Halfway around the world Tiger and Phil meet again

By Doug FergusonNovember 5, 2009, 12:22 am

HSBC ChampionshipSHANGHAI – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sat across from each other in a mock game of Chinese checkers against the spectacular backdrop of Shanghai’s trendy Bund district. Later, they posed with the HSBC Champions trophy.

The world’s best two players have been taking part in plenty of photo opportunities together lately.

Only six weeks ago in Atlanta, they shared the spotlight at the Tour Championship when Mickelson won the tournament by three shots over Woods, and Woods hoisted the FedEx Cup trophy. Then came a trophy they shared at the Presidents Cup, where both produced unbeaten records in San Francisco.

Halfway around the world, they are going at it again.

Despite a 78-man field from 23 countries at this World Golf Championship – the strongest field ever assembled in Asia – Woods and Mickelson remain the top attraction.

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“I’m excited that Tiger and I are able to compete in the same event here in China,” Mickelson said Wednesday on the eve of the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club. “I think that it will provide some exposure to the game of golf throughout the country, and I’m hopeful that we compete head-to-head over the weekend, and are both in contention.”

The HSBC Champions might be the appropriate way to celebrate a phenomenal year for golf in Asia.

Y.E. Yang of South Korea made history in two respects at the PGA Championship, becoming the first Asian-born golfer to win a major and the first player to win a major where Woods had the lead going into the final round.

Only a week ago, the first Asian Amateur Championship was staged at Mission Hills Golf Club in China, with the winner awarded a spot in the Masters next year and an exemption into the final stage of British Open qualifying.

The year ends with the first World Golf Championship in Asia that counts toward the world ranking.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think everyone is,” Woods said. “Having this now become a World Golf Championship, I think everyone is very excited about what this tournament means in the scope of things, not just here in China but in all of Asia. As a player, we are looking forward to playing this golf course against such a great field.”

The field includes defending champion Sergio Garcia, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, British Open champion Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood, who is leading the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.

Woods is no stranger to playing overseas, having played at least one international tournament every year since his pro debut in 1996. But while that familiar spinning globe – the World Golf Championship logo – is now found on the bright red signs around the course, there is no denying this tournament has a different feel.

HSBC has expanded its promotional effort to the point that it had sand in the bunkers on the practice range painted red, its corporate color. It also had pictures of Woods, Mickelson, Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey painted on elevator doors at the official hotel.

Advance tickets sold at double the rate compared with last year, a product of Woods returning to Shanghai, the tournament being upgraded to WGC status and the appearance of 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

One Chinese boy no more than 10 was so excited to see Woods that he raced under the ropes with a camera draped around his neck to get a clear shot, only for a security guard to gently scoop him up and put him back in the gallery.

Hysteria erupted on the 14th hole when Woods and caddie Steve Williams stopped for a bathroom break, with Williams leaving the golf bag just off the tee. Within seconds, some 50 fans had it surrounded, gawking as though a meteorite had fallen on Sheshan International. One woman giggled as she timidly stroked the Kiwi head cover on Woods’ 3-wood until security shooed her away.

Even the excursions to Shanghai’s massive metropolis have been adventurous, as cars weave six-wide along three-lane highways.

“Amazing,” Nick Watney said. “The lanes are more like suggestions.”

The list of champions at Sheshan International is impressive. Garcia won last year, pushing him to a career-high No. 2 in the world ranking. The year before belonged to Mickelson in his first sanctioned international victory. And while not many knew him at the time, Yang introduced himself in 2006 by finishing two shots ahead of Woods.

“The biggest memory is of sitting with Tiger during the awards ceremony,” Yang said. “Having my picture taken with Tiger was probably the biggest thrill.”

That was nothing compared with Yang taking Woods apart at Hazeltine, then hoisting his golf bag over his shoulders after winning the PGA Championship. Yang said he is not quite as relaxed at the HSBC Champions as he was three years ago.

“There’s a little more pressure, I guess,” he said. “Maybe it’s because Tiger is here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through a lot of tournaments. Maybe it’s because of the stress finally trickling down. As I told you, I’m trying to take it as just an ordinary tournament.”

From red sand in the practice range bunkers to Woods and Mickelson leading a world-class field, there is nothing ordinary about this tournament.

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.

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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.”

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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.''