I.K. Kim wins first LPGA event in six years in China

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2016, 4:46 pm

BEIJING – In-Kyung Kim won the Reignwood LPGA Classic on Sunday for her first LPGA victory in six years, making an eagle and a birdie on the two late par 5s to lead a South Korean sweep of the top three places.

The 28-year-old Kim shot a 7-under 66 at Reignwood Pine Valley, holing a 25-foot eagle putt on the 16th and a 12-footer for birdie on the 18th for her fourth tour title and first since the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico. She also won a Ladies European Tour event last month in Germany.

Kim finished at 24-under 268, a stroke ahead of third-round leader Mi Jung Hur and 2014 winner Mirim Lee in the Asian Swing opener. Playing a group behind Kim in the final threesome, Hur missed a chance to force a playoff when her eagle chip from the back fringe went a foot right.

''I just wanted to play my game. I can't control anyone else's game,'' Kim said. ''I feel good that I was able to play how I wanted to play. Even the result, I really try not to focus on result so much. Then I wouldn't be able to perform the way I wanted. I chose to play my game and kind of paid off.''

Kim made up for a bogey on par-5 ninth – she went for the green in two and ended up short in the water – by playing the other four par 5s in 5 under. She made the eagle on 16 and birdied Nos. 6, 12 and 18. She also birdied the par-4 15th in her late run.


Full-field scores for the Reignwood LPGA Classic


''Fifteen was really big, too,'' Kim noted when asked about the eagle on 16.

The 5-foot-3 player was aggressive on 16 after considering laying up.

''I wasn't sure go for it or not go for it,'' Kim said. ''I felt like today I really played with everything I got. I didn't really pull back. Even No. 9, I felt was the right club. I think I managed. I played aggressively, which I had to on this golf course. And especially back nine, I knew that everybody was going to score, so I wanted to do the same thing.''

Hur birdied five of the last six for a 70 in the round delayed 1 1/2 hours at the start because of rain and lightning. She opened bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey and parred the next eight.

Lee had a 68. She had a double bogey on No. 9, then played the back nine in 6-under 31 with an eagle on the 12th and five birdies.

China's Shanshan Feng, the 2013 winner in the event that wasn't played last year, shot a 69 to tie for fourth with Canada's Brooke Henderson (71) at 21 under. The 19-year-old Henderson, a two-time winner this year, plans to play all six weeks in Asia, a journey that will take her to Taiwan and South Korea the next two weeks, back to China for the Blue Bay LPGA at Hainan Island, and then to Malaysia and Japan.

Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 65 to tie for sixth at 18 under and take the lead from the idle Lydia Ko in the player of the year points race. The tour leader with five victories, Jutanugarn had a double bogey on the par-5 sixth, then birdied eight of the last 12 holes - with birdies on the final four par 5s. The Thai player also had a double bogey on a par 5 in a second-round 75 that took her out of contention.

Kim is the sixth South Korean winner this season and the third-oldest winner behind Anna Nordqvist (29) and Brittany Lang (30). Kim earned $310,000 to push her season total to $573,534 and is projected to jump from 42nd to 29th in the world ranking.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."