Notes GatorNation Choi WDs Big 3 Feud

By Associated PressAugust 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- Camilo Villegas isn't letting the PGA TOUR's playoff race distract him from a chance at his first victory.
 
Nope, he's got his eye on another sport entirely.
 
The 25-year-old Colombian is eager for the college football season to start. His sixth-ranked Florida Gators, the defending national champions, play Western Kentucky on Saturday, when Villegas will start the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship with a two-stroke lead.
 
'The football team's been doing pretty good. The basketball team's doing great,' he said of the defending national football champions and two-time defending basketball champions. 'It's time for a golfer to step it up.'
 
Villegas, who played golf at Florida before turning pro in 2004, birdied the last two holes to finish with an 8-under 63 at the TPC Boston, two strokes ahead of Mike Weir and Ryan Moore.
 
Although he's yet to win a tournament on the PGA TOUR, he's finished in the top three seven times and has a streak of three consecutive top-25 finishes.
 
Currently 46th in the playoff standings, Villegas has locked up a spot in the third round of the playoffs in Chicago next week. But he needs at least one strong finish to make it into the top 30 and qualify for the TOUR Championship.
 
'I don't think it's going to change much the way we play, at least the way I play,' he said. 'I mean, we have the same objective every week: Try to tee it up, try to focus on every shot, try to win a golf tournament. And I can't be thinking about points and stuff.'
 
SECOND CITY
K.J. Choi will take his chances in Chicago.
 
Choi, who finished second in The Barclays last week and is second in the playoff standings by 2,050 points, withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship because of lower back pain after shooting 73 in the first round. He expects to be back next week when the playoffs makes the final cuts before the TOUR Championship.
 
'He will definitely play the next two weeks. He just needs the time off now,' agent Michael Yim told tour officials. 'He wants to put himself in the best condition for Chicago and the TOUR Championship.'
 
Yim said Choi, who has had only one week off in the last month, pulled a muscle in his back while picking up one of his children in March.
 
'After he teed off today, on one of the first two holes, he felt the pain again in his lower back,' Yim said. 'The pain wasn't severe, but he didn't want to force it. He didn't want to play when he wasn't physically at his best.'
 
Choi was treated in a fitness trailer before leaving the TPC Boston, then headed home to Houston.
 
'His body has told him he needed some rest,' Yim said.
 
PROVISIONAL DISPUTE
Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot on No. 9 well to the left and into the trees, then declared he was hitting a provisional tee shot for a lost ball.
 
Vijay Singh didn't appear comfortable with that ruling, believing that provisional shots -- which are used if the original is not found -- can't be used for a ball going into a hazard.
 
Mickelson eventually called for a ruling to clarify, although it became a moot point. He found his original shot in the trees, punched out to the rough, hit into more trees and made double bogey. But while waiting on the ruling, Singh became fairly animated talking to Tiger Woods about the provisional shot.
 
Part of the discussion involved Greg Norman, who was disqualified in the 2004 Honda Classic for hitting a provisional tee shot on a ball believed to have gone in a water hazard.
 
'I think they were just a little confused from past occurrences,' Mickelson said.
 
IN THE SWING
Ryan Moore has ditched the abbreviated backswing he was forced to adopt after hand surgery last year, but he may be reaping the benefits from the time he spent in pain.
 
Moore had an operation to repair a broken bone in his left hand last March, and by the 2006 PGA Championship he was still unable to hit the ball without pain. One day in practice he found it didn't hurt when he started his backswing with his club parallel to the ground.
 
'I honestly could not start with the club down on the ground,' he said after a 65 to finish two shots out of the lead. 'Something about that just relieved the pressure and the strain and made me able to swing the golf club. For a while last year that really helped.'
 
The technique was familiar to him because it's one of the drills he uses to keep his swing in line.
 
'I think it's definitely helped me swing. In the long run it's definitely helped it,' Moore said. 'It makes me have a good shoulder turn, not pick it up with my hands too much, do some really good things for my swing. I had a comfort with it, struck the ball really well when I practiced that way.'
 
Moore played that way for about three months, picking up three top 10 finishes and a 12th place at last year's Deutsche Bank. After resting during the winter, his hand was all better.
 
DIVOTS
FedExCup points leader Steve Stricker shot 67 in the first round and has broken 70 in seven of his past eight rounds. ... Fred Funk also withdrew after an opening-round 76. He was the only player in the field to hit all 14 fairways in regulation. ... Steve Elkington needed just 20 putts in his round of 66, two shy of the tour record shared by six players. ... Vijay Singh had a 74, the ninth consecutive round in which he has failed to break par.
 
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.