Gulbis positioned for LPGA win No. 2 at Titleholders

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2013, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Natalie Gulbis has probably won more hearts to the LPGA than any other player in the game today.

She has won fans. She has won sponsors. She has won so much goodwill as a tireless promoter of the women’s game with her cover-girl looks, quick smile and outgoing personality.

She just wishes she had won more trophies.

Come Sunday, Gulbis will be looking to win the most prized tournament trophy in the women’s game outside the majors at the CME Group Titleholders, the LPGA’s season-ending event.

The trophy comes with a $700,000 first-place prize, the biggest winner’s check in women’s golf.

With a 7-under-par 65 Saturday at Tiburon, Gulbis moved into a share of the lead with Gerina Piller (67) and Pornanong Phatlum (67).

They are at 11 under overall atop a jammed leaderboard with seven players within two shots of the lead.

A shootout appears in store over the final round with some of the biggest names in women’s golf in contention. Stacy Lewis (63) is just two shots back. So is Lexi Thompson (67). Michelle Wie (66) is three back, with Inbee Park (69) and Cristie Kerr (71) both just four back.

Gulbis, 30, broke through to win the Evian Masters for her first and only LPGA title in 2007. Gulbis says she is pining for another victory.

“It seems like a very long time ago, and I think about it all day long,” Gulbis said. “Every single time I practice, or I work out, I'm reminded that I haven't won an individual title since 2007, and even though I've had good finishes, or played good golf, it's still not an individual win. So it's something that definitely motivates me. It’s something that I want to achieve again.”

It would add to the season-ending fireworks in Gulbis’ life and take some of the sting out of the disappointment this year brought early.

Gulbis is engaged to be married next month to Josh Rodarmel, a former Yale quarterback and co-founder of Power Balance bracelets and Vrou, a women’s nutrition company.

“I’m not planning a big wedding, so I haven't been stressed out with any of that,” Gulbis said. “But it's really fun being engaged, because everybody throws you parties, which is awesome. Like your family throws you a party, your friends on tour throw you parties, every host family that I've been to this year, they like to celebrate. So it's been really positive and exciting.”

The year is ending so much better than it started.

In her first start of the year in February, Gulbis remembers being bitten by a mosquito at the Honda LPGA Thailand. She withdrew feeling ill at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore the following week and was diagnosed there with malaria. She kept trying to come back too early and twice relapsed. She didn’t return to tour play until six weeks after becoming ill.

“Many of you guys know me, and I'm not very good at resting,” Gulbis said. “I think, as an athlete, they said you're probably going to battle this for the next six months, and you should probably take the next two months and just relax.”

Gulbis thought a couple weeks would do it, and she headed back to the golf course.

“I kept on trying to get back to play, and every single time I would get back out and play, I would relapse,” Gulbis said. “And they would say, `We told you this was going to happen.’”

Gulbis finally made her return at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, but she still didn’t feel completely right. She didn’t feel back to normal until the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June.

“Rochester was the first event where I wasn’t beyond exhausted, where I could actually practice after a round and started feeling better,” Gulbis said. “From Rochester on, I felt good, felt back to normal.”

On Wednesday night at Tiburon, the LPGA’s Tournament Owners Association presented Gulbis its Ambassadors Award, honoring the work she does promoting their events and women’s golf.

Gulbis will be working Sunday to bring some more hardware home. She said there’s nothing like playing in the final Sunday pairing in an LPGA event with a chance to win.

“It’s nerve racking, but it's awesome."

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.