Se Ri Loves a Golfers Life - Again
It was supposed to be the year when the young ones really broke out, the Paula Creamers, the Morgan Pressels, the Michelle Wies. Instead, what we got was a major surprise in the first major of the year, Karrie Webb winning. And now we get an even bigger surprise ' Se Ri Pak. Just dont tell me that Nancy Lopez is going to enter the U.S. Womens Open.
Here is a little indication of how bad it had been going for Se Ri: this year alone, in the first five tournaments she entered, she missed the cut twice, withdrew after the first round, finished tied for 41st and tied for 45th. You would have had to search awfully deep to find a reason to pick her for the championship at McDonalds, the second womens major of the season.
Last year? Forget it. It was a complete washout. She at various times tried to play with injuries to her neck, shoulder and lower back, and then a finger which led her to cancel the season at the Womens British Open. Her tally for the misbegotten year ' 12 tournaments, three missed cuts and two WDs, no finish higher than a T-27.
The problems really started in 2004. Though she says she wasnt injured at that time, the considerable price was weighing heavily on her. She was absolutely smothered by the attention the Koreans ' both the public and the press ' lavished on her. She grew to hate golf and the resulting chaos that accompanied her every move. She withdrew inside her own little world, drawing the cocoon tightly around her.
Pak had won 21 times in six years as 2004 began. May 9th of that year she won for the 22nd time, simultaneously earning enough credits for the World Golf Hall of Fame. But she immediately cratered, missing her next two cuts and then going a span of six tournaments when her highest finish was T-17. Alas, she had started sliding down the slippery slope, and she would have to hit the mud at the bottom before she could get to the point where she is today.
Sooner or later, I still work hard for my game and so I said, this game comes and goes, said Se Ri. Suddenly totally gone for like two years. And then it just came back for like a week. I mean, that's kind of, you know, that much difficult.
In case you dont understand perfectly good Korean-English, heres the translation: Suddenly the game is gone for two years. Then, it just came back this week. Thats difficult.
From the shy girl who spoke nothing but Korean when she came to the U.S., to a disturbed young woman who just knew that there had to be more to life than golf, to this charming lady who now speaks English well enough to be understood, Se Ri has been to the end of the road and back. The stories of the attempts her strong-willed father took to make her mentally tough are legend now making her sleep in the graveyard when she was still a young teen-ager, running the stairs backwards numerous times to build up her legs. And her brain finally short-circuited, which was altogether understandable.
So now the tendency is to look at Se Ri and consider the careers of Hillary Lunke and Birdie Kim, who have won two of the last three U.S. Opens. Both slid back into mediocrity almost as quickly as they achieved the pinnacle. Could this happen to Pak?
You never know, of course. But Se Ri is a little different ' she has had it, then she lost it, now she has a chance to have it again. And this time, she wont have quite the crush of attention from the Far East. When she first appeared on the womens scene, she was the only Korean. Now she is one of 32 n the LPGA Tour. And already this year there have been six different Korean winners. The odds have to be greatly in her favor.
Sounds a lot like the Karrie Webb story.
I know how she feels, said a knowing Se Ri. Then, with the quote altered somewhat to make her meaning clear ' For eight years (her previous time on the tour) I cant even remember one tournament to the next, despite all the success Ive had. But I just remember all starting this year, every tee shot and every week, every each day - which I really appreciate for my comeback.
She couldnt even touch a golf club at one point last year, she says ' thats how far her disenchantment with the game and her injuries had gone. She took four months off after the Womens British Open the end of July. What did she do during those four months?
I saw my friends, hanging out with a friend every day and I made some new friends, she said, sounding more like any woman would do who suddenly finds herself out from under an onerously heavy burden of carrying the flag for an entire country.
It's no more - like it's like a more comfortable life, said Se Ri, not thinking about practice next day, thinking about the play next morning and stuff like that.
All I need is some kind of very normal life for me, just being like see the friends or not think about the golf and then do something else without, you know, go out and see my coach and stuff like that. So that makes me a big difference.
Her finger and the assorted other ailments have healed completely. At 28, she has finally gotten the time to get completely away from golf. Its OK if she doesnt play this game, she found out. And now that she doesnt feel as though she HAS to play, now that an entire country isnt fawning over her every move ' she suddenly finds that golf is really OK.
I'm very happy to be back again, she bubbled. I'm very excited to play back in the golf again. And I really enjoyed it outside the golf course and everything.
I'm a very lucky person. The way I am loving this, so much love with my game and I'm still playing golf which is, I'm very lucky.
So I really am (as happy a) person as Ive ever been, and Im very having fun on the golf course ever been. So this year no matter what, I'm still trying to play best as I can and trying to have some more fun out there.
Email your thoughts to George White
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''