Notes: Typhoon, visa flap mar Kuchar's fall sked

By Doug FergusonOctober 24, 2017, 11:59 pm

SHANGHAI – The fall schedule didn't work out the way Matt Kuchar imagined.

Kuchar signed up for three straight tournaments overseas, starting with a working vacation with his family in Japan for the Bridgestone Open, followed by the HSBC Champions and then the Turkish Airlines Open.

He made it through two rounds of the Bridgestone Open before he evacuated ahead of Typhoon Lan. And he withdrew from the Turkish Airlines Open when relations between the U.S. and Turkey reached a point that both countries suspended nonimmigrant visa services for travel between the two countries.

''It looked like things were getting to a point where it was better not to go,'' Kuchar said. ''I did some homework with a U.S. senator friend of mine who checked with the State Department. When the U.S. stops issuing visas, there's an issue.''

Kuchar played in Turkey five years ago as part of an exhibition that included Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. His strongest memory was figuring out to celebrate his son Cameron's birthday.

''We didn't know what to do for a 5-year-old in Turkey, so everyone got in bathrobes in our room and turned it into a Turkish bath party,'' he said.

In Japan, Kuchar arrived early with his wife and two sons, took the bullet train, went to a Sumo wrestling match and toured a Ninja training studio. That was great. And then the weather arrived, and they struggled to get in two rounds on Friday and Saturday as the typhoon approached.

''It was my first time to the Bridgestone Open. I was excited to be there. They've been a great sponsor for me,'' Kuchar said. ''And I had to evacuate because of a typhoon. I've had to evacuate twice in the last two years from Georgia (from hurricanes). It was strange. But I was able to get out safely, arrive here early and the wife and kids headed home.''

So the HSBC Champions will be his only four-round tournament.

''It wasn't quite what I was planning for the fall,'' he said.

Kuchar will take the next month off and then end his year at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and the Greg Norman's QBE Shootout in Florida.

AMERICAN THREE: By winning the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea, Justin Thomas rose to a career-best No. 3 in the world and gave the Americans the top three spots in the world ranking for the first time in more than seven years.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker were at Nos. 1-2-3 from the start of 2010 until the middle of May. Lee Westwood won the BMW PGA Championship to break up the American party, and he eventually got to No. 1.

Now it's Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Thomas. One difference is their ages. Woods was 34, Mickelson was 40 and Stricker was 43 during most of that reign. Johnson is the old man of this group at 33, while Spieth and Thomas are 24.

How long will this one last?

Thomas and Spieth are not playing for another month (Spieth in Australia, Thomas at the Hero World Challenge). Hideki Matsuyama is at the HSBC Champions to defend his title and could take back No. 3 this week. Jon Rahm can't reach No. 3 this week, though he also is playing in Dubai in three weeks.

TEXAS TROUBLE: The Houston Open is not the only Texas stop on the PGA Tour looking for a title sponsor. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Dean & DeLuca is on the verge of pulling out just two years into its six-year commitment as title sponsor at Colonial.

The Star-Telegram obtained a letter the Colonial Country Club president sent to members informing them that Dean & DeLuca has notified the PGA Tour that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations in 2018.

The board is to meet with Dean & DeLuca about possibly renegotiating terms of the contract, but the newspaper said at this point Colonial is prepared to start looking for a new title sponsor.

The tour said in a statement, ''It's important to note that Dean & DeLuca is still the title sponsor of the event, and we are in continuous conversations with them on their position with the event going forward.''

ON THE CLOCK: The European Tour is taking pace of play to a new level next year with the ''Shot Clock Masters'' in Austria, which will be the first tournament at the professional level to use a shot clock.

The clock will be set at 50 seconds for the first player hitting a shot and 40 seconds for the others in the group. Any player going past the limit will get a one-shot penalty, which will be reflected by a red card by their name on the leaderboard.

Each player will be allowed to call two timeouts during a round, giving them twice the amount of time they are allotted for that shot.

''Not only will it help us combat slow play and reduce round times, it is also further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation,'' said Keith Pelley, the chief executive for the European Tour.

The Shot Clock Masters in Austria will be June 7-10 at Diamond Country Club, which is one week before the U.S. Open and likely won't include the top players. The tour hopes it will shave 45 minutes off a round of golf.

ROOKIE RACE: It wasn't much of a race in the first place, but now it's mathematically over: Sung Hyun Park of South Korea is the LPGA Tour rookie of the year.

Now she has a month left to try to add LPGA player of the year.

Park has two victories this year, none bigger than the U.S. Women's Open. The 24-year-old Park has six other top 10s. She has a 798-point lead over Angel Yin, which at the moment is the third-largest margin since the award began in 1962. Karrie Webb holds the record with a 1,030-point lead in 1996, followed by Se Ri Pak, who won the award by 929 points in 1999.

Going into the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Park lead the LPGA Tour money list at just over $2 million. She also leads the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and she is No. 2 in the world. In the points-based LPGA player of the year, Park is in third place.

Park, who had 10 victories on the Korean LPGA, will receive the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award during an awards ceremony on Nov. 16 at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

DIVOTS: Derek Sprague, the former PGA of America president, is leaving Liberty National after two years to become general manager at TPC Sawgrass. ... Sergio Garcia has been awarded honorary life membership of the European Tour in recognition of winning his first major at the Masters. ... The Players Championship generated $8.7 million for local charities in northeast Florida, breaking by $200,000 a record established last year. ... Paula Creamer said on Twitter she had surgery on her left wrist and is out of the rest of the year. Creamer, who went 3-1 in the Solheim Cup, had only one top-10 finish this year and was 86th on the money list.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Six players who made it to the Tour Championship are playing all three events on the PGA Tour's Asia swing - Xander Schauffele, Paul Casey, Pat Perez, Kyle Stanley, Adam Hadwin and Jhonattan Vegas.

FINAL WORD: ''They must have a lot more money than I do.'' - Pat Perez, on the players who chose not to play the three Asian events on the PGA Tour that offered a combined $26 million in prize money.

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.''