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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.