That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast with Barbara Mason: Decision at Kentucky Derby impacts the event; Warriors-Rockets could be evenly matched teams; plus more

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On That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast with Barbara Mason:

#1 How much of an impact was the decision of the officials at the Kentucky Derby to eliminate and disqualify Maximum Security and allow Country House the winner? The first time a winning horse has ever been disqualified in 145 years.

#2 With the Golden State Warriors, you never know what team is going to show up, They handled the Houston Rockets in first two games with a four-point win in Game 1 and a six-point win in Game 2, but it was Game 3 where they lost to the Rockets by five and lost another one in game 4 on Wednesday night as the series is tied 2-2.

#3 After having two comeback victories against the Cincinnati Reds during their four-game series, the San Francisco Giants split with the Reds, losing Monday. Giants starter Drew Pomeranz got lit up in 1.2 innings, nine hits and seven runs. While striking out two batters, Pomeranz continues to labor in the 12-4 loss.

#4 The LPGA Mediheal Championship was held at Lake Merced in Daly City from April 29th through May 5th. The leaderboard showed Sei Young Kim taking the $270,000 winnings finishing on top with a par 281 on Sunday.

#5 The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche battled in Game 6. The Avs came away with a 4-3 win to tie the series in overtime 3-3, to force a Game 7, bringing the game back to San Jose.

Barbara Mason is filling in for Amaury Pi-Gonzalez for That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast at www,sportsradioservice.com

LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship: Ko wins again at Lake Merced

Photo credit: @1NewsSportNZ

By Jeremy Harness

DALY CITY, Calif. – Celebrating one’s 21st birthday is a huge deal here in the United States, as Lydia Ko acknowledged on Friday. Winning a professional golf tournament days after turning 21 will make the milestone much more significant.

That’s what Ko did on Sunday, as she powered past Minjee Lee on the first playoff hole to win the LPGA MEDIHEAL championship at Lake Merced Golf Club. It was her 15th-career win and the third time she has been victorious on this golf course.

She got the victory in spectacular fashion. From a little more than 230 yards away, with both players in the fairway at the par-5 18th, Ko pulled out a 3-wood and hit a stunning second shot, coming within inches of a double eagle before the ball came to rest just two feet past the hole.

Following that, Lee elected to go with a long iron from a little more than 200 yards away and pushed it to the right, ending up in the rough. Just as she did at the final hole in regulation, she got up and down for birdie.

Ko then rolled the ensuing short eagle putt to secure the win, her first since the 2016 Marathon Classic.

Lee started the final round three shots behind the lead, but after a bogey at the third, she made a charge and overcame another bogey at the 10th to tie Ko at the top when she made birdie at the par-5 15th.

That was short-lived, as Ko tapped in for birdie at No. 15, after coming within inches of an eagle. Lee, however, came right back two holes later at the par-3 17th, as she holed out from the right greenside bunker for a birdie and momentarily took a one-shot lead with her birdie at the 18th, one group ahead of Ko.

Ko played the hole masterfully, leaving her second shot just 10 feet short of the green. Her ensuing chip shot – for eagle and the win – just burned the edge of the hole, and her tap-in birdie forced the playoff with Lee, who has also won at Lake Merced, in the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Jessica Korda began Sunday just one shot behind Ko, but her putter deserted her down the stretch and proved to be the difference.

Korda and Ko were tied at nine-under after 11 holes, and both hit the green at the par-3 12th. While Ko made par, Korda three-putted the green for a bogey.

Two holes later, she found the right fairway bunker with her tee shot but recovered beautifully by sticking her second shot to two feet. However, she missed the short putt that would have closed the gap to a single stroke.

Although she birdied the par-5 15th, Korda could not recover from that point on. She finished the tournament in a four-way tie for third with Angel Yin, ShanShan Feng and Charley Hull.

Ko began Sunday’s round with a one-stroke lead over Korda, but both young women struggled in the early going. Both bogeyed the opening hole before Ko bogeyed the fourth – her first three-putt of the tournament being the main culprit there – as well as the sixth, and at that point, she fell one stroke behind Korda and Lee, who birdied the seventh hole to get into a tie for the lead.

However, Ko bounced back with a birdie at the seventh to get back into a tie at the top. That lasted for about a minute, as Korda also made birdie there to re-take the lead.

LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship: Ko jumps back on top

Photo credit: @nzgolf

By Jeremy Harness

DALY CITY, Calif. — Three years after she last won on this course, Lydia Ko is again in the top spot in the LPGA Tour’s return to the Bay Area.

After falling out of the lead in the second round after being tied for it after Thursday’s action, Ko shot a five-under round of 67 to vault herself into a one-shot advantage on Saturday.

To do it, she powered through the front nine by going three-under before having to settle for a bogey at the par-four 10th hole – she also bogeyed the 10th on Thursday. She bounced right back at the very next hole and made birdie, also as was the case in the opening round.

She then parred the next three holes before recording back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th holes to get to 11-under for the tournament.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Ko said. “I know there’s still a lot of golf to be played, so I’ve just got to stay positive and confident out there and just continue playing my game and not worry about what everyone else is doing.” One stroke behind her is Friday’s leader, Jessica Korda, who had a tougher start to her third round than was the case in the previous two. She birdied the first hole but bogeyed two of the next three before getting some ground back with a birdie at the seventh.

Korda was also victimized by the 10th hole, as she came away with a bogey but rallied with birdies at the 13th and the 15th to turn in a one-under card of 71.

“Today was definitely tough, the wind was picking up in the afternoon,” Korda said. “I’m not sure what golf course Lydia was playing, but she played great. I’m excited for tomorrow.” “Today I was trying to be a little bit aggressive, and it got in my way a little bit.”

The two will be paired together for Sunday’s final round, but only three strokes behind is Minjee Lee, who fired a four-under 68 on Saturday. She exchanged a bogey for a birdie on the front side, but she went on a tear on the back nine.

She made five birdies against only one bogey for the final nine holes to give herself a realistic chance to win as well.

“I don’t know what the conditions will be like tomorrow, but I’m sure either way it’s going to be an exciting finish,” Lee said. “I think I’m in a great position.

“I go into every week thinking I’m going to post a great score. If I keep putting myself in contention and in position, then the win will come eventually.”

LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship: Korda takes lead, Kerr makes cut on miracle chip-in

Photo credit: @LPGA

By Jeremy Harness

DALY CITY, Calif. – Friday’s second round was full of low scores and breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat shots, to take the overall lead as well to just make the cut in order to stick around for the weekend.

Jessica Korda used a blistering front nine to shoot out to the outright lead after two rounds at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club.

Korda, who turned pro eight years ago and whose last win came at the 2015 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, recorded four birdies on the front side with no bogeys. Her only setback of the day came at the par-four 11th hole, where she missed the green and could not get up and down to drop a shot.

However, she had two birdies on the back side to minimize the damage, and she made her way to the clubhouse with a one-shot lead after a round of 67.

“I knew I was going to get certain bounces that weren’t going to be favorable as the greens got firmer during the afternoon, (but I) stayed patient and stayed with the process, and here we are,” Korda said. “It’s only Friday. Still two more days to go. Out here, you just never know.”

Annie Park, who fired a six-under 66 on Friday, is one shot behind Korda at eight-under for the tournament, while Lydia Ko is only two shots behind at six-under after shooting a two-under round of 70.

Cristie Kerr is not near the leaderboard, but she did make the cut – set at two-over par – in a quite-spectacular way.

As she approached the 18th green, things appeared to be coming to a frustrating close for Kerr. After reaching the par-5 15th green in two shots, she three-putted the green to settle for a par, and after rallying for a birdie at the 16th, she found the greenside bunker at the next hole and bogeyed after failing to get up and down.

Kerr found herself between two greenside bunkers on the right side of the 18th green after pushing her second shot. Only able to see the top of the flag from where her ball sat, her pitch shot rolled until the ball found itself into the hole for an eagle to make the cut on the number.

She could not see the ball once it landed on the green, but the loud roar of the crowd – as well as her caddie telling her that it went in – prompted Kerr, who is also an accomplished winemaker to lay flat on the ground and throw her hands onto her head in a measure of exhalation of the moment.

That seemed to have residual effect for Ko, her Friday playing partner. Although she fell out of the lead on Friday, she still showed every sign of having fun playing the game – her trademark – and quickly followed up Kerr’s heroics with a chip-in of her own for a birdie.

“Cristie’s obviously the top example of just never giving up until the very end,” Ko said. “I think I was more pumped for Cristie’s eagle that I was like, ‘Man, you need to focus, you have a tough chip here.’”

LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship: Ko gets re-acquainted with Lake Merced, shares lead

Photo credit: @USGA

By Jeremy Harness

DALY CITY, Calif. – Lydia Ko really likes this course, apparently.

