Ko, Hull, Pettersen in contention in Taiwan

By Associated PressOctober 23, 2015, 12:31 pm

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Eun-hee Ji took a one-stroke lead over Lydia Ko on Friday in the LPGA Taiwan Championship, overcoming back pain and a double bogey in windy and rainy conditions.

The 29-year-old South Korean player finished with a 3-under 69 to reach 9-under 135 at Miramar. She made the double bogey on the par-5 sixth after hooking her drive out of bounds, rallied with birdies on Nos. 9-11 and closed with seven straight pars.

''I hurt my middle back this morning,'' Ji said. ''Just bothering me on my swing, and especially with my driver.''

The second-ranked Ko birdied the par-5 18th for a 67.

''It's always good to finish on a birdie,'' Ko said. ''I've just got to keep my head high. Especially with the weather conditions, anything can happen.''

The 18-year-old New Zealander is trying to regain the No. 1 spot in the world from South Korea's Inbee Park, the winner last year at Miramar. Park is skipping her title defense to play in a Korea LPGA event, where she dropped into a tie for seventh Friday.

Ko won the Evian Championship in France last month to become the youngest major champion and has three other LPGA victories this year. She won the 2013 Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters at Miramar for her first victory as a professional.

Ji won the 2008 LPGA Championship and 2009 U.S. Women's Open, both majors, for her lone LPGA titles.



''The weather is going to be like this tomorrow and the day after, so trying to be patient every day and just focus on my play,'' Ji said. ''The greens are going to be softer, so that makes a little easier, actually.''

England's Charley Hull and China's Lin Xi-yu, both 19, were tied for third at 7 under. Hull shot a 69, and Lin had a 70. Hull saved par on 16 and bogey on 17 with 5-foot putts, then missed a 5-footer for birdie on 18.

''A shame I didn't birdie the last, bogeyed 17,'' Hull said. ''But I was plugged in the bunker on 17 and I made a good up-and-down, so it wasn't too bad.''

She's right at home in the tough conditions.

''I quite like it like this. It's been fun,'' Hull said. ''It's a bit rainy, so it's a bit like a British Open, but obviously a lot warmer. ... I just love playing in the wind.''

South Koreans So Yeon Ryu (69) and Sun Young Yoo (71) were 5 under. Norway's Suzann Pettersen followed her opening 74 with a 66 - the best round of the day - to move into a tie for seventh at 4 under. She won the event in 2012 and 2013 at Sunrise.

American Morgan Pressel and Germany's Sandra Gal, tied for third after opening rounds of 68, dropped off the leaderboard. Pressel had a 75 to fall into a tie for 16th at 1 under, and Gal was tied for 36th at 2 over after a 78.

Taiwanese star Yani Tseng was tied for 32nd at 1 over after a 73. She won the inaugural event in 2011 at Sunrise.

Third-ranked Stacy Lewis was tied for 55th at 5 over after a 72. She opened with a 77, her worst score since a 78 in the final round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open. The American finished second last year at Miramar.

The tournament is third in the five-event Asian Swing. The Blue Bay LPGA is next week in China, followed by the Japan Classic.

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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.'"


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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.