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Golf: Kupcho gives women Masterful magic!

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AUGUSTA (USA): Forget such magical Augusta National moments as the Tiger Woods miracle putt, Phil Mickelson off the pine straw or Bubba Watson from deep in the trees to win the Masters.
For a generation of young women golfers who never before had an idol to emulate, it’s going to be about Jennifer Kupcho’s epic eagle in Amen Corner to win Saturday’s inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“That’s one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Kupcho said of her approach at the par-5 13th to set up the only eagle of the tournament.
“I knew I needed to make a big move. I never thought about laying up. That’s pretty cool to be the only person who did that.” The 21-year-old world women’s amateur number one went five-under on the last six holes in a five-under-par 67 final round to win by four strokes over Mexico’s Maria Fassi.
“This tournament shows how good we are and what younger girls have to look forward to,” Kupcho said. “To start a movement where we’re going to start getting followed, I think that’s a big moment.”
Kupcho, the reigning US college champion, won the historic first title for women at once all-male Augusta National, which didn’t have women members from its 1933 founding until 2012.
Crowds enjoyed a final-pair duel for the title that went down to the last of 54 holes, the first two rounds having been played at nearby Champions Retreat before the closer at Augusta.
“It probably won’t set in for a little while,” Kupcho said. “There were just so many people. Just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with all of those fans, it was an experience unlike any other.”
Two shots down with six holes to play, Kupcho hit an impressive approach at the par-5 13th hole to six feet and sank a tense eagle putt to equalize, then birdied the par-5 15th, par-3 16th, and par-4 18th to seal the milestone victory.
“To do it on this big a stage is probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever been able to do,” she said. “It was quite a day. It’s an amazing feeling.”
She and Fassi will now have greater attention when they make their LPGA debuts. “I know we’re going to have a great time out there next year in the LPGA,” Kupcho said. “That’s something everyone is going to look forward to watching.”

 

 

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Golf: Masters’ Final Round begins

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AUGUSTA (USA): Tiger Woods teed off in today’s final round of the Masters chasing his 15th major title, trying to capture his fifth green jacket to end an 11-year major drought.
The 43-year-old American superstar, back on form after 2017 spinal fusion surgery following years of nagging back pain, played alongside compatriot Tony Finau and Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the last group at Augusta National Golf Club.
Reigning British Open champion Molinari seized the 54-hole lead on 13-under par 203 with Woods and Finau two strokes behind.
Brooks Koepka, last year’s US Open, and PGA Championship winner, began three adrift with fellow American Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open, and England’s Ian Poulter four off the pace.
“It’s golf, so the favorite is probably the golf course out there waiting for us,” Molinari said.
“We’re all very close. It’s nice to be a little bit ahead, but you might just need one hole to change. You never know how it’s going to go, especially around a course like here.”
Augusta National advanced the final round to Sunday morning in a safety move with thunderstorms expected to arrive Sunday afternoon, when leaders would typically be battling for the Masters crown.
The storms, with hail and high winds producing tornadoes, led to three deaths and severe damage in moving across the southeastern United States.
The Masters, which has not had a Monday conclusion since 1983, decided to cancel its green jacket ceremony after the finish in order to hurry spectators to the exits faster due to the approaching storm.
Racing nature’s fury to finish on the weekend added more tension to the unfolding Masters’ drama, which centered on Woods and his chance to win his first major title since the 2008 US Open on the same course where he won his first-ever major in 1997.
“At 23, I had a lot more years in front of me,” Woods said. “At 43 I don’t. It’s just reality.”
Woods, who could move nearer Jack Nicklaus’s the all-time major win record of 18, contended last year at the British Open and PGA before snapping a five-year win drought by capturing the Tour Championship, his 80th career US PGA title leaving him two shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record.
Electrifying shotmaking this week at Augusta National cheered on by supportive crowds anxious to witness history, has Woods on the verge of a fairytale conclusion to a fightback from back pain so crippling he was unable to play with his children.
Woods has never fired so low in a Masters and not won the title but he has also never won a major title when not leading after 54 holes.
Plenty of rivals were in place to deny Woods his long-sought next major trophy.
Molinari, whose first Masters appearance was as a caddie to older brother Edoardo in 2006, outfought Woods last year at Carnoustie to win his first major title. The Italian then went 5-0 in a heroic Ryder Cup turn in France over an American team on which Woods went 0-5.
“The key for me is really going to go out and just do my thing. Staying aggressive,” Molinari said. “Hit the shots. Hit the middle of the clubface as often as I can and make smart decisions, and we’ll just take it from there.”
Finau, the US PGA’s first player of Tongan and Samoan heritage, leads the week in driving distance with 318.8 yards.
“I’m driving the ball nicely,” Finau said. “And on this golf course, I can attack the golf course if I’m hitting my driver well.”
Lurking as well is Koepka, who seeks his third victory in the past four majors — a success rate seen only by Ben Hogan’s three in a row in 1953 and the “Tiger Slam” four in a row by Woods in 2000-01.
“I’m pretty comfortable being up there on the leaderboard in a major come Sunday,” Koepka said. “I feel good and I like my chances.”