Ko, who won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in each of the first two years that it was held here–2014 and 2015-prior to the event being relocated to Taiwan, got out to a strong start on Thursday, posting a four-under round of 68 to open the MEDIHEAL Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club.

That was good enough to get her into a five-way tie for the lead with players such as Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall.

“It’s a golf course where nobody goes super low, so you just have to (continue) to play solid and be patient out there, and sometimes par’s not a bad score,” said Ko, who celebrated her 21st birthday on Tuesday. “I think I hit a lot of greens, so I think I’m giving myself as many opportunities for birdies (as possible).

“I don’t think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,” she said. “So I’m legal, and I can do some fun things now.”

To be exact, Ko hit 16 of the possible 18 greens on Thursday–including each of the first nine that saw her go four-under on the front side–to go along with 11 of 14 fairways.

Jessica Korda also got out to a hot start to shoot four-under, which included an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole. Her only blemish came at the 10th, where she missed the green and ended up with a bogey.

She rebounded quickly, however, parring the ensuing four holes before birdieing two of the last three.

“I didn’t hit a ton of great shots, but I always left myself in a good position,” said Korda, whose younger sister, Nelly, played in one of the late groups along with So Yeon Ryu and Lexi Thompson. “It was really cold out there, so it was good that I stuck to my process.

“Obviously the score says one thing, and my hands say another.”

Speaking of Thompson, she birdied two of the last four holes to finish with a three-under round of 69, which has her tied for second with three others. To make her round more impressive, she was one of the last ones to play on Thursday, meaning that she had to endure the cold, consistent wind that this area is well known for late in the day.

“This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,” said Thompson, who had two LPGA Tour wins last year. “It’s chilly out (there), so it’s a little longer of a course.

“Some of the par-5’s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good, and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.”

PURE INSURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Langer jumps into lead

Photo credit: PGA Tour Champions (@ChampionsTour)

By Jeremy Harness

Golf can change dramatically from one day to the next, and Saturday’s second round at the PURE Insurance Open at Pebble Beach showed that.

Bernhard Langer, who entered Saturday’s second round behind only one stroke, did not light it up like he and first-day leader Scott McCarron did on Friday, but he was proficient enough to grasp hold of the top spot heading into the final round Sunday.

Starting on the 10th hole Saturday, Langer got off to a bit of a slow start, bogeying his seventh hole before picking up a birdie at the scenic par-5 18th to draw even for the round.

Then he really picked things up on his back nine. He ran off three birdies in a row at holes two through four before picking up shots on both the sixth and eighth holes to finish with a round of 67 and a one-shot lead.

To accomplish this, he hit 9 of his 14 fairways as well as hitting 14 of his 18 greens in regulation in the second round. He made four fewer birdies on Saturday, but he did a much better job of getting up and down, as he recorded only one bogey.

McCarron, meanwhile, did not get any momentum at all, and by shooting an even-par 72, he lost quite a bit of ground to the field, as he is now four strokes back at eight-under in a tie for the fifth position.

Vaulting into the second spot and only one stroke back of Langer is Kenny Perry, who shot a nine-under 63 on Saturday. He shook off a bogey on his first hole and birdied four of the next eight holes. He then picked up even more steam with an eagle at the par-5 second before he birdied the fourth and ran off three birdies in a row at holes six through eight.

Scott Parel sits one shot behind Perry after his second-round score of 66 while Jerry Kelly, who came within a shot of winning the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship last year, is three shots behind the lead after his 66 on Saturday.

LPGA will not make stop in Bay Area this year; Sponsorship issues CVS not returning

Haru Nomura, of Japan, poses with her trophy on the 18th green of the Lake Merced Golf Club after winning the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic golf tournament Sunday, April 24, 2016, in Daly City, Calif. Nomura shot a 1-over-par 73 to finish at total 9-under-par. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Jeremy Harness

SAN FRANCISCO–When looking at the LPGA Tour schedule for the 2017 season, one event was visibly absent from the list. Unfortunately, it is the event that has been held in Northern California over the past three years.

The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic debuted in 2004 and had been held at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, with Lydia Ko taking the title, as well as the title in the very next year as well. However, the tournament, which has grown in popularity since its debut, has been shifted to another area.

In fact, it has gone to another continent, and at another time of the year as well.

This year, the tournament will be played in Taiwan, and will be called the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship, from Oct. 19 until Oct. 22.

