Or imagine draws on the practice range here turning around the bend at No. 13 at Augusta National. Or high fades settling down on the 15th green on a Masters Sunday. Woods says the specter of the Masters looms strong now with the PGA Tour schedule turning to the Honda Classic and this week’s start of the Florida swing. “Once we get to Florida, I think we’re all thinking about our way to Augusta,” Woods said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “Some guys usually start at Doral, some guys start here, but once we get to Florida, now most of the guys are getting pretty serious about their prep to Augusta.” Honda Classic: Articles, videos and photos Phil Mickelson can feel it, too, as he makes his first start at the Honda Classic in a dozen years. “This is kind of where guys like myself and others are getting geared up for that event,” Mickelson said. “It’s important to get competitive, get sharp mentally and focused, and play some good golf, get in contention.” That is something Woods hasn’t done in his sluggish beginning to 2014. In his two starts this year, he has tied for 41st at the Omega Dubai Masters and failed to make the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. There’s the usual fretting and angst among analysts over Woods’ lack of form. Woods posted a 79 at one of his favorite venues, Torrey Pines, in his last PGA Tour start. His pedestrian start is fueling speculation that at 38 Woods is more beatable than ever despite his five wins a year ago. It’s fueling speculation that major championship titles will be harder to come by. Woods, after all, is looking for his first major championship victory since ’08, his first Masters title since ’05. “I think now the players really believe that, yes, Tiger is terrific, and he won five times last year, and he was really good, but he was beatable,” NBC’s Johnny Miller said. “Before, it was like, if he had his A-game, you could just kiss it off. It wasn’t going to happen. He was just so much better than everybody, and so much better under pressure, and so much better on Sundays, and so much better in the majors. It was not a fair fight. Now, it’s a fair fight.” Woods is looking for his first top-10 finish this year. If he doesn’t get it, alarms are sure to go off among the experts. Woods has never failed to finish among the top 10 in his first three starts in his 18 years as a pro. Even Notah Begay, the NBC course reporter who knows Woods’ game as well as any analyst, recognizes a narrowing of the gap between Woods and other top players. He sees Woods less able to contend when he’s not on his game. “I think his game has come back down to earth a little bit,” Begay said. “I do think he has the ability to create that separation, and he doesn’t necessarily have to have his A-game. But it used to be that he could be somewhat off of his game and still finish in the top 10. If you just look at his top-10 performances over the last two or three years, they’re not as high of a percentage as they were prior to the scandal.” Woods is making just his third start at the Honda Classic. He was brilliant closing with a 62 in his first year in the field in 2012, nearly catching Rory McIlroy after starting the final round nine shots back. Last year, he was ordinary at PGA National, tying for 37th. A victory this week does more than soothe the angst around Woods’ sluggish start. It sends a message he is ready for the year’s first major. He has never made the Masters his first win in any season. All four years he won a green jacket, he took at least one win with him to Augusta National. Woods played his pro-am Wednesday with swing coach Sean Foley in tow. He said he isn’t focused on form. He’s focused on winning. “It feels good,” Woods said about his overall game. “I was pleasantly surprised how well I was hitting it today, and just getting a feel for the greens and how the short game is playing out of this grass, versus up at Medalist.” What Woods ultimately wants is the feeling he’s ready to win the Masters.
GOLD COAST, Australia – South Korean-born Australian teenager Su Oh shot a 4-under 69 Sunday to win the Australian Ladies Masters by three strokes in only her second start as a professional. Oh, the co-leader after the first round, finished with a 7-under total of 285 on the Royal Pines resort course, making birdies on her final four holes. Katherine Kirk of Australia and Florentyna Parker each shot 69s while Parker’s English countrywoman Charley Hull, one of the overnight leaders, had a closing 73. They all finished tied for second. The 18-year-old Oh finished second at the Victorian Open last week in her professional debut. Defending champion Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, shot 71 to finish tied for 26th, 10 strokes behind Oh. The 18-year-old Hull was holding a one-shot lead when she sprayed her tee shot left and into trees on the par-4 sixth, having an air-swing on her second stroke before taking a drop for an unplayable lie. Hull sent her fourth shot to the right of the green, pitched on and then two-putted for a triple-bogey 7. Oh said she had asked for advice from eight-time Masters winner Karrie Webb and two-time winner Jane Crafter ahead of Sunday’s final round. She received some cliched answers. ”I spoke to Jane this morning who won it the year I was born (1996),” Oh said. ”What she said really helped me on the golf course. She just said ‘take one shot at a time’. Karrie said ‘just don’t think, do it. Just let it go, keep doing what you’re doing’.” The win gives Oh a two-year exemption on the Ladies European Tour. Most of the golfers will head to Royal Melbourne next week for the Women’s Australian Open, a co-sanctioned event with the LPGA Tour.
