Ko wins Evian, becomes youngest LPGA major victor

By Associated PressSeptember 13, 2015, 2:56 pm

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France - With two holes left to play in her bid to become the youngest LPGA major champion at the Evian Championship, Lydia Ko stayed as relaxed and composed as a seasoned veteran. The South Korean-born New Zealander birdied both on the shores of Lake Geneva to reach a new landmark in her short but already storied career.

A flawless final-round display - featuring spectacular approaches and clinical putts among her eight birdies - made Ko the youngest major champion in LPGA history on Sunday. She closed with an 8-under 63 for a six-stroke victory over Lexi Thompson at the final major of the season.

It was the best round of this year's tournament, a score that helped her to a ninth career victory with a 16-under total of 268.

''To say that I'm the youngest in history for now, it's so cool,'' Ko said. ''To finish with two birdies, finish on the last 72nd hole, with a birdie, it doesn't happen often, so it's definitely one of the top rounds of my whole entire life, and I'm sure it will be in my career.''

Ko is 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old. She eclipsed the previous record set by American Morgan Pressel, who was 18 years, 10 months and nine days old when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship.


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While Ko thrived under pressure, Mi Hyang Lee crumbled. The South Korean had an overnight lead of one stroke over Thompson but finished tied for fourth place, nine back. Chinese Shanshan Feng was third with an 8-under total of 276.

Tipped as a future great of the game, she was already the youngest winner on the tour after her win at the Canadian Women's Open in 2012, and the youngest player of either gender to reach the No. 1 spot when she did it earlier this year.

''Everyone won't be asking me when I'll win my first major because it's done,'' said Ko, who was two shots off the pace heading into the final round.

On a damp but dry morning, she kept her cool when Thompson got off to a flying start.

Ko, Thompson and Lee were grouped together after organizers decided players would tee off on the first and 10th tees in threesomes, fearing expected bad weather would play havoc with the schedule. The elite trio started with a par on the first hole before Thompson set a tremendous early pace with four birdies in her first seven holes. The American converted a long putt for birdie on the par-3 second then played a three-hole stretch in 3 under from Nos. 5-7. She couldn't stay bogey-free on the front nine, though, missing a putt from close range on the par-3 eighth.

''It's kind of hard to beat somebody that shoots 63,'' said Thompson. ''She played amazing. She deserves it. She ball-struck the heck out of this golf course and putted it really well. You can't get much better than that.''

Ko was one shot behind Thompson at the turn, with three birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 9.

The Kiwi golfer hit a wonderful second shot on the par-4 11th that landed on the edge of the green and rolled to within 10 feet of the cup, bringing out a big smile on her face. Her next shot - a downhill birdie putt - found the hole to draw level with Thompson at 12 under.

That shot signaled a swing in the momentum.

Ko came close to an eagle on No. 12 but her ball hit the flagstick and bounced, stopping within five feet of the hole. Ko made no mistake with her next putt and moved one shot clear at the top. She capped her day in style with consecutive birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 before celebrations started with some of her opponents spraying her with water on the course.

''I said before that my goal coming into today was to make par on 18, and that's still not accomplished yet,'' joked Ko, who had bogeyed the last hole on her three first rounds. ''I'll be back next year to do that.''

For Thompson, things took a turn for the worse on the par-3 14th. She landed her tee shot on a rough patch behind the green and a poor recovery shot left her fuming as she hit the grass twice with her club and settled for a double bogey that sealed her fate.

Lee had a big slip-up on the par-4 third, where she had her first double bogey of the week after misjudging her second shot into water behind the green. Back-to-back bogeys on the par-3 eighth and par-5 ninth continued to undo the good work put in during her three previous rounds.

Tied for third place two shots off the pace after the third round, Pressel had two birdies and six bogeys for a 4-under total of 280 that saw her drop to a tie for 11th place.

Ko had a chance to reclaim the top spot but top-ranked Inbee Park stayed out front after finishing tied for eighth with a 3-under 68 and 5-under total of 279.

Michelle Wie was tied for 16th after shooting a 1-under 70 for an overall 3-under 281.

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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.