Interesting Times for Players

By Brian HewittApril 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
These were interesting times over the weekend for Adam Scott. And Sergio Garcia. And Darren Clarke. And Annika Sorenstam.
Lets start with Scott, Garcia and Clarke.
Scott hustled back from Australia, a week earlier than planned, to play in, and win, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, on the third playoff hole over Ryan Moore.
Garcia shot the low round of the week Saturday in Dallas, making all the kinds of putts that have kept him out of the top-5 in the world rankings because they havent been going in for several years now. Clarke jarred a 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole in China to win the Asian Open. It was his first victory since the passing of his wife, Heather, two years ago.
Heres the one-word common denominator for all three of these resurgences: Immelman.
Anybody who doesnt think Trevor Immelmans victory at the Masters earlier this month didnt light a fire under Scott, Garcia and Clarke hasnt been paying attention.
The scriptwriters never told us Immelman would get a major before Scott; and certainly not before Garcia, who lost so heartbreakingly in that playoff to Padraig Harrington at the Open Championship last year.
Scott is reminded on a regular basis by the media that he hasnt won a major championship yet. He is also reminded on a regular basis by his instructor, Butch Harmon, that he has underachieved in the majors.
Remember: Harmon continues to reserve the top spot on the totem pole of his students for Scott. And that totem pole now includes the faces of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, the Nos. 2 and 3 ranked players in the world respectively.
And for some reason there is a horde of critics who think Scott is soft in the clinches. Those critics will be quieter, at least for a while, now that Scott holed a cross-country putt to beat Moore.
Scott is 28 years old. Garcia, also 28, and exactly 24 days younger than Immelman, is also majorless and now lodged behind him the world rankings. Scott was ranked 10th at the beginning of the week; Immelman 15th; Garcia 17th. Immelman and Garcia and still in the same spot this Monday, while Scott is up to No. 5.
Clarke has had significant endorsement ties to South Africa, Immelmans home country. He has played a lot of golf in South Africa. And, oh-by-the-way, he hasnt won a major yet either.
I have been working harder than I have ever worked on all aspects of my game, putting in nine, 10, 11 hours a day, Clarke said. It was nice to see it pay off.
Northern Irelands Clarke has been a stalwart in the last four Ryder Cups for Europe. He is especially close to Englands Lee Westwood, who has also enjoyed a recent return to form. If Clarke keeps his momentum, it will be difficult for European captain Nick Faldo to leave him off the team in September.
That, Clarke said of gaining a Ryder berth, is back within realistic goals now. His world ranking, prior to Shangai last week, had plummeted to No. 236. Hes now 112th.
Scott took a three-shot lead into the gusty final round at the Nelson and promptly played his first three holes Sunday in 3 over par. Garcia was four back through 54 holes but lurking after his Saturday 65. But, like his close friend Scott, he lurched to a horrid Sunday start, playing his first five holes in a gruesome 6 over par.
Garcia had made a statement on Saturday. And then, like Scott, appeared to feel the pressure, part of which had to have its roots in Immelmans procurement of a green jacket two weeks ago.
Sorenstam found herself in a battle Sunday in South Florida with Paula Creamer and a late-charging Karrie Webb. All three of these players are increasingly anxious and just short of desperate to challenge the ascendant Lorena Ochoa who has distanced herself from them as the No. 1 female player in the world.
Both Creamer and Sorenstam had already one once prior to Sunday. But on both occasions Ochoa was absent from the field. She also took a break this past week.
What we have now that Sorenstam took Creamer down on the first playoff hole is even more to look forward to when Ochoa returns. Sorenstam has two wins and five top-5s in seven starts. Ochoa has five wins, including her last four starts. Lets not give that Grand Slam to Ochoa quite just yet.
Meanwhile, different players in the limelight this week on the top two tours in mens and womens golf. Different responses to different kinds of pressures.
Interesting times for interesting players.
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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 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 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.''