Mickelson determined to make Ryder Cup team

By Doug FergusonNovember 7, 2017, 9:19 pm

Phil Mickelson has more than just an elusive U.S. Open title on his mind for 2018. He wants desperately to be on another Ryder Cup team, and he's willing to add tournaments to his schedule if that's what it takes.

Mickelson already holds the U.S. record by qualifying for 11 consecutive teams, and he has made 23 straight appearances in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup combined. But this isn't about a streak. It's about having a chance - perhaps his last chance - to win a Ryder Cup in Europe.

''That's a big goal of mine, and if I play like I've been playing, I'll make the team,'' Mickelson said at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Whether he speaks from confidence or hope remains to be seen.

Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 British Open, and the last PGA Tour season was his first without recording a top-3 finish. He plans to start next year at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Southern California and play the entire West Coast from there, followed by the World Golf Championship in Mexico City.

''I'll play more tournaments if I have to,'' he said. ''I'm not sure if I have to add much. Paris is a big goal of mine, and it's important to get off to a good start.''

Mickelson has been on five losing teams in Ryder Cup matches held on European soil. There were two close calls. One was in 2002 at The Belfry, when the matches were tied at 8 going into Sunday singles. Europe won the last session, including Phillip Price defeating Mickelson. The other was in Wales, when Graeme McDowell won the final match for a one-point victory.

Mickelson, who turns 48 in June, doesn't see Paris next September as his last chance to win in Europe. Told that he would be 52 the next time the matches go to Europe, Mickelson said, ''I'm not looking that far ahead.''

''I'm expecting to have a good year,'' he said. ''I'd like to get on the team and go over there and win.''


PARK ON TOP: Sung Hyun Park brought plenty of winning experience to her rookie LPGA season.

The 24-year-old won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, and facing the best competition in the world hasn't slowed her. Park became the fourth South Korean player to reach No. 1 in the world, and the first player to get there as an LPGA rookie.

''There won't be any changes because of the ranking,'' Park said from China, where she makes her debut at No. 1. ''I believe my future play is more important that the fact that I moved up in the ranking.''

Her future play could lead to even grander feats.

Park, who won the U.S. Women's Open, leads the LPGA money list at just over $2.1 million with two tournaments remaining. She is second behind So Yeon Ryu for the points-based Player of the Year and already has clinched Rookie of the Year. Not since Nancy Lopez has a player won both awards in the same season.

Park also is No. 3 in the Race to the CME Globe and is second in the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.


KOEPKA'S LIST: Brooks Koepka knew he had a big year from looking at that U.S. Open trophy. A look into his closet brought even more evidence.

One of Koepka's traditions at the start of every year is to go down to the beach and write a list of goals for the year on a yellow sheet of paper. He tapes it on the wall of his closet, then invariably forgets about it.

''I'm usually looking down trying to find clothes and shoes,'' he said.

A few weeks ago, he happened to look at eye level and noticed his list for the year, which had about seven items related to golf and five items off the golf course. Among the ones he ticked off was winning a major (U.S. Open), having at least a share of the first-round lead in a major (British Open) and then one of the bigger ones, having the lowest aggregate score in the majors (21 under par).

He described them as ''little goals,'' only because of the detail, such as having the solo lead after the first round. He took care of that Thursday in the HSBC Champions.

''You can make them as detailed as you want,'' he said. ''When you go into specifics, a lot of those things come true.''

He didn't get them all.

One goal was to not miss a cut. He missed the cut by one shot in his first tournament of the year at Torrey Pines. He also wanted to win multiple times, meaning he will have to either successfully defend at the Dunlop Phoenix next week in Japan or win the Hero World Challenge.

''The biggest change for me was off the golf course,'' Koepka said. ''The hardest thing for me was making sure I was in the gym five days a week when we played. Some days I've gone seven.''

Overall, Koepka was pleased with how many he got. He'll do it again this year, only at a different beach. Koepka will be on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?: The LPGA tied a record when Stacy Lewis tied for 15th in the Toto Japan Classic. Lewis became the 15th player this year to top $1 million, equaling the number from last year.

And it's about to grow.

Women's PGA champion Danielle Kang is $647 short of $1 million and is assured of topping the $1 million mark next week at the CME Group Tour Championship. Minjee Lee is the defending champion this week in China. Lee is $3,268 short of $1 million, and provided she doesn't withdraw from Blue Bay, she will top $1 million.

Amy Yang and Mirim Lee will have to play well next week in Naples, Florida, to have a chance. Lizette Salas and Michelle Wie are further away from, but still in range of, the $1 million mark. Both are playing in China and next week at the season finale.


DIVOTS: Four of the five winners of full PGA Tour events this fall were in the Tour Championship. ... Patrick Cantlay won in Las Vegas at 9-under 275, the highest winning score by seven shots since it became a single-course event in 2008. This was just the third time the winning score has been worse than 20-under par. ... Jason Day, who started the year at No. 1, is now at No. 12. ... The PGA of America has extended the contract of chief executive Pete Bevacqua through 2024. ... Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, which has hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifying 30 of the last 31 years, has been selected to host the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2020. ... The PGA Tour Champions has a new title for its Tucson event - the Cologuard Classic. Cologuard, produced by Exact Sciences, is a colon cancer screening test used at home.


STAT OF THE WEEK: In the last two years, Shanshan Feng has three victories, two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes during the LPGA's fall version of the Asian swing.


FINAL WORD: ''Can we just keep playing here? Can we move the CME Group Tour Championship here? Can we move the U.S. Open here?'' - Shanshan Feng on playing LPGA events in Asia.

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 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.''