Henderson tops Ko in playoff for first major

By Associated PressJune 13, 2016, 1:54 am

SAMMAMISH, Wash. - Brooke Henderson kept hearing the roar of fans echoing through the trees, leaving her to wonder what was happening elsewhere on the golf course.

By the end, all those roars were left just for her. And for good reason.

''The way the noise echoed here was really cool,'' Henderson said. ''I'd never experienced that before. ... And then a lot of those cheers ended up being for me, which was even cooler.''

Henderson won her first major title Sunday, beating top-ranked Lydia Ko with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff to win the KPMG Women's PGA Championship after overcoming a three-shot deficit on the back nine.

The 18-year-old Canadian, ranked No. 4 in the world, closed with a bogey-free 6-under 65 - the best round of the week at Sahalee Country Club - to match Ko at 6-under 278. Ko finished with a 67.

In the playoff on the par-4 18th, Henderson hit her second shot - a 7-iron from 155 yards - to 3 feet, while Ko's second from farther back in the fairway left her with 20 feet. Ko missed to the left, and Henderson tapped in to cap a week that started with a hole-in-one on her fourth hole Thursday and ended with a major championship.


KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Henderson became the second-youngest winner in a major championship, with Ko the youngest last year in the Evian Championship in France. Henderson also is the second Canadian woman to win a major championship, following Sandra Post's victory in the 1968 event, and is projected to jump from fourth to second in the world on Monday. Her first victory came last year in Portland, Oregon.

''To think about all of the incredible players that have come before me,'' Henderson said. ''I was reading some of the names on this trophy and it's very, very cool.''

Ko was bidding to become the fifth player in tour history to win three straight majors. Most times a bogey-free round with four birdies would be enough.

''I'm happy with the way I played. I just got outplayed,'' the New Zealander said. ''For Brooke to shoot 65 on the final day at a major, at a course like this is very impressive.''

The final round was a display of nearly flawless golf from the best after players spent the first three rounds getting kicked around at difficult Sahalee. Henderson, Ko and third-place Ariya Jutanugarn played a combined 56 holes on the final day without a bogey. Jutanugarn, in search of a fourth straight victory, shot a 66 to finish a stroke back. The 20-year Thai player missed a birdie putt on the 18th that could have put her into the playoff.

But no one was better than Henderson, who was the first round leader after a 67 before shooting consecutive rounds of 73. Three times she saved par out of the bunker, although her best save came the first time she played the 18th. Henderson's tee shot found the trees right of the fairway, but she scrambled to make a 12-footer to finish out a back nine of 31.

That moment likely decided the tournament. While Henderson saved par on 18, Ko missed a 4-foot birdie try on the par-3 17th after a perfect tee shot.

''I'm not really sure if I pushed it,'' Ko said. ''I didn't feel like it was a bad stroke.''

Henderson began the day at even par, two strokes behind Ko. The Canadian pulled off the comeback with a perfect back nine after going out in 2 under. Henderson's 90-foot eagle putt from the front of the green at the 11th was just the third at the long par 5 all week and separated her from a large pack at 2 under.

''We needed to go on a birdie run or something so that sort of jump started us and we were able to keep going,'' said Brittany Henderson, her sister's caddie.

Ko answered with a birdie at the 11th, but Henderson drew another huge roar with a birdie at the 13th to stay one shot behind. Both continued to make pars until the 17th when Henderson pulled even by dropping a 35-foot birdie putt after pulling her tee shot to the wrong side of the green on the par 3.

But Henderson had one more birdie remaining that will only raise the expectations for the Canadian star.

''Looking forward to the rest of the summer. There's still three major championships left. I'd like to get my name on all three of those,'' Henderson said. ''But I won't get ahead of myself here.''

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.