James Hahn breaks out of a slump, Rickie Fowler wobbles on the weekend, Rory McIlroy gets closer, Anthony Kim resurfaces and more in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble: The last time James Hahn played a final round, it was Super Bowl Sunday. He had missed eight consecutive cuts. He had gone 21 rounds without a score in the 60s. “You just keep believing,” he said, and so that’s exactly what he did, waiting patiently for the one week when his ball-striking was solid and his putter got hot and his confidence flowed. It all came together last week at Quail Hollow, one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour schedule, when Hahn shot 9-under 279 and defeated Roberto Castro on the first playoff hole. Failure is inevitable in a sport in which each week there is one winner and 155 losers, but Hahn showed the power of perseverance. “Honestly, it’s the most difficult part of what we do for a living,” he said in a candid interview afterward. “You start questioning yourself: Are you good enough? Will it happen again? You start thinking into the future as far as selling shoes again for a living.” It was a reference to Hahn’s past life as a women’s shoe salesman at Nordstrom, one of the many odd jobs he worked as he chased his Tour dreams. He finally broke through last year at Riviera. In between those moments of bliss are days, weeks and, in Hahn’s case, even months of frustration, of wandering, of doubt. It’s what makes the victories even more special. 1. So how does this happen? How does a player who is so lost somehow find his way and win a tournament on a major-caliber course against many of the best players on the planet? As usual, it came down to putting. Entering last week, Hahn was, statistically, one of the worst putters on Tour, ranking 194th out of 208 qualifiers in strokes gained-putting. Over four rounds at Quail Hollow, he ranked eighth, holing nearly 350 feet worth of putts and gaining about six shots on the field with his putting. In other words, he was almost seven shots better on the greens than he’s been this season. That’s the difference between finishing first and 17th. No matter how you slice it, Hahn is now a two-time Tour winner. The validation, he said, “means everything.” “I’ve had that question asked to me before, winning on the PGA Tour and not winning again, would I consider that a fluke,” he said. “You know, I say it was a slap in the face because everyone that competes on the PGA Tour is capable of winning and it’s really hard to win multiple times. I feel like I practiced hard and I deserved everything that came my way, even missed cuts.” 2. We’ve barely past the halfway point of this FedEx Cup season, so there is plenty of time for a narrative to take shape. But the story of the 2015-16 campaign has been the Tour’s depth. That’s not the sexiest storyline, of course, but think about it: This calendar year, Fabian Gomez, Vaughn Taylor, Jim Herman, Brian Stuard and Hahn all have won a tournament. Among those still searching for their first Tour title this season: McIlroy, Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. Will this still be the case in four months? Probably not. But at the halfway point, there’s no denying it’s been a bit of a bizarre year, with plenty of parity. 3. Parsons Xtreme Golf made a big splash earlier this year, with founder Bob Parsons sparing no expense to build top-of-the-line equipment in an attempt to lure some Tour players into his stable. The biggest name to join was Zach Johnson, the reigning Open winner, with Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk also jumping aboard. And yet it’s Hahn who became the first PXG staffer to win on Tour. 4. Fowler was lauded for the way he’s closed out tournaments over the past year, whether it was his insane finish at The Players, his cold-blooded birdies to win in Scotland or the unflinching play down the stretch in Boston. Even this year, in Abu Dhabi, he holed a late bunker shot on his way to a big-time victory. He’s looked like a different player of late, however. First there was the bad break and big miscue on 17 in Phoenix, where he lost in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama; then there was the out-of-nowhere weekend at Honda after he’d grabbed the halfway lead; then he blew up with a first-round 80 at the Masters; and then there was the final-round 74 Sunday at Quail Hollow, where a one-stroke lead turned into a two-shot loss. Add it all up, and it looks like a good season on paper – top-10s in half his starts – but a few weekend wobbles have dented Fowler’s reputation as one of the game’s premier closers. 5. If not for a misadventure on the 18th hole – how many times have we said that in Lefty’s career? – then Mickelson might have picked up his first win in nearly three years on Sunday. Instead, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 on his 54th hole of the tournament, after finding the water with his approach and ping-ponging a few chip shots around the green. In 52 career rounds at Quail Hollow, he is now 21 over par on that hole. A shame, too, because Mickelson’s putting on the lightning-fast greens was plenty good enough to win. In a final-round 66, he made all 18 of his attempts from inside 15 feet. For the week, he gained nearly eight and a half (8.4) strokes on the field with his putting, the fourth-best total of his career. This was his seventh top-five in 13 starts at Quail, but he remains without a victory. 