Rory Defends Lefty in Starring Role

By Associated PressMay 21, 2008, 4:00 pm
Crowne Plaza Invitational at ColonialFT. WORTH, Texas -- Rory Sabbatini was on an incredible run even before winning the Crowne Plaza Invitational last year.
 
Three consecutive top-three finishes, including the runner-up spot at the Masters, came in the stretch before Sabbatini won a three-man playoff at Colonial.
 
Sabbatini hasnt won since. And that trio of tournaments where the South African was so good last spring before getting to Hogans Alley? He missed two cuts and finished 67th in the other this time.
 
Yet, Sabbatini insists that hes playing better going into this years Colonial than he was then.
 
Last year, even though my scores showed one thing, I wasnt very happy with the state of my game, Sabbatini said Wednesday. Its been a frustrating year for me. I feel like Im hitting the ball better than I ever have in my career. Im not scoring as well as Id like.
 
The numbers seem to back up both of his contentions.
 
Sabbatini returns to Colonial as the 14th-ranked player in the world, two spots higher than at the same point a year ago. But his scoring average of 71 is more than a stroke higher than last season, and he has finished under par only four times his last 20 rounds.
 
While Sabbatini tries to defend his title, starting Thursday, 2000 champion Phil Mickelson is back at Colonial for the first time in three years.
 
Mickelson is also coming back from a week off spent partly on a golf course, acting not playing. He played himself in a scene shot for an episode of HBOs Entourage scheduled to air later this year.
 
The worlds No. 2 golfer got plenty of air time leading up to Colonial. He was featured in the tournaments promotional television spots for sponsor Crowne Plaza, meeting with actual people hed hit with golf balls and Mickelson look-a-likes.
 
They were fun to do, Mickelson said.
 
But now the focus is back on golf.
 
Before heading to Texas, Mickelson practiced last weekend and then played Tuesday at Torrey Pines, the hometown course where he grew up playing and the site of the U.S. Open next month.
 
Im hitting the ball well. The short game is coming around. I think it will be a good week, he said. This is a great course for ball-striking. I am excited to play a course with such tight fairways and firm fairways with some of the changes that Ive made in the last year. . I was looking at these tee shots differently. It was kind of cool.
 
While length is a premium at so many modern-day layouts, the old-style par-70, 7,054-yard tree-lined Colonial course is pretty much the same as it was when Ben Hogan won there five times from 1946-59.
 
Five of the worlds top 10 players are here, including No. 5 Jim Furyk, who last year was the only one from that group.
 
Two weeks after getting his first pro victory on the Nationwide Tour, former SMU golfer Colt Knost is playing about an hour from where he went to high school. He shot 62 in a pro-am round Monday, including a double-eagle at the 611-yard 11th hole when he knocked a 3-wood shot in from 290 yards.
 
Honestly, I dont know even now what I shot, Knost insisted Wednesday. It was just one of those days. All of the pins were in the middle of the green, it wasnt set up too hard.
 
Furyk got into the playoff last year with Bernhard Langer and Sabbatini, who ended it with a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole. The last two Colonials have finished with playoffs after none the previous 12 years.
 
Hogan is still the only player to win consecutive Colonials. He did that twice (1946-47, 1952-53).
 
Sabbatini was 27th two weeks ago at The Players Championship, his best finish in eight tournaments hes played since consecutive top-three finishes in January. He said his game suffered after he had the flu early in the season.
 
I played well, got sick. It took a lot out of me, Sabbatini said. By the end of the West Coast, I was so drained of energy, bascially I let a couple of areas creep in my game. You start practicing bad habits, just not being as focused as you need to be out there, and all of a sudden those habits are kind of ingrained.
 
That led Sabbatini to start overanalyzing his game, something he said he wont do at Colonial.
 
Im really just trying to take it easy this week, Sabbatini said. I am just going to go out there and just focus on hitting the golf ball and putting it in the hole.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''