Choi leads Titleholders by one over Miyazato

By Doug FergusonNovember 18, 2012, 12:25 am

NAPLES, Fla. – So Yeon Ryu was rarely so nervous, with so many great players all around her.

She was in high heels, not golf shoes. She was giving a speech as the LPGA rookie of the year, not competing at the Titleholders. Compared with standing before a room full of stars under bright lights, playing golf Saturday while trying to stay close to Na Yeon Choi and Ai Miyazato seemed easy.


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''I was pretty nervous to prepare the speech,'' Ryu said about the Friday night awards dinner. ''After speech, I was so much relieved, and I slept so well because I don't have to worry about speech thing. So maybe that's why I'm playing great.''

She wasn't alone in that regard.

Choi overcame a careless three-putt on the third hole and was steady the rest of the blustery day at The TwinEagles Club. She drilled a hybrid 5-wood to 15 feet for one last birdie on the par-3 17th for a 3-under 69 that gave her a one-shot lead over Miyazato.

Miyazato took two chips to get onto the green and made double bogey on the par-5 second, and then laid up into a bunker on the par-5 fifth to make bogey and fall behind. She rallied with four birdies on the back nine to salvage a 71, and stay in the game.

Right behind was Ryu, so relieved from the Friday night stress that she ran off four straight birdies on the front nine before she slowed on the back. Maybe there was a reason for that, too. The 22-year-old South Korean says her lower back tightened at the turn, which she said might have been caused by wearing high heels to the dinner.

''I'm not really big high-heel fan,'' she said. ''Yesterday was a special day, so that's why I took a high heel. I think it looks pretty great.''

What feels just as good is being in the final group with Miyazato, one of the friendliest players in golf, and Choi, whom Ryu regards somewhat of a big sister. The South Koreans are good friends, and they happen to be the last two U.S. Women's Open champions.

''We know each other very well, so I can talk about non-golf, just like 'What are you doing in the winter?' or something like that,'' Choi said. ''So I think that's going to be a help for focusing on the game. I think it's good to be rivals for each other. Even during the tournament, if she has birdie, I feel I can have birdie, too. I think it motivates each other, so it should be fun tomorrow.''

Choi was at 12-under 204.

There were plenty of mistakes early – Miyazato giving up her 36-hole lead with a double bogey on No. 2, Choi three-putting on No. 3, Brittany Lincicome missing a 3-foot par putt and then hitting a fat chip that rolled back to her feet for another bogey.

Karrie Webb made her mistake later, but it was costly, and it included so many drops around the green that it's a wonder she didn't run out of tees.

The Australian star pulled her approach on the 18th to the left, and the ball bounced down a walkway and under a table. She had to stick four tees in the ground to get relief twice, from a picket fence and the corner of a grandstand. Her chip went through the green and next to the grandstand, leading to another free drop. Her next chip came out heavy and rolled back against the grandstand, and a third drop. Webb had to hole a 15-foot putt for double bogey, dropped her back to a 71, five shots behind.

Lincicome overcame her consecutive bogeys for a 70 and was at 9-under 207 with Karine Icher, who also had a 70.

Stacy Lewis, the LPGA player of the year, won't be winning the money title. The 27-year-old American has to win the Titleholders and its $500,000 prize to have any chance of catching Inbee Park, but Lewis had a second straight 72 and was 10 shots out of the lead at 214.

Park was at 4-under 212 and likely sewed up the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. Lewis would have to beat Park by at least seven shots in the final round to pass her for the season scoring average.

The only theater left is at the top of the leaderboard, with two good friends – Choi and Ryu – in the final group, both wanting to pass the time and calm the nerves with conversation about anything but golf. They will be alongside Miyazato, who spent Saturday bantering with her caddie.

Miyazato's lead was gone early when her third shot to the par-5 second went over the green and down a steep slope. Her first chip came back to her feet, and she failed to get up-and-down, giving her a double bogey. Choi made birdie on the hole and suddenly had a two-shot lead.

On the par-4 third, Miyazato again went over the green and faced a tough chip up a steep slope. She said her caddie ''made a mistake'' and she let him know it. But the Japanese star hit a delicate bump-and-run up the hill to 5 feet for par, and when her tee shot on the par-4 third settled 5 feet away, the caddie said, ''Welcome back.''

Miyazato looked at him and said, ''Welcome back, me?'' And the caddie replied, ''No, me,'' to suggest he was in good graces again.

She said they shared fun conversations the rest of the round, which was key for Miyazato. This is the last event of the year, and Miyazato says that has allowed her to play more freely because she won't have any serious golf for the next few months.

It won't be just the three players in the final group going after the title, not with Lincicome only three shots behind and with enough length to reach at least three of the par 5s.

''I have a lot of good players chasing me,'' Choi said.

Suzann Pettersen had a 72 and was in the group at 7-under 209, along with Webb and Brittany Lang, another long hitter who had a 69.

At stake for Choi is a chance to win for the second time this year and collect a big check, which could come in handy. Before returning home, she will be shopping for a new house in Orlando on Monday, most likely in the Isleworth neighborhood. What she picks might depend on the size of her check Sunday.

''I need a good result,'' she said with a laugh.

Lewis, Lincicome, Park and Angela Stanford already cashed in to some degree on Saturday. They were selected to receive ''performance'' awards – 'distance off the tee' for Lincicome, a ''drive to the top'' for Lewis, “compelling play” by Park and “community service” by Stanford. Each was given a Kia Optima.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.