6. Before turning up in Charlotte, McIlroy had played only 18 holes since the Masters. The competitive rust showed, because the world No. 3 was alternately brilliant and sloppy during his tie for fourth at the Wells Fargo. Oh, there were many good signs: On the 497-yard 16th Sunday, McIlroy bludgeoned a 388-yard drive that cut the corner, leaving only a lob wedge into the green. He stuck it to 3 feet for an easy birdie. His 22 birdies were the most of any player. But there also were stretches of indifferent play, mediocre putting and poor pitch shots around the green. “There’s just some things that aren’t quite where I want them to be,” he said. “A little tweak here and there, and we’ll be able to go into this stretch of golf in really good form.” 7. Rose switched to the claw putting grip the week before the Masters, saying that it “just felt too good to deny it.” It sure didn’t look that way Sunday, because the putter was the only thing keeping him out of the winner’s circle. In the final round, Rose didn’t make a putt longer than 6 feet, lost nearly four shots to the field on the greens and looked tentative with his stroke. He finished third, one shot out of the playoff. After the round, Rose said that he felt his hands get behind the ball when striking his putts and now wasn’t sure whether he needed more time to get comfortable with the claw grip or if he should rethink his new method. “Obviously I feel like I’ve been trying something new the last few weeks and maybe this is the first real test and I didn’t really pass with flying colors,” he said. “So I’ll just kind of assess that over the next couple of days.” 8. Hahn had barely smooched the trophy by the time construction began at Quail Hollow Club in preparation for next year’s PGA Championship. It’ll be a massive renovation: Holes are being rebuilt, redesigned and lengthened, and the greens are being switched from MiniVerde Bermuda grass to Champion Bermuda. The only issue? It all seems so unnecessary. Last week’s tournament was proof that Quail Hollow is already plenty tough and doesn’t need to be touched to become “major ready.” “It’s a very difficult test, the greens are very challenging, and yet its greatness kind of comes out,” Mickelson said. “You see a great discrepancy in the scores. The guys that play well are able to take advantage of it, make birdies, and the guys that aren’t are getting penalized. I think that’s the sign of a really great golf course.” 9. Zac Blair had a Woody Austin moment last week at Quail Hollow, bashing his putter so hard against his head that he bent the shaft. Trouble is, Blair putted out for par and was disqualified for using a non-conforming club. In 1997, Austin finished his infamous round en route to a missed cut. @PGATOURmedia @WellsFargoGolf @PGATOUR pic.twitter.com/fRuNZp6Lwe— Zac Blair (@z_blair) May 6, 2016 Blair took his mistake in stride, and fortunately for him, no GIF exists of his self-abuse that would have been memorialized for all time. 10. Castro was in command at the Wells Fargo until back-to-back bogeys – and nervous iron shots, flailed out to the right – on the Green Mile dropped him into a playoff. He had little chance once he pulled his tee shot into the creek, which led to a drop from a loafer and a bogey. The playoff loss was his first top-25 since Pebble. “Sure, it hurts to let this tournament specifically slip away,” he said, “but there are 154 guys that didn’t have a chance in that playoff and I feel grateful to have had a chance.” 11. John Daly has always had a penchant for big numbers. That much didn’t change in his senior debut. Closing in on a top-10 finish, JD triple-bogeyed the 17th hole and finished in a tie for 17th, 10 shots back, at the Insperity Invitational. 12. Ariya Jutanugarn’s memories of her collapse at the ANA Inspiration were temporarily suspended Sunday with her first career victory at the Yokohama LPGA Classic. Out front thanks to a back-nine 28 Saturday, Jutanugarn hung on down the stretch to win by one over Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Amy Yang. Last month, the 20-year-old held a two-shot lead at the year’s first major but bogeyed the last three holes. It was a devastating collapse for the immensely talented Thai player, and it called to mind her other meltdown, when she tripled the last hole at an event in 2013. This should be the first of many wins for Jutanugarn. She and Brooke Henderson are the players most likely to challenge Lydia Ko’s throne. My buddy ran into somebody in Dallas today at a pet store….. #AK (credit: @DrBrianMann) pic.twitter.com/llsNx2d3oV— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) May 7, 2016 It’s kind of amazing, really, that in this social-media era Anthony Kim has been out of view for the better part of four years. This picture still leaves many unanswered