Pak WDs, retires in front of home fans

By Associated PressOctober 13, 2016, 12:34 pm

INCHEON, South Korea - Se Ri Pak ended her Hall of Fame career in tears Thursday in front of her adoring home fans in the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship.

Overcome at the end of the sunny afternoon at Sky 72, Pak cried nearly throughout a retirement ceremony on the 18th hole. The Little Angels children's choir sang, players wore ''SE RI'' hats and farewell messages were played in a video montage.

''A lot of emotion going on through my mind,'' Pak said.

It mattered little to the fans and players, many of them drawn to golf by Pak, that she shot an 8-over 80 and was tied for last - 15 strokes behind leader Alison Lee - before withdrawing.

''It wasn't easy out there today,'' Pak said.

Hampered by left shoulder problems, the 39-year-old Pak said in Phoenix in March that this season would be her last and she stepped away as planned after the first round of the tour's lone South Korean event.

''It wasn't a sudden decision to retire, but I think it will take time for me to absorb the fact that I will no longer be competing,'' Pak said. ''Today I was really happy and grateful to see so many fans out there. It really moved me. I really wanted to show them my appreciation. I couldn't figure out how during the competition, but I was very moved by the open retirement ceremony. I was very, very extremely happy''

Pak won 25 LPGA titles - the last in 2010 - and five majors, two of them during a rookie season in 1998 that gave women's golf its biggest boost since Nancy Lopez. The youngest player to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame when she was enshrined in 2007 at age 30, Pak won 14 times on the Korean LPGA and captained South Korea's Olympic team - with Inbee Park winning the gold medal - in Rio.

Pak last played on the tour in July, also shooting an 80 to miss the cut in the U.S. Women's Open.

Playing alongside defending champion Lexi Thompson and Chinese star Shanshan Feng in the final group, Pak bogeyed the first hole and four of the first six. She bogeyed the first five holes on the back nine, birdied the par-4 15th and closed with three straight pars.

''When I reached the 18th, I was on the tee box, and I felt like I couldn't make the shot,'' Pak said. ''I think I cried all throughout the 18th hole. Actually there was flood of emotions that I really didn't expect to feel. I didn't expect myself to feel this way.

''From the fairway of the 18th hole and the green I could see the gallery and the fans and there was just a lot of love and support. I think it was one of the best moments. I've had a lot of the victories in my career, and I have to say it was one of the best, happiest moments of my career.''

She managed to hit a good drive and a layup on the par-5 18th, then left her wedge 15 feet short. She watched Feng's putt stay to the right, and had a better line, but still missed on the right edge. Thompson then missed - also to the right - from 3 feet, setting off a flurry of camera clicks as the attention turned back to Pak - 18 years after she sparked the rise in South Korean and Asian women's golf.

''Pak-mania'' ruled in the summer of '98, especially after she won the U.S. Women's Open in a 20-hole playoff against amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn. When Pak returned to South Korea that fall, she had to be hospitalized for exhaustion. Television cameras even came into her hospital room to give the latest news.

Pak was a catalyst for more young players to believe they could compete on the strongest circuit in women's golf. Today, six of the top 10 players in the world and 22 of the top 45 are South Korean.

''I think if we had no so-called Se Ri Kids, the Korean golf scene would be quite different today,'' Pak said.

Lee shot a 65 to take a three-stroke lead. The 21-year-old American birdied the final two holes and four of the last six on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course.

She matched her best round of the season marred by a torn labrum in her left shoulder.

''I actually injured knew shoulder back in February and I didn't know what was wrong,'' Lee said. ''My swing was changing and all that and I definitely wasn't performing the same way I used to. It hurt a lot, a huge portion of my mental game. I was struggling a lot on the golf course not only because of my injury, but because I was scared. I was scared of the ball. I didn't know where it was going to go.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, part of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward the back-right hole location, about 25 feet away, closer than both Fleetwood and Johnson.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”


Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back after the opening round. He tied for second here a year ago.

Johnson is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."