Swinging Skirts, in fact, is a nonprofit organization based in Taiwan, and the group signed a three-year contract in 2013 to have the tournament played at Lake Merced. However, that deal ended last year.

In order for the tournament – which has customarily been played in April – to be kept local, a new sponsor was needed to step in and take over the reins, before the new LPGA tournament schedule was to be released.

However, the schedule was announced this past November, and no sponsor came through to keep the event at Lake Merced. As a result, it is heading to Asia.

According to reports, most Bay Area-based organizations have been very reluctant to sponsor an LPGA event, which does not bode well for the future of women’s pro golf in this region of the country.

 

SWINGING SKIRTS LPGA CLASSIC: Long-range putt points Nomura to victory

By Jeremy Harness

AP photo: Haru Nomura holds up the LPGA Swinging Skirts 2016 Trophy at the 18th hole at Lake Merced Golf Club after winning the tournament

DALY CITY, Calif. – Haru Nomura spoke through an interpreter for a good deal of her post-tournament interview, but in describing the reaction that she got when draining a crucial 75-foot birdie putt, she did not need one.

“My caddie said, ‘Holy (expletive)!’”

The putt could not have come at a better time, as she had seen her five-shot lead dwindle to a single stroke after a string of three bogeys in a four-hole span. Sensing that she really needed to find a way to shut the faucet off somehow, her caddie gave her a hearty pep talk immediately following the last bogey at the 11th.

It seemed to work beautifully. She hit her tee shot at the par-three 12th to the back of the green and then drained the monster downhill putt and pushed her lead out to two shots. She then added another birdie two holes later to give herself just enough cushion to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at a very cold and windy Lake Merced Golf Club.

“I like windy situations,” Nomura said. “I like tough situations, so when I spoke to the caddie, even before the championship last week in Hawaii, I told him, ‘I’m going to come here and win this tournament because I really like this course.’”

“I’m glad that I was able to deliver on what I told my caddie.”

Strong winds engulfed the entire course this weekend, and Sunday presented the toughest conditions and wreaked havoc on scorecards all the way up and down the field. In fact, there were only 10 players who shot under par in the final round. 

“I said, ‘Hey, if I was half my weight, I’d probably already be flying away like a balloon,” said Lydia Ko, who celebrated her 19th birthday Sunday.

South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace had built some momentum going into Sunday’s final round, but that all went up in smoke as her round got under way, as she bogeyed each of the first five holes. However, she managed to right the ship rather nicely following the setback, birdieing two of the next four holes and then playing the back nine at one-under to post a two-over 74, good enough for a second-place finish.

“I think I just didn’t trust it on the first five holes,” Pace said. “I didn’t realize the putting was going to be that difficult. The ball was moving a little bit, so it was difficult to just try and make a good stroke on it.

“I missed a couple of short ones quickly, so that set me back a little bit. But after we started making the putts and getting a few back on the back nine, everything was fine.”

Ko stayed in contention until the final round, but she just did not have enough to make up the ground that she needed to in order to defend her title. As was the case with Pace, Ko stumbled out of the gate on Sunday. She bogeyed four of the first seven holes, and even though she played the remaining 11 holes at one-under, the damage had been done.

“I don’t know if any players could get anything going (Sunday),” Ko said. “Sometimes you’re struggling and you need to (just) make bogey. (Sunday was ) not the day where you think you’re going to get really hot. If you do, that’s great.

“I see there were a couple under-par scores, and I think that’s almost like a 65 or a 63.”

At one point, Na Yeon Choi, who started her final round at seven-under, was only one stroke behind Nomura after making a birdie at the par-five 14th to draw even in her round, but that hope vanished when she bogeyed the 15th just as Nomura birdied the 14th right behind her, and then a double-bogey on the very next hole sealed her fate. She finished the tournament tied for third at four-under.

LPGA Swinging Skirts at Laker Merced: Nomura keeps building momentum, but she has company

By Jeremy Harness

AP photo: Haru Nomura follows her drive from the second tee in the third round of the Swinging Skirts on Saturday at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City

DALY CITY – Haru Nomura extended her lead on Saturday, but there are some familiar faces still hanging around just enough to make things interesting.

Since taking over the lead on Friday, Nomura has seemed to have a stranglehold on this edition of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. She has stayed away from the big mistake, and when faced with trouble, she has found a way to get past it and keep moving forward.