questions – chief among them: What are you doing with your life? – but at least we now know that he’s alive. This week’s award winners … Painful to Watch: Andrew Loupe. You know it’s bad when CBS Sports commentator Peter Kostis said that if he were teaching Loupe, he’d put him on a four-second shot clock to pull the trigger. Suffice to say, no such provision is currently in place, because Loupe takes an eternity to play. Please Say There’s Been a Mistake: Robert Rock. The Englishman with the most glorious head of hair wore a hat in the final round in Morocco. Hey, we all have bad hair days, but here we thought Rock was immune to them. Comeback of the Week: Jason Gore. After a third-round 83, he somehow trimmed 18 shots off his score – yes, 18! – to match the low round of the week, a bogey-free 65. Your thoughts, please … Such a crazy game….— Jason Gore (@JasonGore59) May 8, 2016 In Need of Prayers: The Cink family. The 2009 Open champion announced that he was stepping away from the game after learning that his wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sending all the best to the Cinks. Future Stud Alert, Part 1: Madelene Sagstrom. It’s only the beginning of May, and Sagstrom is $864 away from setting the single-season earnings record on the Symetra Tour. The former LSU standout is also just one win away from an instant promotion to the LPGA, after her six-shot win in South Carolina. Future Stud Alert, Part 2: Aaron Wise. Oregon’s super sophomore medaled at Canadian Tour Q-School, which he will play once he finishes this college golf season. If Oregon can get through regionals – or if he can advance as an individual – he’ll be a big favorite on his home golf course at NCAAs. [email protected] sophomore Aaron Wise (-14) is your medalist, earning exempt #MackenzieTour status pic.twitter.com/jOwrziYwaY— Mackenzie Tour (@PGATOURCanada) May 7, 2016 Out of Commission: Peter Uihlein. The 2013 European Tour Rookie of the Year, who has played this season with a torn ligament in his wrist, finally decided to have surgery, after saying on Twitter that the pain “was too extreme.” He’ll be sidelined for a few months. Wanted: Australian golfers. After Adam Scott and then Marc Leishman dropped out of the Olympics, all eyes are now on Marcus Fraser, with Matt Jones and Scott Hend on deck. Crikey. Recovery of the Year: Jason Kokrak. Wow, this is epic, from the second story of a hospitality tent! This pitch shot rolled out to about 15 feet. One of the best shots I’ve seen @jaykokrak @WellsFargoGolf pic.twitter.com/I9xDPF8NSf— Carl Blackstone (@carlblackstone) May 6, 2016
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Everything happens in its own time. For Jessica Korda, that’s been a tough lesson to accept in her 11 years on the LPGA Tour. Korda on Sunday rolled in a 25-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Danielle Kang and win the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. “Come on!” she yelled as her ball cozied into the cup for her first victory in nearly three years. Like the long and winding putt that earned Korda a win on Sunday, so has been her journey on the LPGA. Saturday, the 28-year-old made history when she recorded just the fifth round of 60 in the tour’s 71-year history. She carded seven birdies and an eagle on the back nine. Why hadn’t she played this kind of golf before? Why wasn’t there more of this from Korda throughout her career? Diamond Resorts TOC: LPGA scores | Celeb scores | Full coverage The real question was, how much has the pain she’s suffered throughout her career hampered her success? It’s easy to forget about the multiple injuries she’s endured in her decade on tour. She doesn’t like to talk about them and she doesn’t want to use them as an excuse. But she’s played, and won, through more pain than most could imagine. During the summer of 2017, Korda qualified for the Solheim Cup for the first time in four years. She no sooner made the team when she withdrew because of a wrist injury. That December, Korda underwent major jaw surgery to correct a painful overbite that gave her agonizing headaches. Still numb and with 27 screws in her face, Korda won in her first event post-surgery at the 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand. The following year, she suffered a forearm injury and wasn’t able to defend her title. Last year, she withdrew from the AIG Women’s Open citing medical reasons. News & Opinion J. Korda beats Kang in playoff at LPGA opener BY Associated Press — January 24, 2021 at 5:59 PM Jessica Korda closed with a 5-under 66 and holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday to beat Danielle Kang. It was during those tough times that Korda relied most on her family. It seems fitting that as Jessica returned to the winner’s circle on Sunday she did so while playing alongside her younger sister, Nelly, and with her parents, Regina and Petr, looking on. “My family is everything. They’re my biggest support system. They believe in me more than I believe in myself,” Jessica Korda said as she fought back tears. “They’re always there to pick me up when I’m down. Let me tell you, I’ve been down.” Korda was recognized by her peers with the 2018 Heather Farr Perseverance award for her comeback after jaw surgery. That award encapsulates the fighting spirit that Korda has shown in not only her physical recovery but in her journey to learning – no matter how difficult the wait seems, everything comes in its time. “It’s incredible,” Korda said Sunday night as she held her sixth career LPGA trophy. “God has his timing and I needed to go through some stuff to really appreciate what I had.” Everything happens in its own time. And Sunday was Jessica Korda’s.
