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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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x