Punch Shot: Teenage LPGA phenom with brightest future?

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2013, 5:55 pm

Women's professional golf keeps skewing younger and younger. Three of the game's most promising stars are teenagers: Lydia Ko, 16; Lexi Thompson, 18; and Charley Hull, 17. New Zealander Ko and American Thompson both have two LPGA wins and one on the Ladies European Tour. England's Hull helped the European Solheim Cup team defeat its U.S. counterpart earlier this year. Which one has the brightest future? GolfChannel.com writers debate.


Although in the short term the outcome depends on the good graces of LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, in the long run the depth of talent already demonstrated by Lydia Ko makes the teenager the best prospect in the game regardless of age.

That Whan is still mulling whether to grant Ko an age waiver to become a LPGA member next season is a bigger mystery than who will have a better career, Ko, Lexi Thompson or Charley Hull?

If Thompson set the standard with her victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic as a 16-year-old, Ko has redefined the DNA of a prodigy. At 14 she won her first professional event on the Australian ladies circuit and went one better in 2012 to become the youngest winner on the LPGA with her victory at the Canadian Women’s Open.

For good measure, Ko went back to back at the Canadian event this season, lapping the field by five strokes.

After finishing runner-up at the Evian Championship in September, Ko announced she will turn pro this year but the fact is, whether Whan has any interest in admitting it with a waiver, the teen is already among the top five players in the world according to the Rolex Rankings.

At 16 she has already eclipsed Hull and Thompson. There’s no reason to think that won’t be the case when she’s 60.


Give me one of the longest players on the LPGA, the one who averages 270 yards per pop and has the potential to reduce many venues to a wedge contest.

Lydia Ko is the real deal. She knows how to score and, it appears, how to win. Charley Hull is dynamic but remains largely unproven. But Lexi Thompson now has three career wins – in Alabama, Malaysia and Dubai – and enough upside to stake her claim as a future world No. 1. Her power and athleticism make her the most exciting prospect in the women’s game … so long as her putter cooperates, as it did last week, when she won by four.

Thompson hasn’t finished better than 112th on tour in putting each of the past two years, and she’s currently ranked 110th this season. If a coach can mold her into an above-average putter, she could become an LPGA world-beater. 


Between Lydio Ko, Lexi Thompson and Charley Hull, you can’t go wrong. Picking one for the future is like picking between three burgeoning blue-chip stocks: Sure there’s some risk involved, but it’s easily outweighed by the potential reward.

With that in mind, give me Ko for one reason alone – she can flat-out putt.

Everyone on the LPGA can hit the ball in varying degrees of brilliance, but the ability to get the ball into the hole with the flatstick is what separates the elite from the rest of the pack.

Consider this: At No. 2 on the driving distance list with just over 270 yards per drive this season, Thompson averaged 25 more yards off the tee than Inbee Park. The difference, of course, is that Park has been deadly on the greens, which will lead to her winning the Player of the Year award.

Ko has the ability to be a Park-like putter throughout her career. That alone should separate her – ever so slightly – from the other teenage phenoms making headlines right now.


While Charley Hull rightfully garnered attention during this year’s Solheim Cup, she remains somewhat of an unknown entity for prognostication purposes. For me, this question is between the two teens with multiple titles to their credit, and I’m going with the one who hasn’t even turned pro yet: Lydia Ko.

While both have shown flashes of greatness, Ko has done more often in fewer overall opportunities, and has shown greater overall consistency. For the past two years, the Kiwi has earned low amateur honors upon teeing it up in any major, but has also gone on to contend time and again with professionals twice her age. This is not to mention her multiple wins as an amateur, including the remarkable feat of successfully defending her CN Canadian Women’s Open title across two different courses.

While Thompson’s length off the tee will always remain a strong asset, her putter has a tendency to desert her on occasion, which is a troubling trend. Hers will likely be a successful career, but may not reach the heights of Ko, who appears to have the more well-rounded game.  So given the choice, I’ll take Ko, a player who already seems well on her way to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings – an achievement that, given her current spot at No. 5, she may accomplish sooner rather than later. 

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.