In Saturday’s third-round action, for example, she looked to be stymied by a low-hanging tree for her third shot at the par-five ninth. However, she hit a very nice low-flying shot that made its way onto the green and was then able to make the ensuing birdie putt.

She used shots like that, including a sand save on the back nine despite a very-awkward stance, to tack on a stroke to her lead, using three birdies to overcome a pair of bogeys and enter the final round with a three-stroke advantage.

One of her closest chasers is South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace, who fired a three-under 69 to move into a tie for second. She herself had to fight off a pair of bogeys on the front nine by recording a trio of birdies. She then proceeded to play a bogey-free back nine, which was highlighted by two more birdies.

Her round was almost derailed from the beginning, however. As the story goes, Pace’s caddie lost one of his contacts Saturday morning, and despite having to jump through some hoops in the process, he was able to get a new pair just in time.

“In America, apparently you can’t just get it over-the-counter,” Pace said. “So he has a prescription from South Africa, but they didn’t accept it. So he had to go to the doctor and get the contacts.

“It’s quite a big deal, especially on the greens.”

As she did in last year’s tournament, 18-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson has continued to charge her way up the leaderboard. She chipped in for birdie at the 18th hole on Saturday to finish with a three-under 69 to head into Sunday’s final round (tied for fourth and five strokes back).

Another thing that Henderson has going for her these days is a solid playing status. At this point last year, the only two ways that she could play was to either get a sponsor’s exemption or to get in via Monday qualifier.

That has since changed, as her victory in last season’s Cambia Portland Classic – she won by eight strokes – landed her full playing status on the LPGA Tour.

“I’m really close, and my game is close to being really good,” Henderson said. “I just have to stay patient and keep doing what I’m doing.

“I made some really good up-and-downs to kind of save my round and keep me going, which I think was really important. My short game was really good all day, and even on 18, chipping in was really helpful.”

So Yeon Ryu, on the other hand, is going the other way. After taking the initial lead in this tournament after posting an opening-round score of 63, which set the tournament course record, the South Korea native has slightly retreated since then. She followed a three-over 75 on Friday and then dropping a shot on Saturday, and she, like Henderson, is currently tied for fourth.

Also as the case with Henderson, Ryu finished her round on a high note. Ryu did not chip in, but she did hit a very nice approach shot to about three feet, a putt that she made for birdie for a one-over 73.

In a similar predicament is defending champ Lydia Ko, who turns 19 Sunday. She finds herself six strokes off of the lead after shooting a one-over 73 on Saturday, making a pair of birdies but was hampered by three bogeys.

“My game wasn’t really up to it today,” Ko said. “It was pretty average. But I felt like chipping, short game-wise, it was good, but I wasn’t making the putts the needed to go in for birdie or those crucial par saves, so I think that was the difference.”

LPGA Swinging Skirts at Lake Merced: Steady Nomura takes over lead

By Jeremy Harness

AFP photo: Haru Nomura tees off at the 10th hole in the second round of the LPGA Swinging Skirts at Lake Merced in San Francisco on Friday

DALY CITY–Based on what we have seen thus far, this tournament is shaping up to have an exciting finish.

Japan native Haru Nomura continued her steady pace in the second round, shooting a two-under 70 in the second round Friday in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club. In the process, she grabbed the lead with a nine-under overall score.

The low round of the day belonged to Minjee Lee, who shot a seven-under 65 to surge into a tie for second place as the weekend rolls around.

So Yeon Ryu, who torched Lake Merced Golf Club Thursday with a nine-under 63, took a bit of a backward step during Friday’s second round, going three over par by shooting a 75. However, she remains in the hunt, as she is also tied for second and very much within striking distance.

To no one’s surprise, defending champion Lydia Ko remained within a shout of the lead on Friday. She shot a one-under 71 to move to five under par for the tournament and within four shots of the lead.

This tournament will have a pair of Bay Area representative this weekend, as San Jose native Christina Kim, who has endured a long road to get back to the LPGA Tour in battling personal issues as well as working out problems in her game, fired a one-under 71 to go into the weekend tied for 23rd.

Meanwhile, Juli Inkster shot a pair of 74’s to finish the second round with an overall score of four over par to make the cut by a single stroke and hang around for the weekend.

However, there was one Bay Area native who will not be sticking around for the weekend. Paula Creamer, who is originally from Pleasanton, had the wheels fall off with a six-over 78 to miss the cut after shooting even par the day before.