Jutanugarn shares lead at suspended Lotte Championship

By Associated PressApril 14, 2017, 12:24 pm

KAPOLEI, Hawaii – Ariya Jutanugarn and In-Kyung Kim each birdied their final hole Thursday to share the lead during the suspended second round of the LPGA Lotte Championship.

Jutanugarn had a bogey-free 6-under 66, and Kim shot 64 to reach 9-under 135 at Ko Olina Golf Club. Jutanugarn won five times last season and was the LPGA's Player of the Year.

Kim, a 28-year-old from Seoul who already has a pair of top-5 finishes here, had five consecutive birdies during one stretch for the lowest round of the day.

''It was nice to get out in the morning, definitely calmer,'' Kim said. ''Now the winds are picking up so it's hard to get to the hole. I had a great putting day. Yesterday I hit the ball pretty well, just didn't make any putts. Today the putts were dropping.''

Su-Yeon Jang, among the 15 players still on the course when play was halted due to darkness, was also at 9 under with two holes remaining. Jang doesn't have a bogey in her first 34 holes of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Lotte Championship


The cut will be determined after the completion of the round Friday morning.

Stacy Lewis (68), first-round co-leader Mi Hyang Lee (70), Alena Sharp (69) and Becky Morgan, who also has two holes remaining, share fourth place at 8 under. There are five players at 7 under, including second-ranked So Yeon Ryu (69), coming off a victory in the major ANA Inspiration, and Olympic champion Inbee Park.

Play was also halted for nearly 90 minutes earlier in the day when the course was cleared due to the threat of lightning.

Paula Creamer, co-leader after an opening 66, bogeyed both par 5s on the front nine and had a double bogey on the par-3 eighth in a 74. Defending champion Minjee Lee rallied for a 68 and is six back, while top-ranked Lydia Ko moved up 45 spots, to 40th, with a 69. Hawaii's Michelle Wie, who won here in 2014, is tied for 60th at 1 under.

For the second straight day, a morning tee time was a huge advantage. Winds began gusting up to 20 mph as the morning groups finished. When the wind stopped, thunder, lightning and rain followed.

Lewis birdied four of her first five holes to get to 8 under early. She bogeyed the 10th just before play was suspended, but got it back with her sixth birdie of the day, at the 13th. The two-time LPGA Player of the Year is winless in her last 69 starts – and 8 under on Ko Olina's front nine this week.

''Honestly, it's just that I've had more momentum going into that side than I have when I've played the back,'' Lewis said. ''I played the back early yesterday and just wasn't striking it very good.

''Then today, coming out after the delay, you kind of lose some of the momentum there. But I played solid for two days and still left some out there, so it's some good golf.''

Lotte announced a three-year extension this week, which will take it through 2020.

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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."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.