Ko beats Pressel in playoff to defend in San Fran

By Doug FergusonApril 27, 2015, 1:57 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Lydia Ko twice thought someone else would leave Lake Merced with the trophy this year.

She was on the putting green listening for a cheer if Morgan Pressel were to make a 15-foot birdie putt in regulation to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

Ko heard nothing.

In a playoff, she could only watch as Pressel stood over a 10-foot birdie putt for the win.

It grazed the edge of the cup.

With the tournament finally in her capable hands, Ko rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Pressel on the second playoff hole and cap off another birthday week in style. She turned 18 on Friday and is only getting better.

She played the par-5 closing hole at Lake Merced three times and made birdie twice, the first one an 8-foot putt in regulation for a 2-under 70 that set up the playoff. Pressel played it three times and made par. Knowing that Ko was in tight for a likely birdie on the second playoff hole, Pressel missed from 8 feet.

The finish was inevitable. If the South Korean-born Kiwi isn't winning, she's always around the top of the leaderboard. Given one too many chances, Ko converted.

''It's always a close one whenever I play this event,'' Ko said. ''Last year was the first time that every little shot counts.''



A year ago, Ko had to make a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to hold on for a one-shot victory. This one was even tighter, and Ko had reason to believe this wouldn't be her week when she followed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th by making a sloppy bogey on the 16th and missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

''I said, 'If I want to put some pressure, I need to make a birdie or better on 18,''' Ko said. ''Ended up being good for that. But yeah, this tournament always makes my heart clench. I got so nervous. It's a good thing they're going in the hole.''

It was a tough loss for Pressel, whose last victory was in 2008 at the Kapalua LPGA Classic. She had a two-shot lead with four holes to play until making back-to-back bogeys, and then failing to make a birdie on the 18th.

The par-5 closing hole could not be reached in two, so it effectively came down to a wedge and a putt.

''I just couldn't convert the putts,'' Pressel said. ''It all comes down to putting. She birdied it twice and I didn't.''

Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old Canadian, holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 14th to stay close to the lead and she had a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to join the playoff. It missed on the low side and she had to settle for a 74.

Ko, already the No. 1 player in women's golf, moved to the top of the LPGA Tour money list with her second LPGA Tour win this year. But it was hard work. She opened with a pair of bogeys. She never had the lead until making her winning putt on the 20th hole of the day.

''At the start of the day, I didn't know how it was going to go,'' Ko said. ''It's been a great birthday week again.''

Ko, who matched Pressel at 8-under 280, earned $300,000.

She played slightly more aggressively the third time around on the 18th, going with a 3-iron hybrid on her second shot that allowed her to close the face on a 54-degree wedge and swing hard, instead of easing off a pitching wedge the previous two times. It paid off for her.

Henderson made two bogeys in three holes to fall out of the lead for the first time since Friday morning. The Canadian never caught up, though she was never out of it until missing her birdie putt on the final hole.

''It was one of the least nervous putts I had all day,'' Henderson said. ''I could see it going in in my mind, but it didn't happen in real life.''

She headed for Texas to try to Monday qualify for the next LPGA event. Finishing in the top 10 only makes a player eligible for the next tournament if she is an LPGA member. Henderson last year was denied a waiver to the LPGA's minimum age requirement of 18.

Pressel took the lead by making pars, and she started to seize control when she rolled in a 45-foot eagle putt on No. 6 for a two-shot lead. But she missed three short putts on the front nine - two for birdie, one for par - that kept her from getting a little more separation.

The final hour took shape with three big shots. Henderson holed her bunker shot for eagle on the 14th to reach 8 under and get within one shot of the lead. Moments later, Pressel got up-and-down from behind the green to get to 10 under and, in the group ahead of them, Ko made her big birdie putt to reach 8 under.

But then it got messy.

Pressel dropped shots on the next two holes. Henderson chunked a chip on the 15th and made bogey. Ko went well long on the 16th and missed a 10-foot par putt.

Ko said she was nervous. It just doesn't show.

''At her age, she plays with so much poise and calmness I don't think you see from other kids her age,'' Pressel said, pausing before she added with a smile, ''I guess she's not a kid anymore.''

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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.'"


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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."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.