Lewis, Ko stage stirring duel

By Randall MellApril 27, 2014, 2:39 am

Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko turned the third round of the Swinging Skirts Classic into a scintillating Saturday duel while pulling away from the field at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco.

Lewis and Ko, the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked players in the world, respectively, took turns topping each other on the back nine with stellar shot making in their pairing together.

Lewis shot a 4-under-par 68, with the teen phenom Ko matching her, leaving Lewis atop the leaderboard, one shot ahead of Ko going into Sunday’s final round. It will mark the fourth consecutive day these two will play with each other.

“More than anything, it was just a lot of fun,” Lewis told media in her post-round interview. “We're both playing great golf. It's fun to watch her play. We'll do it another day tomorrow.”

The matchup gives the women’s game yet another intriguing Sunday duel in the month of April. Lexi Thompson defeated Michelle Wie in a head-to-head final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco at month’s start, and then Wie came from four shots behind to win the Lotte Championship in Hawaii last week.

“I think we both realize there is definitely going to be some extra attention, when the two of us are kind of battling like that,” Lewis said. “The leaderboards we've had at the majors, and the last couple weeks, I mean, it's been unbelievable for our tour. So, we're trying to keep the momentum going, I guess.”

Lewis, 29, knows there is no surrender in the young Ko, 17. When Ko broke through to win the CN Canadian Women’s Open at 15 to become the youngest player in history to win an LPGA event, Lewis played alongside her in the final round. Lewis began that Sunday a shot behind Ko and couldn’t catch her. Now, it’s Ko’s turn to chase.

“I was impressed back then,” Lewis said. “I think the best part of her game is, like I was talking about, the maturity. Playing away from pins and not going after every pin. She was fearless out there on a couple of them, though, but she definitely doesn't play like she's 17.”

At 10-under 206, Lewis is four shots ahead of Jenny Shin (68) and five ahead of Hee Young Park (68). Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park (73) is eight shots back. Wie (71) is nine back.

Ko, who turned 17 on Thursday, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people this week. She is seeking her third LPGA title, her sixth title playing professional events.

Lewis is seeking her first LPGA title of the year, though she is on a remarkable streak of getting herself into contention. She has recorded 17 top-10 finishes in her last 18 worldwide starts.

Ko made an early move Saturday with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth holes to overtake Lewis for a one-shot lead. Lewis came on strong late, making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

Both players knew something special was brewing when they matched birdies at the 15th and 16th holes. Lewis hit her tee shot at the 15th to 3 feet, but it proved no advantage after Ko missed the green. Ko chipped in for birdie before Lewis made her putt.

At the 16th, Ko hit her approach to 4 feet, but before she finished off her birdie, Lewis rolled in a 50-footer for birdie.

“We kind of found our rhythm, and then it was birdie after birdie,” Lewis said.  

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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.


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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.