Ko, Park resume battle for POY award

By Randall MellOctober 28, 2015, 8:07 pm

Lydia Ko vs. Inbee Park.

That’s who the Rolex Player of the Year competition is narrowed to with just a month left in the LPGA season.

Ko and Park are locked in a tight battle for the prestigious award as they tee it up in Thursday’s start to the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in China, one of the four remaining events on this year’s schedule.

Ko and Park are the only players left with a chance to claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award, a points-based award. How close is this competition? Ko and Park were tied for the lead in POY points before Ko won the Fubon Taiwan Championship on Sunday.

Ko moved to 273 points with her victory. Park is now at 243 points with Lexi Thompson third at 134.

A victory is worth 30 points in each of the remaining four events on the LPGA schedule.

Ko, 18, is seeking to become the youngest winner of the Rolex Player of the Year Award. Park, 27, is looking to win the award for the second time.

Ko and Park are waging a struggle for all the tour’s important honors. Ko just took back the Rolex No. 1 ranking from Park with Sunday’s victory. Ko also leads Park in races for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the money winning title and the CME Globe.

With so much at stake, there has to be some tension between these two, right?

“I think she’s nicer than me,” Ko cracked. “She’s never going to give me any crap or talk behind my back.”

While these two can dominate, their dispositions belie any fierceness in their competitive natures. In fact, foes marvel over their gentle natures. It’s like watching the tour’s big awards come down to a battle between Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa.

What did Park think of Ko taking the No. 1 ranking from her Sunday?

“The way Lydia has been playing the past couple months, she has been really unbeatable,” Park said. “She definitely deserves where she is, and she has been playing some fantastic golf this year. I definitely respect her. She's a very young, talented player, and yes, it's going to take a lot to beat her.”

Ko and Park have separated themselves this season.

If the LPGA’s Player of the Year Award was decided in a vote by the players as the PGA Tour’s is, it might be a gut-wrenching choice.

Ko has won a tour-leading five times this season to Park’s four, but Park has two major championship titles to Ko’s one. Park won the Rolex Annika Major Award as the outstanding player in the majors this season, but Ko’s major championship breakthrough came in a spectacular performance in winning Evian. Ko’s closing 63 might have been the finest round ever played in a women’s major.

Ko will be looking to win for the fourth time in her last six starts in China this week. She’s on a terrific roll, but she admitted feeling tired arriving on Hainan Island after staying in Taiwan for two days for some special appearances. She played Wednesday’s pro-am in China as her only practice round for this week’s event.

Still, Ko is looking forward to Park’s return to the LPGA. Park won the Fubon Taiwan event a year ago but Park couldn’t defend her title last week because of a conflict with a Korean LPGA event she was committed to playing.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Ko said. “I think she was playing really good in Korea, too. I think it's great that there are players that are so close. It makes the galleries really excited and makes it exciting for the media and just for the whole tour. I'm pretty sure she's going to play great. I've got to have my A-game, too.”

Park said she learned a year ago that it doesn’t help her to press too hard for the year-end awards, she will be focused on trying to hoist another trophy come Sunday. That should get her back to No. 1 again and in line for all those season-ending awards.

“It’s a good motivation to have,” Park said of regaining the No. 1 ranking. “It's a nice goal to have. I've been to the No. 2 spot before. I've been to the No. 1 spot before. Both don't feel that bad. Everybody thinks, `Are you OK going back to No. 2?’ But I'm fine. We compete every week, and it can change every week. It's actually good that I have another goal. I love the challenge, the challenger position.”

So let the challenge resume.

Rolex Player of the Year race

1. Lydia Ko, 273 2. Inbee Park, 243 3. Lexi Thompson, 134

A victory is worth 30 points, second place is worth 12 and third worth 9, with points awarded down to a single point for 10th place.

Vare Trophy

1. Lydia Ko, 69.28 2. Inbee Park, 69.45 3. Stacy Lewis, 69.75

Money winnings

1. Lydia Ko, $2,716,753 2. Inbee Park, $2,370,096 3. Stacy Lewis, $1,692,322

Race to the CME Globe

1. Lydia Ko, 4,828 2. Inbee Park, 3,944 3. Stacy Lewis, 3,110

A victory is worth 500 points, second place worth 300, third worth 190 with points awarded through top 40 and ties in events without a cut. Points are re-set for the CME Group Tour Championship.


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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.