Jang leads Ko in Naples; France's Icher 4 back

By Associated PressNovember 20, 2015, 11:14 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Everyone in the CME Group Tour Championship is playing for something.

Lydia Ko and Inbee Park are playing to win the LPGA's biggest season-ending awards. There's a group playing for a $1 million bonus. Some are playing to build momentum for 2016.

And then there's Karine Icher. She's playing for France.

Icher - the lone French player in the 71-woman field - shot a 5-under 67 on Friday in the second round of the LPGA's season-finale, giving her a 36-hole total of 138 that has her within four shots of the lead. Icher has friends who knew some of the 130 people killed last week in Paris, when extremists attacked a concert hall, a soccer stadium and cafes and restaurants.

''France is in a difficult time right now,'' Icher said. ''All we can do is just think of them, pray for them and that's it. It's really sad, but unfortunately I think it's only the beginning and it's really scary. Especially for us, we travel all over the world and it can happen anywhere, any time. It's just like being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you're dead.''

South Korea's Ha Na Jang shot 65 to get to 10-under 134 and hold the midpoint lead by two shots over world No. 1 Lydia Ko (67) of New Zealand. Americans Jennifer Song (69) and Cristie Kerr (69) were another shot off the pace, and Icher was in a group that also included Gerina Piller (70) and Brittany Lincicome (70) of the U.S. in a tie for fifth at 6 under.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

''It's a really good score, 65,'' Jang said. ''So I feel really good.''

Icher is from Chateauroux, about two hours south of Paris. She had visited some of the places that were targeted by the extremists, presumably members of the Islamic State group that has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Her husband was watching the France-Germany soccer match, which was taking place as the chaos began, on television.

Her friends and family, she said, are safe. Friends of friends were not so fortunate. And golf, she said, has been a needed sanctuary.

''When you're on the golf course, you're at work,'' Icher said. ''You try to forget everything else, you try to focus on your game and you're 100 percent there.''

She's 100 percent in the mix going into the weekend.

Jang leads the tournament, getting the top spot outright when Ko made double-bogey and bogey on consecutive holes late in her round. Still, Ko is in control of all the big year-end prizes that she's chasing - like the LPGA's scoring title, player of the year, a $1 million bonus for winning the ''Race to CME Globe'' and ensuring that she'll finish the year with the No. 1 ranking.

''I still played pretty solidly,'' Ko said. ''So I'm happy.''

For Inbee Park, who's battling Ko for all those big prizes, there was progress. Even after closing with a three-putt bogey and lamenting her lack of luck on Bermuda greens, she still shot 69 for her best score at Tiburon since 2013.

Ko has the edge going into the weekend in their head-to-head contest, but Friday may give Park reason for hope.

''I know she played well yesterday as well,'' Park said. ''She seems like she really likes this golf course. I've got to start liking it a little bit more for tomorrow.''

Jang shot the round of the day, with eight birdies and one bogey. Minjee Lee shot 66 and Icher had one of four 67s, along with Ko, Japan's Ai Miyazato and Danielle Kang of the U.S.

Icher isn't planning to return to France anytime soon. It's not because of the attacks, but simply that she and her family spend the offseason at their Orlando, Florida, home.

Still, it's clear what a win would mean this week.

''It would be nice,'' Icher said, ''just for France.''

DIVOTS: Michelle Wie shot 69, her best score in her last 18 rounds on tour. ... First-round leader Austin Ernst opened with a triple-bogey 8 wound up shooting 73. She's five shots behind Jang. ... Morgan Pressel nearly aced the par-3 8th, her 17th hole of the day. It was the highlight of her round of 77, and she's 21 shots back.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”