Ko's poise, grace stand out as much as No. 1 ranking

By Randall MellFebruary 1, 2015, 4:30 pm

OCALA, Fla. – She went all Lydia on us coming out of the scoring tent after the dramatic finish Saturday to the Coates Golf Championship.

By that, I don’t mean Lydia Ko went all teary-eyed and crying sad on us, or all temper-tantrum juvenile on us, or all fireworks happy on us, or all emotionally haywire in every direction on us in the media as we waited for her to exit scoring.

I mean she went all masterfully composed on us, all cool equanimity on us, all Dalai Lama-ish on us.

Really, they ought to create a word just for her and her precocious ability to quickly see the big picture that most of us can’t stand back and see nearly as quickly as she does.

At 17 years, 9 months and 7 days old on Saturday’s finish to the LPGA season opener, Ko’s perspective belied her youthfulness yet again. She impresses in so many ways, but the way she handled screwing up on the back nine at Golden Ocala is by far the most impressive exhibition I’ve seen from her yet.

Waiting for Ko to come out of scoring, I was sure we were finally going to see some emotions that her limited time in human form would not allow her to process, manage or contain. There had to be so many emotions banging around inside of her. She blew a tournament with some awful shots in front of huge crowds. She shanked a shot in the woods at the 17th, so unlike her. She skulled a chip shot over the 18th green in front of a packed grandstand with TV cameras bunched at the back of the green. This also was so unlike her.


Photos: Lydia Ko through the years

In the scoring tent after, sitting there checking her card, with the first real public failure of her career sinking in, she was totally unaware that she was going to become the youngest No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf with Monday’s release of the new Rolex rankings. She thought she blew that, too. She thought the only way she could get to No. 1 was by winning the Coates Golf Championship.

If this 17-year-old would have melted down in front of us, we would have understood. We’ve seen players a lot older melt down over a lot less.

But with Ko stepping out of scoring, her mother, Tina, and her agent, Michael Yim, informed her that her three-way tie for second was good enough to vault her to No. 1.

So how does Ko react? She goes all Lydia on us. She goes classic, pure even-tempered Lydia on us.

Neither the crushing loss, nor the thrilling ascendance to No. 1, could shake her poise or grace.

You wouldn’t have known whether Ko won or lost watching her handle all the media questions in the raw, fresh moments after leaving scoring. It was uncanny. Of all I’ve seen her do up to this tender age of 17, nothing’s impressed me more than the way she handled Saturday’s finish.

“It’s fantastic,” her caddie, Jason Hamilton said. “I’m glad you can’t bottle it. It’s one of the qualities that makes Lydia unique.”

David Leadbetter, her coach, could only chuckle.

“I always joke that we have to send her to anger management classes, so she can learn to get angry,” he said. “She walks on this cloud. She doesn’t get overly excited. She doesn’t get overly down.”

The thing is, Ko took more than a month off from hitting balls this offseason. It’s the longest break she ever took and it sounded very difficult for this workaholic teen. She felt so rusty coming back, she was worried last week that she wasn’t ready to make her first start. She isn’t close to her usual form yet.

Still, she never mentioned that after.

Give her mother, Tina, and her father, Hong, a lot of credit for this teenager’s composure. Whatever they’re doing, it’s a shame they can’t bottle it for the rest of us parents. It’s a shame we can’t buy something to drink that will make us go all Lydia in our world.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.