What We Learned: Ko and the cup

By Jay CoffinAugust 27, 2012, 12:05 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This time we focus on what Nick Watney's Barclays win means in terms of the Ryder Cup; Lydia Ko's becoming the youngest LPGA winner ever, and, of course, Tiger Woods.

You either have it or you don't. Fifteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko has it. In spades. It's the innocence of youth, but against one of the year's best and deepest fields, she stepped on the gas Sunday to shoot 67 and easily win the Canadian Women's Open. Ko is already halfway to Michelle Wie's career LPGA victory total, she has exactly one more victory than Paula Creamer this year on the LPGA and she stared down likely Player of the Year Stacy Lewis in the final round and dusted her by five shots. That's heady stuff from a 15-year-old who contends she'll still attend college. Imagine what she can accomplish by the time she's old enough to sip a victory beverage. – Jay Coffin

The job of Davis Love III just became more difficult. There’s no way of telling exactly what was going through the U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s mind prior to The Barclays, but it wouldn’t be a terrible assumption to believe that the likes of Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler were atop his list of potential wild-card selections. That was before Nick Watney, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson – three more viable candidates in their own right – finished 1-2-3 at Bethpage. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a few very accomplished players won’t be making the trip to Medinah. – Jason Sobel

Davis Love III may have a tougher job than European captain Jose Maria Olazaba when it comes time to make his picks for next month’s matches. Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk seem to be locks to land two of Love’s four picks, but Nick Watney’s blazing finish at Bethpage, combined with the relatively pedestrian play of Hunter Mahan (MC) and Rickie Fowler (T-24), may lead to some last-minute soul searching. Watney finished the Ryder Cup points race at 30th while Brandt Snedeker, who finished second to Watney at The Barclays, was 13th, putting conventional wisdom on notice. – Rex Hoggard

Davis Love III just ripped up his lineup card after The Barclays when winner Nick Watney put some shine on an otherwise dull season. A former top-10 player who is now back in the winner’s circle? It’s hard to ignore a hot player with an even hotter putter. Throw in Brandt Snedeker, who won at Torrey Pines, was in contention all week at the Open Championship, and nearly came from behind to win at Bethpage; St. Jude winner Dustin Johnson, whose long-and-strong game seemingly would play well at Medinah, as well as most places with tee boxes and holes, and suddenly, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler are no longer locks to make the team. The Deutsche Bank Championship just became must-see TV – for golf fans, sure, but also for Love.  Ryan Lavner

As much as fans try to will Tiger Woods to victory, it isn’t always going to happen.

The crowds in New York were – for the most part – in Tiger’s corner all week. But as much as fans might want Tiger to win, we can’t expect him to win every time he tees it up. Woods will win again. Woods will win majors again. He'lll probably even break Jack’s record. But we shouldn’t be so polarizing with our expectations of him. He’s going to have some great rounds and some not-so-great rounds, and that is the new norm for Tiger. Bailey Mosier

Youth isn’t wasted on the young.

Not in women’s golf.

Not within the LPGA ranks, where 23-year-olds now feel old. Just ask Yani Tseng. The Rolex world No. 1 said she felt old Sunday after watching Lydia Ko become the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 15.

Ko didn’t just beat the LPGA’s best at the CN Canadian Women’s Open. She waxed them. She won by three shots, but it must have felt like 10 shots to the pros who watched her close so ruthlessly on the back nine.

In what feels like “The Year of the Collapse” with so many PGA Tour pros blowing leads in big events, Ko put on a clinic in how to close out a victory. The exhibition has to flummox the LPGA veterans who watched this kid roll over one of their strongest fields of the year. It also has to scare them a little bit. Who else is coming behind Ko and Lexi Thompson? Who else is going to make 23-year-olds feel old? – Randall Mell

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.