Hull wins CME; Ariya nabs $1M; Chun takes Vare

By Nick MentaNovember 20, 2016, 8:45 pm

Charley Hull won her first LPGA title, Ariya Jutanugarn took home $1 million and the Player of the Year Award, and In Gee Chun birdied the 72nd hole to steal the Vare Trophy from Lydia Ko, who walked away empty-handed. Here’s how the LPGA season came to a close on a busy Sunday in Naples, Fla.

Leaderboard: Charley Hull (-19), So-Yeon Ryu (-17), Jennifer Song (-15), Mo Martin (-14), Beatriz Recari (-14), Ariya Jutanugarn (-14), In Gee Chun (-13), Shanshan Feng (-12), Amy Yang (-12), Lydia Ko (-11), Brittany Lincicome (-11)

The winner: Hull, 20, now has her first LPGA win after a series of close calls, including a runner-up earlier this year at the ANA Inspiration. Up one to start the day, she and Ryu went to the par-5 17th tied at 18 under. After a tight battle for 16 holes, Hull pulled ahead by two when Ryu’s approach to the 17th wound up under the lip of the bunker and resulted in a bogey-6, as Hull two-putted for birdie. She made a routine par at the last to post a closing 66, playing three of four rounds this week bogey-free en route to her first win.

Race to the CME Globe: This wasn’t quite a two-woman race between Ko and Jutanugarn, like the Player of the Year Award, but none of the contenders asserted themselves Sunday. While Ko got off to a poor start from which she couldn’t fully recover, Jutanugarn bounced back from two early bogeys, made the turn at even par and added three birdies on the back to shoot 69 and finish ahead of Ko in the CME standings.

Rolex Player of the Year: The only thing that could have stopped Jutanugarn from taking home Player of the Year was a victory by Ko, whose hopes were dashed by a front-nine 39. The award, along with the $1 million, is a fitting end to the season for the five-time winner and Women’s British Open champ.

Vare Trophy: Playing together in the same group, Chun and Ko went head to head Sunday for the award for low scoring average, with Chun coming out on top, 69.583 to 69.596. After Chun made birdie and Ko made bogey at the par-5 17th, the two went to the 18th hole with Ko leading by one one-thousandth of a point, meaning the season-long award for scoring average would come down to one stroke on the final hole of the year. In the end, Ko would miss her birdie try at 18, while Chun rolled in a 9-footer to cap a birdie-birdie-birdie finish and clinch the Vare.

Biggest disappointment: After 36 holes, Ko was in position to win the tournament, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Player of the Year Award and the Vare Trophy. But 36 holes later, she left Tiburon with none of it. Ko threw away her chance at the tournament and POY when she bogeyed the third and doubled the ninth to fall all the way back to 8 under. Four birdies across Nos. 10-16 got her back in the hunt for the $1 million with Jutanugarn, but a dropped shot at 17 dashed those hopes and narrowed her scoring-average lead over Chun to the difference of one stroke on the final hole. Ko found the fairway and hit a quality approach into the 18th green, but her birdie try stayed right of the hole, ceding the stage and the Vare to Chun. Ko finished with an even-par 72 Sunday. With the exception of her 62 on Friday, she played her other 54 holes at Tiburon just 1 under this week.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x