S.Y. Kim shocks Park in Lotte playoff

By Randall MellApril 19, 2015, 5:26 am

Sei Young Kim rocked the golf world Saturday night with one of the most improbable finishes you’ll ever see.

The South Korean rookie beat one of her idols, closing out the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in jaw-dropping fashion.

After hitting her tee shot in the water at the 18th hole at the end of regulation, Kim chipped in for an all-world par to force a playoff with Inbee Park. She then holed out an 8-iron from 154 yards for eagle to win at the first sudden-death hole.

“I still can’t believe what just happened,” Kim said through a translator in her post-tournament news conference.

Neither could Park.

“She’s a great player,” Park said. “I think she’s a great fighter.”

The victory was all the more dramatic given Kim, 22, was going up against Park, 26. Kim represents a dynamic new wave of South Korean rookies while Park is revered with Se Ri Pak as one of that golf-loving country’s greatest players.

Kim is the first two-time LPGA winner this year. She won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in the season’s second event. With the Lotte victory at Ko Olina Golf Club, Kim vaults to the top of the Rolex Player of the Year standings. There’s a long way to go, of course, but Kim is in early position to become the first player since Nancy Lopez to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it 37 years ago.

Photos: Sei Young Kim wins Lotte Championship

If a couple putts had dropped for her at the ANA Inspiration in her last start two weeks ago, Kim might already be a three-time winner this year, with one of those victories a major. Kim blew a three-shot lead in the final round at Mission Hills.

“It was a motivating factor for me,” Kim said. “After the ANA, I had a tough time sleeping because that was my first opportunity to win a major tournament on the LPGA Tour. At the same time, I saw the possibility and the potential that I belonged there, and that I can win a major championship in the future.”

Tied with Park Saturday going to the final hole of regulation at the Lotte Championship, Kim knocked her tee shot in the water. With a helping wind, she blew a hybrid too far, where it bounded into a pond past the end of the fairway. After taking a penalty and drop at water’s edge, Kim nearly hit her next shot in the water, too, barely clearing the hazard with a wedge, leaving her approach short of the green.

With Park left needing only to tap in for par to win, Kim knew she had to hole out a chip shot from about 18 feet to force a playoff. She did just that.

In the playoff, Kim marched back to the 18th tee. This time she left the hybrid in her bag on the tee and hit 4-iron into the middle of the fairway, leaving herself 154 yards to the hole.

“I am pretty relieved that I think I can go to sleep tonight,” Kim said. “Throughout the round today, I was telling myself, `I don't know if I can live with myself if I make the same mistakes in two consecutive weeks.’”

Kim isn’t your typical rookie. She was a star on the Korean LPGA Tour before earning her LPGA card in the United States at Q-School in December. She won five times on the Korean Tour, including a major. She’s projected to jump to No. 16 in the world with this victory.

And by the way, Kim said holing out to win the Lotte wasn’t the best shot she ever hit under pressure. She said she won the Korean Tour’s biggest payday with a hole-in-one at the 71st hole of the event.

“Today, I didn't see it coming,” Kim said. “I don't know what I've done again to deserve this. I feel like every time I win a tournament, I have to do something crazy, or overcome some type of obstacle. I don't know why it keeps happening, but it feels good.”

For LPGA fans, it was yet another dramatic finish on a tour that seems to be making a habit of them, going back through last year’s magical season.

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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.


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."