Ko, Park, Lewis battling for No. 1 at Women's PGA

By Randall MellJune 8, 2015, 8:41 pm

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship begins Thursday at Westchester Country Club in New York with more than a trophy at stake for Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis. The Rolex No. 1 ranking is up for grabs for the top three in the world rankings.

No. 2 Park moved within ten hundredths of a point of No. 1 Ko in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week. Park can get to No. 1 with a finish of 29th or better at Westchester, depending on what Ko and Lewis do. No. 3 Lewis is more than a full point behind Ko in her average world ranking but can still get to No. 1 with a victory, depending on what Ko and Park do.

Golf Channel will televise the first two rounds (1-4 p.m. ET) with NBC televising the weekend rounds (3-6 p.m., ET) Here are six groups to watch in the first two rounds (all times ET):

Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson and Suzann Pettersen: 8:30 a.m. Thursday; 1:40 p.m. Friday.
Though this is the inaugural KPMG Women’s PGA, Park is technically the defending champion. She won the LPGA Championship last year, and LPGA Championship records are carrying over to the Women’s PGA.

Park defeated Brittany Lincicome in a playoff in the LPGA Championship at Monroe Golf Club just outside Rochester, N.Y. Thompson is looking for her first victory since she won her first major, the Kraft Nabisco, early last year.

Pettersen enters this week red hot after winning the Manulife LPGA. Pettersen was in the final Sunday pairing with a chance to win at last year’s LPGA Championship but struggled to a 76 in the final round.

Lydia Ko, Christina Kim and So Yeon Ryu: 8:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:50 p.m. Friday.
Ko, 18, is looking to win her first major. If the Rolex world No. 1 does so, she will become the youngest woman to win a major.

Kim showed she remains a factor on tour winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational late last year. There are a lot of Solheim Cup points up for grabs this week as Kim looks to make the American team heading over to Germany in September. Kim is 15th on the USA points list and needs to rank among the top eight to automatically qualify for the team on points.

Ryu is looking to win her second major. She won the U.S. Women’s Open four years ago.

Stacy Lewis, Mi Hyang Lee and Caroline Hedwall: 1:30 p.m. Thursday, 8:20 a.m. Friday
Lewis is looking to heat up again after missing the cut last week at the Manulife Classic, her first MC in almost two years. There’s a lot to motivate Lewis at Westchester. KPMG is one of her sponsors, and she helped bring the company together with the PGA as a sponsor of the year’s second major.

Lee won her first LPGA title last fall, the Mizuno Classic. Hedwall is a European Solheim Cup dynamo but has yet to win an LPGA title.

Brittany Lincicome, Cristie Kerr and Jessica Korda: 8:20 a.m. Thursday, 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Lincicome won the year’s first major, taking the ANA Inspiration in a playoff. She lost last year’s LPGA Championship in a playoff to Inbee Park.

Kerr won the Kia Classic in March for her 17th LPGA title but stumbled down the stretch last weekend with a chance to win the Manulife Classic.

Korda finished T-2 at the season-opening Coates Golf Championship but has missed the cut in two of her last three starts.

Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer and Anna Nordqvist: 1 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday.
The Hall of Famer Webb is seeking her eighth major championship title, her first since winning the Kraft Nabisco in ’06. Creamer is returning to form after a short spring struggle. Nordqvist won the ShopRite Classic two weeks ago.

Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and Charley Hull: 1:40 p.m. Thursday, 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Wie missed the cut at the ShopRite Classic in her last start, struggling with a left hip injury. She withdrew from the Manulife Classic before last week’s event started. She’s still looking for her first top-10 finish this season.

Pressel is showing the kind of form that made her so formidable on tough tracks like Westchester. She has finished third or better in three of her last seven starts. Hull is coming off a T-11 finish at Manulife last week.

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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.


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.

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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."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."