Door Wide Open

By Associated PressDecember 23, 2008, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. ' Tiger Woods posed next to the trophy on the 18th green, a familiar scene with a rare twist. It was Sunday, and his clothing did not include so much as a trace of red.
Plus, he was wearing a jacket ' black, not green.
He was merely the host of the Chevron World Challenge. His duty was to thank sponsors and volunteers and give the trophy to Vijay Singh.
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington stepped it up in Tiger's absence. (Getty Images)
Im on the operational side this week, Woods said.
That still beats being operated on, which is why no one had seen Woods at a tournament in any capacity since he won the U.S. Open, his last event before season-ending knee surgery. He went the final 188 days of the golf season without hitting a single shot, opening a host of opportunities for those he regularly beats.
Singh won the event for the first time, taking home his third trophy that belonged to Woods a year ago. The other two were from the Bridgestone Invitational and the FedEx Cup.
Did the 45-year-old Fijian take advantage of the big cat being away?
Not really.
Singh has been among golfs elite for the better part of a decade now, winning three majors and taking the No. 1 ranking away from Woods in 2004. He might not be considered Woods chief rival, but he could be remembered as the second-best player in Woods era.
Still, there were some who benefited from Woods spending more time chasing his daughter than chasing Jack Nicklaus.
And there were some who didnt.
The next four players behind Woods in the world ranking after he won the U.S. Open ' Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els ' combined to play 41 times and produced one victory over the last six months. The only time Mickelson made headlines was because of something Woods caddie said.
Woods simply gobbles up so much attention when he plays, whether he wins or finishes fifth (his worst finish this year). During a discussion about rivals, Nicklaus once told Woods that the most important thing was to be part of the conversation.
With the worlds No. 1 player out of sight the second half of the season, the conversation shifted to five players:
Padraig Harrington
The Irishman joined some truly elite company by becoming only the seventh player in the last 50 years to win consecutive majors in the same season. The others were Woods, Nick Price, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer.
That was enough to be voted player of the year by five organizations ' golf writers from both sides of the Atlantic, the PGA of America, European Tour and PGA Tour. Not even Woods has done that (but only because he has never joined the European Tour).
As for the notion of an asterisk because Woods wasnt at the British Open or PGA Championship?
If Im in the field or not, youve still got to go out there and earn it, Woods said. Its not like they were giving that trophy out. You have to earn it, and he did.
Anthony Kim
Everyone raves about Kims raw skill and unlimited potential. It was worth paying attention to when he delivered.
The first victory came at Quail Hollow by five shots against a strong field. Then came a two-shot victory at Congressional to join Woods, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott to become the only players in the last 10 years to win multiple times in a season before turning 25.
Adding to the hype was his emotional play at the Ryder Cup, and the thrashing he gave Garcia in Sunday singles. Kim closed him out on the 14th hole, 5 and 4, and was so fired up he stormed off to the 15th tee without realizing he had won.
Hes got the swagger, Woods said. Hes got all the tools.
Camilo Villegas
The Colombian deserves a cameo mention, but two consecutive victories is not quite enough to establish himself as a challenger to Woods. Even when he wasnt contending, Villegas was promoted for his magazine looks and stylish clothing. But he is No. 7 in the world, and rightfully mentioned in a growing group of young stars.
Sergio Garcia
Garcia is similar to Singh in that he has been part of the conversation even before Woods left, having established himself as the best player to have never won a major (and perhaps the youngest player, at 28, to carry that burden).
Garcia wasnt affected that much by Woods absence. What he really needs is for Harrington to break a leg (figuratively speaking, of course), because the Irishman twice has trumped him on the closing holes at majors in the last two years.
Even so, Garcia restored his star power by winning The Players Championship and twice losing in extra holes during the PGA Tour playoffs ' one to Singh, another to Villegas.
Boo Weekley
Name another player who gets invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after winning only one tournament.
Weekley is barely ranked inside the top 50 in the world, yet he is becoming somewhat of an icon in American golf, helped by his homespun country humor, simplistic outlook and galloping down fairway at the Ryder Cup using his driver as a toy horse.
He didnt fill the void left by Woods ' not even close ' but golf needs characters, and Weekley delivers. He is a good ol country boy, like John Daly, minus the suspensions and trips to alcohol rehab. Weekley is known for wearing camouflage, not an orange jail suit.
Asked who benefited the most from his absence, Woods focused on youth ' Kim, Villegas, Garcia.
Theyre hitting their stride now, he said. Theyre coming into their own.
The question is whether they can keep pace when Woods is wearing a red shirt on Sunday, not a black jacket.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''