 

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Golf: Top-ranked Kupcho pleased with practice

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AUGUSTA: Top-ranked leader Jennifer Kupcho was pleased with her practice Friday ahead of the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at the famed home course of the Masters.
Kupcho stood on 5-under par 139 with a one-stroke lead over Mexico’s Maria Fassi after 36 holes at nearby Champions Retreat with Americans Kaitlyn Papp and Sierra Brooks and Thailand’s Pimnipa Panthong another stroke adrift.
All 72 competitors enjoyed a practice round Friday at Augusta National but only the top 30 advanced to compete over 18 holes, women battling for a trophy at the iconic course for the first time.
Kupcho and Fassi will tee off in the last group at 10:20 a.m. while Americans Anna Redding and Allisen Corpuz tee off in the first pairing at 8 a.m. Saturday after ceremonial first-tee shots by former LPGA stars Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and Nancy Lopez.
Kupcho worked Friday with caddie Brian Murphy, her bagman when she toured the course in 2017 with her Wake Forest University team and again in the final round.
“It was just a lot of fun to see the course again,” Kupcho said. “I played really well and was hitting the ball well. So I think I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Fassi, a University of Arkansas senior, reached the green in two shots on all four of Augusta National’s par-5 holes on Friday.
“It was unreal,” Fassi said. “It’s really hard to describe how amazing everything was out there. I was excited on every single shot I hit and just hitting those putts and seeing how much they break.”
Her college coach, Jose Maria Sanchez, will be her caddie today. “It is going to be a battle out there, not only between me and Jennifer but like two or three groups behind us as well,” Fassi said.

 

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Golf: Augusta National Women’s Amateur

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WASHINGTON: The world’s top-ranked amateur Jennifer Kupcho and 16-year-old Zoe Campos shared the lead Wednesday as the inaugural edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur teed off.
The tournament, announced to great fanfare last year by organizers of the Masters, will see women compete for the first time for a trophy at Augusta National on Saturday after the field is winnowed from 72 to 30 for the final round.
It’s a landmark move for the club that didn’t admit any women members until 2012.
On Wednesday, Kupcho and Campos led the field at Champions Retreat Golf Club, the venue for the first two rounds.
US collegiate champion Kupcho was first on the first tee at 9 a.m., conquering her nerves to drill her drive and launch what she called a “perfect” day.
“It was very official,” Kupcho said. “I walked up, everyone was very quiet, like no talking to each other at all. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is crazy.”
With Augusta National and Masters Tournament Chairman Fred Ridley in attendance, Kupcho admitted she was “a little nervous”.
It didn’t show as she hit every green in regulation in her bogey-free four-under round.
“No three-putts and hit all of the greens. I think that is the first perfect round I’ve ever played,” Kupcho said. “I was just playing really well.”
Campos birdied the last tie for the lead and said she was pleased with the chance to see where her game stacks up “at the highest amateur level”.
“It is a really good experience,” she said.
Creation of the event has been hailed by women golfers past and present as a way of finally giving girls and young women the chance to dream of competing at Augusta National that aspiring male golfers have nursed for decades.
In addition to the final round on Saturday, all 72 entrants will play a practice round at Augusta National on Friday.
“This championship is fantastic for women’s golf,” said Swedish 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam. “Young girls are going to be energized and motivated by seeing this event unfold for years to come.”

 

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