Defending champ Ko leads at Swinging Skirts

By Associated PressApril 24, 2015, 1:43 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – As Lydia Ko geared up to turn 18 on Friday at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, right behind her on the leaderboard was 54-year-old Juli Inkster.

Refreshed and ready to make a run at defending her title, the top-ranked Ko returned from two weeks off to take the first-day lead Thursday at 5-under 67.

Ko nearly chipped in for eagle on the par-5 14th, but the ball deflected off the pin and she settled for a tap-in birdie putt, and that moved her to the top of the leaderboard at Lake Merced Golf Club.

''This is a very tough golf course. You need to position yourself well,'' Ko said. ''I hit the ball pretty good where I wasn't in too much trouble. If I did miss it a little bit, I did get away with it, too. It's a really good start but I know I've got three long days to go.''

Ko will celebrate her birthday on the course Friday then go out for a nice dinner with friends. Paired with Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson, Ko pulled on a jacket midway through her round in the afternoon chill and finished strong.

Ko had a one-stroke lead over three others, including Inkster. Stacy Lewis, last year's runner-up to Ko at Lake Merced, was two strokes back at 69.

''It was probably one of the craziest rounds of golf I've ever played,'' said Lewis, who recovered from four bogeys on her front nine with an eagle on the par-4 11th and three birdies on the back.

Ko had birdies on consecutive holes three times - Nos. 5-6, 8-9 and 13-14 - with just one bogey.

''The first couple holes were playing down wind, so that made it a lot easier,'' she said. ''A lot depends on the wind. It really depends on the conditions of the day and the scores are really good.''

Ko was followed by a gallery of about 100 fans early, and first-day attendance seemed to be a noticeable improvement from a year ago for the tournament's inaugural round. The wind picked up significantly in the afternoon.

Inkster, done hours earlier before the wind began whipping in earnest, quickly corrected the notion she is facing a talented LPGA field with women her daughters' ages.

''Yeah, they're a lot younger than my daughters,'' she said with a grin. ''They're 25 and 21. Out here that's a seasoned veteran. You know what, that's the beauty about golf. I mean, age matters in a lot of things as far as how your body feels and how far you hit the ball and how much time you can put into it. You can still go out there and compete at 54.''

Inkster, a local icon, birdied six of her first 10 holes for a 68 on a cool, breezy morning off the ocean. She had no idea that put her on top of the leaderboard after the morning rounds.

''I didn't know I was,'' Inkster said. ''The way I played today, no, I'm not surprised. ... Coming into this week, my game feels pretty good.''

Lewis joked that a leaderboard with Inkster on top would make a good ''Throwback Thursday'' photo.

Ha Na Jang, who also shot a 68, made a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-3, 162-yard eighth for one of her eight birdies. P.K. Kongkraphan also had a 68.

Back for a second straight year at Lake Merced in the San Francisco suburbs, the tournament drew 18 of the top 20 players in the world - and it would have been one more before eighth-ranked Suzann Pettersen withdrew Wednesday because of an ailing shoulder.

Inkster saved par on her back nine a couple of times after her tee shots just missed the fairways, which she most of the day. She pitched out of the bunker on the par-4, 381-yard fifth hole and made a 5-foot putt that prompted the LPGA veteran to fist bump caddie Ralph Scarinzi.

''It was a great up-and-down to keep the round going,'' Scarinzi said. ''It was a very good day for Juli, a great start. Three to go.''

Scarinzi and Inkster are friends of more than 25 years. Inkster was born in Santa Cruz, attended San Jose State and still lives in the South Bay.

Inkster lives about 35 minutes south of the 6,507-yard, par-72 Lake Merced course and is hosting four other players this week, and even cooked them a chicken stir fry Wednesday night at her home.

''Juli's a legend, a Hall of Famer. It's so cool she still plays well at her age,'' Ko said. ''What she's done for the tour is pretty amazing.''

Another Bay Area fan favorite, Paula Creamer, was at risk of missing the cut after a 10-over 82. She had four bogeys and a pair of triple bogeys.

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."