AVONDALE, La. — Tony Finau and Cameron Champ shot a 4-under 68 in alternate-shot play Friday for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with the Norwegian duo of Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura. “I know we’re having a good time with this format up to this point,” Finau said about the lone team event on the PGA Tour. “We’ve both played some really solid golf, and we find ourselves at the top of the leaderboard. “We’ll do what we’ve been doing the last couple days, which is enjoy each other’s company and not add any bonus pressure when it comes to teammate golf.” Hovland and Ventura had a 69 to match Finau and Champ at 13-under 131. The teams will play best ball Saturday, and close with an alternate-shot round Sunday. “Just having fun, and obviously we don’t get to do this very often,” Ventura said. “We’re playing some good golf, and the course we both like, so it’s just one of those things where we’re comfortable playing out here.” Champ, Finau ‘grinded it out’ in Zurich Round 2 It was an eventful day in windy conditions at the TPC Louisiana, highlighted by two aces. Nick Watney, the Zurich winner in 2007 when it was a traditional individual event, made a hole-in-one on the 14th hole from 224 yards. Later, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell aced the 217-yard 17th, eliciting a roar from what is normally one of the rowdiest spectator areas on the course. McDowell then sent a cooler loaded with cans of beer and wine to the media center. McDowell and Matt Wallace bogeyed four holes and shot 70, good enough to make the cut at 8 under. Watney and Charley Hoffman shot 74 to make the cut at 6 under. Hovland and Ventura, also tied for the lead after the first round, birdied five holes. But they were left to rue a double bogey on 16, when Hovland hit their approach shot from a fairway bunker into the water short and left of the green. “It was my fault,” Ventura said with a laugh. “We tried to hit the fairway with an iron (off of the tee) and I hit it in that bunker. I wasn’t the best teammate.” Finau and Champ briefly surged to a two-shot lead after birdies on the par-4 10th and the par-5 11th. But they bogeyed the par-4 12th when Finau’s approach fell short of the right side of the green. But Finau made up for it with a birdie putt of nearly 6 feet on 18. “We knew today with the wind and just the format in general it was going to be a grind, and that’s what we did, especially coming down the last nine holes,” Finau said. “We just kind of grinded it out.” While attendance was not immediately released, galleries following the leaders looked considerable. Festive fans seemed delighted to be back at an event canceled last year by the coronavirus pandemic. Many did not wear masks, despite signs around the course asking them to do so. Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Full-field scores | Full coverage Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose birdied seven holes, including the par-3 17th with a 12-foot putt by Rose. But they also bogeyed three holes to shoot a four-under 68 that put them at 11 under and tied for third with Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler. None of Rose’s and Stenson’s bogeys derailed them. They responded twice with birdies on the next hole. “A problem shared is a problem halved in this format for sure,” Rose said. “But Henrik was a rock today. I was kind of looking at it in terms of I don’t think he made one mistake that led to us dropping a shot really. It was pretty fun just to have someone that was so solid today. He pulled his weight.” Watson and Scheffler were at 12 under after three straight birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 12, but dropped strokes with bogeys on 15 and 17 before finishing with a birdie on Scheffler’s 8 1/2-foot putt. Billy Horschel and Sam Burns were a shot off the lead through 14 holes, but bogeyed 15 and then double-bogeyed the par-5 18th after Burns’ tee shot went in the water right of the fairway and Horschel’s next shot landed in a fairway bunker. They head to the third round tied for ninth at 8 under. Australians Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith shot a 72 to remain at 9 under. Their first bogey came after Leishman hit his drive on 13 into one of the most photogenic trees on the course, a massive, towering cypress with roots as high as 4 feet protruding from the grass around it. Smith couldn’t get a swing on the ball in there and had to take a drop. They also double-bogeyed the 17th after Leishman’s tee shot landed in the water left of the green.
Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. PABLO – Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Indian Reservation has installed Luanna Ross as its new president.The Missoulian reports that at an inauguration ceremony Wednesday, Ross told faculty, staff and students to prepare for change, saying educational institutions “need to be fluid and dynamic.” She vowed to make the campus environmentally friendly and to evaluate every department and program at the college, which offers bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in more than 20 professional fields and certificates in several trade and vocational areas.Ross, a Ronan High School graduate, replaces Joe McDonald, who served as president from 1978 until he retired this year at the age of 77. She comes to SKC from the University of Washington, where she was a professor and co-director of Native Voices, a graduate film program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UM, her master’s from Portland State and her doctorate in sociology from the University of Oregon.Ross also has taught at the University of California-Berkeley and UC-Davis.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. It was telling when in 2009 Kalispell voters rejected a $4.1 million-high school building reserve levy for School District No. 5. It had been approved every time it was on the ballot since 1982. When times are good, it’s easier to support schools. But they’re not. The building levy was just one of many that have failed across the valley and the state in the last several years as the recession has made it harder for residents to pull the lever for even modest tax increases and made us scrutinize our respective school districts more closely. Flathead Valley school districts almost collectively say they are running short of money to fund current programs. Barring an unforeseen miracle, Canyon Elementary School is poised to close and students there will be bused to Columbia Falls. And although numbers have risen at Kalispell elementary schools, enrollment has fallen at several others over last few years, which means they will get less money from the state than they have previously. School districts are notoriously persistent in levy requests out of necessity because the monies received each year and used to shore up their respective budgets is almost always in flux. So School District No. 5 will once again ask voters in March to approve a building reserve and technology levy, this time for almost $6 million to be used over the next five years. The most recent levy can be partially based on the Kalispell Fire Department’s insistence that the district’s buildings, specifically Flathead High School, pose safety hazards. If recent history is any indication, its passage is far from a sure thing. In the last year, while some modest levies have passed, others have been voted down from Kalispell to Libby to Kila. If this one also fails, School District No. 5 will have to pay for improvements out of its general fund, which already faces a potential budget shortfall of $500,000 to $1 million.And there are only two options for schools that need more money: ask for it again, or make cuts. Since District No. 5 will need to tighten its budget regardless of the levy’s passage, it is asking you for suggestions how. What’s on the line could be a bit more serious than just larger classrooms, so this is a survey you should consider filling out if you live in Kalispell. It is located at http://www.sd5.k12.mt.us and is just a few pages, the first of which outlines how the district got into this position by a combination of a poor economy, previous failed levies and one-time stimulus funding that is no longer available and which it says “is like a family using their savings account to cover monthly expenses, it covers the short term but is not sustainable over time.” So, what are their options? They range from the relatively mundane, like increasing community fees for use of facilities, to the much more drastic, like moving to a four-day week and eliminating sports programs. Superintendent Darlene Schottle has emphasized that the survey isn’t exactly a vote, rather recommendations that will be considered moving forward. Still, she and the district should be given credit for including the general public in the process. After all, when you look at the projected shortfall coupled with recent economic trends it certainly appears that a more drastic solution is order. Kalispell voters, and those elsewhere in the valley, are increasingly reluctant to continue filling the trough that supplements public education. This may the first survey of many to come. Email
