LPGA notes: Park's chance to catch Ko at Ochoa

By Randall MellNovember 11, 2015, 11:54 pm

With just two weeks left in the LPGA season, much is still uncertain in the battle for some of the tour’s biggest prizes.

The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and even a potential Hall of Fame qualification hang in the balance.

Inbee Park can still claim the LPGA’s most important season-long awards, but she needs a good showing at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this week to have a chance to wrestle them away from Lydia Ko.

Christina Kim is back in Mexico looking to rekindle the form that helped her win there last year.

Sei Young Kim is also at Ochoa’s event looking to add a bonus prize to her already successful debut as the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year.

Brazil’s Candy Hannemann is in Mexico looking to find her way to the Olympics next year.

Some LPGA news and notes with just two events remaining in the 2015 LPGA season:

Inbee vs. Lydia for all the marbles – Ko is in position to have a monster finish at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., next week, but Park could still end stealing it, instead.

All the big awards are down to these two players.

Ko is the Rolex world No. 1 with the lead in Rolex Player of the Year points, the race for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title. Ko is also the leader in CME points in her bid to win the season-long battle for the $1 million jackpot for the second year in a row.

Park is second to Ko in all those races, but Ko isn’t playing this week. She withdrew from Ochoa’s event to gain an extra week of rest for the big finale.

Park needs to finish tied for eighth or better in Mexico City to have a chance at the Rolex Player of the Year Award. If Park finishes worse than T-8, Ko will clinch the award before going to Naples.

Park, by the way, reports she is feeling just fine after having a cyst removed from the middle finger of her left hand in South Korea early last week.


 

Kim looking for more magic in Mexico – Christina Kim won her third LPGA title claiming the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last year, her first LPGA triumph in nine years.

Kim, 31, crafted one of the feel-good stories in 2014. She was a broken player who put herself back together, overcoming a back injury, a torn tendon in her right elbow/forearm and bouts of career-threatening depression to win. She arrived back in Mexico this week saying she wasn’t able to take that winning momentum into this year.

“I just completely lost everything in terms of any sort of sensibility with the golf swing,” Kim said. “It’s been a tough year. I haven’t been nearly as calm . . . I’ve been really anxious with everything, and more demanding on myself.”

Kim is looking for her first top-10 finish this season. She’s 69th on the LPGA money list and has secured a spot in next week’s CME Group Tour Championship.

What will it take for Kim to win again this week?

“A hot putter,” she said. “And just playing to the level that I know I can.”


 

Sei Young Kim looking for a bonus – Kim clinched the Rolex LPGA Rookie of the Year award last week, but she can still add some tasty frosting to her successful LPGA start.

Kim is fourth on the CME Globe points list, but she would like to leapfrog Stacy Lewis for the third spot after Sunday’s conclusion of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The top three in points going to Naples are guaranteed winning the $1 million CME jackpot if they win the Tour Championship.

Ko has locked down the top spot for the points re-set at Naples, and Park has locked down the No. 2 spot, but Lewis can still be passed. Kim is 343 points behind Lewis, but Kim has to win in Mexico to overtake Lewis, who is not playing this week.


 

Top nine eyeing $1 million CME Globe prize – The top nine players on the CME points list in the re-set at Naples have a shot at winning the $1 million CME Globe jackpot, but only the top nine.

Ko, Park, Lewis, Kim, Lexi Thompson, Amy Yang, So Yeon Ryu and Anna Nordqvist have secured spots among the top eight, but No. 9 Shanshan Feng is still vulnerable this week. Feng isn’t playing in Mexico.

Minjee Lee, Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen could jump into the top nine with victories. Lee and Kerr can also get among the top nine with runner-up finishes.

The top 72 in points earn the right to play in the CME Group Tour Championship. Those spots have been secured with Min Lee holding the 72nd spot.


 

Hannemann’s Olympic dream – At 35, Hannemann made a return to professional golf this year looking to qualify for the Olympics in Brazil next year. The dream has a special dimension to it because Hannemann is from Brazil and grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics will be staged.

As the host nation, Brazil is assured that one woman from that country will have a place among the 60 players in the golf competition.

Hannemann is playing the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on a sponsor’s exemption. She won the NCAA Women’s Championship while at Duke in 2001, and played the LPGA for nearly six seasons before a wrist injury and surgery led her to leave the game. She moved to Boston, married a Red Sox executive and gave birth to two daughters.

The Olympics wooed her back to the Symetra Tour this year.

“It’s been very humbling, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost that edge you need to compete,” Hannemann told the New York Times. “It’s still there, but it’s taking time to get the physical and the mental parts to match up.”

The Olympic field is based on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, with the field set in July of next year. Victoria Lovelady is the highest ranked Brazilian woman in the world at No. 544. Hannemann was once ranked as high as 109th but isn’t among the top 1,000 today. She is headed to LPGA Q-School’s final stage next month looking to climb into Olympic consideration.

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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.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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.