Ko, 15, goes for LPGA history in Canada

By Randall MellAugust 26, 2012, 12:14 am

Lydia Ko isn’t just leading the CN Canadian Women’s Open.

She played well enough tee to green Saturday to run away with it at Vancouver Golf Club.

It’s a staggering possibility given she is just 15 years old.

Ko moved into position to become the youngest winner in the 63-year history of the LPGA and the first amateur to win an LPGA event in 43 years.

Video: Ko on track to make history

With an even-par 72, Ko took sole possession of the lead in the third round. At 8-under 208, she built herself a one-shot lead that could have been so much larger. Ko missed a couple birdie chances inside 4 feet and had three three-putt bogeys. She couldn’t take full advantage of some terrific ball striking with a balky putter. She needed 35 putts in the third round.

Ko will get a formidable test Sunday trying to make history.

Just a shot back are Stacy Lewis (66), who leads the Rolex Player of the Year points list, and Jiyai Shin (69), a former Rolex world No. 1. Also one back are Chella Choi (73) and Inbee Park (70).

Ko is leading a star-studded cast with the event featuring 48 of the top 50 players on the LPGA money list. It’s a field that includes Rolex No. 1 Yani Tseng, who opened with a 66 but has struggled the past two rounds with a 75 on Friday and a 74 on Saturday. Tseng is seven shots back of Ko.

Women’s golf has never felt younger.

A year after Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 16, Ko has a chance to top her. If Ko can pull it off Sunday, she will be the first amateur to win an LPGA event since JoAnne Carner won the Burdine’s Invitational in 1969. Ko, who was born in South Korea but moved to New Zealand at 6, is enjoying a whirlwind of success this summer. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur two weeks ago. She was the low amateur at the U.S. Open last month. She won the New South Wales Open in Australia back in January when she was still 14, becoming the youngest winner of any professional event.

“Yeah, 15-year-olds don’t lead at an LPGA event all the time, but, like I said, I'm very surprised,” Ko said. “But I've been playing really good golf, and I've been really confident with my game.”

Lewis isn’t that stunned by Ko’s play. Lewis knows her game. She played with Ko earlier this year at the Australian Women’s Open.

Suzann Pettersen and I were talking,” Lewis said. “This is our job, and we’re working full time on it. It's not supposed to be her job, and yet she's beating us.

“I think it's good for the game. She's solid. She hits it good, she putts it good, and she's rolling with the confidence.
I say why not?  More power to her.”

Ko said she didn’t feel nervous playing in the final pairing Saturday.

“Tomorrow, I'm just going to try my best,” she said. “I've got to play my own game. I can't concentrate on what the other players are doing. If they shoot 66, and I shoot 68, and I lose, I can't control what they do.”

Lewis is curious how the 15-year-old will handle Sunday pressure.

“She’s seeing her name up on an LPGA leaderboard for the first time, though it’s not the first time she’s had a lead, but there’s got to be nerves there,” Lewis said. “You never know what can happen on a Sunday. You just want to have a chance.”

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."