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Vrapi and Brook spent time in Chicago studying the culinary scene there. Once they discovered that opening up their own restaurant in the big city at their age was a nearly impossible task, they decided to head back to Brook’s hometown of Judith Gap in central Montana.The couple then heard about an opportunity to take over Sun Mountain. They acted decisively and Vrapi, who also spent a year in Greece, finally had his own restaurant to showcase his diverse culinary capabilities. Since opening, Vrapi said the restaurant has been consistently busy, even in the shoulder season.Over the next month, Vrapi and Brook will make a series of changes to their restaurant, including renaming it “When in Rome.” They will also adopt more of a white linen setting for dinners. Brook, however, said they will stay true to their roots and not become overtly fine dining.“We’ve traveled a lot and the best food has come from the humblest places,” she said. Now that they have more of an understanding of how the International Pizza Challenge works, Vrapi and Brook plan on entering again next year, with their eyes on the top prize. Vrapi said he can see why many pizza chefs keep coming back for more competition every year. “It’s kind of an addiction,” he said. For more information, log on to www.bigforkpizza.com or call (406) 837-6664. Sun Mountain Trattoria/Pizzeria is located in Bigfork at 8270 Montana Highway 35. BIGFORK – Engjell Vrapi heard a few chuckles in Las Vegas at the International Pizza Challenge. Surrounded by some of the best pizza chefs in the world, representing restaurants throughout the West, Vrapi was the only Montana chef at the event, which was held at the beginning of March at the Las Vegas Convention Center. He might as well have been from Mars.“They thought we were talking about some city somewhere, like maybe Montana, New York,” Vrapi said. “They didn’t know we were talking about the state. They didn’t even know if we had pizza in Montana.”Vrapi owns Sun Mountain Trattoria/Pizzeria with his wife Kaleigh Brook. While competitors might not have taken Vrapi and Brook seriously at first, by the end of the challenge Sun Mountain was widely recognized. The Bigfork pizzeria competed in the International Pizza Challenge’s Western Division against restaurants from California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and Washington. A few came from Chicago, a city with a rich pizza tradition.In its division, Sun Mountain placed fourth in the traditional category for its Italian sausage and white cap mushroom pizza and second in the nontraditional category for “The Best Pizza Ever,” which features garlic, gorgonzola cheese, red onions, roasted red peppers and pepperoni. Both pizzas are made on a whole wheat crust. “The Best Pizza Ever” was named by customers.The competition featured some of the pizza world’s bigger names, including Antonio Starita, who owns one of the most famous pizzerias in Naples, Vrapi and Brook said. Besides being Montanans, the couple also stood out for what they weren’t: Italian.“Everyone spoke Italian and Italians were everywhere,” Brook said. “It was like the Sopranos all over again.”Not to mention, they only own one restaurant.“We were definitely the smallest pizzeria there,” Brook said. “Everybody else had between two and 25 restaurants.”Vrapi and Brook took over Sun Mountain Trattoria/Pizzeria in May of last year. They have created an atmosphere inside that is much more homey than one might expect from its strip mall location on Montana Highway 35 in Bigfork.In addition to its pizzas, the restaurant also serves up dishes such as mussels, carpaccio, carbonara, pasta con verdure, gnocchi con gorgonzola and more. A carefully selected wine list is also offered.All of the food reflects Vrapi’s wide-ranging influences and elite culinary training. Vrapi, 27, was born in Albania and moved to Rome after eighth grade. For years, he worked in Rome’s restaurants, becoming infatuated with the pursuit of excellent food. In Italy he met Brook, who was studying abroad.Eventually, the couple made it back to the U.S. Vrapi attended the New England Culinary Institute and interned at a prestigious California restaurant that had a two-star Michelin rating. The Sun Mountain Trattoria/Pizzeria entered a garlic, Gorgonzola cheese, pepperoni, red onion and roasted red pepper pizza, seen at top, in the nontraditional division of the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. The pizzeria’s Greek pizza, with spinach, feta cheese and olives, is seen as well. Email