What We Learned: Snedeker, Ko with impressive victories

By Damon HackFebruary 11, 2013, 12:30 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Brandt Snedeker's impressive victory at Pebble Beach, 15-year-old Lydia Ko's third professional win in just over a year and the downfalls of a pro-am style tournament.

It isn’t very often that a golfer calls his shot, but that’s nearly what Brandt Snedeker did at Pebble Beach. Last week, fresh off a second straight runner-up finish to one of the game’s icons, Snedeker said he was tired of second place. To be great, Snedeker explained, he had to win tournaments.

So one week later, along the Monterey Peninsula, that’s exactly what Snedeker did, winning his fourth PGA Tour event since the start of the 2011 (as many as Tiger Woods, one less than Rory McIlroy) and fifth Tour win overall.

Snedeker hadn’t even clutched his crystal trophy yet before he started talking about winning majors, starting in April at Augusta National.

Snedeker was in contention there in 2008 before a final-round 77 left him in tears.

He’s grown up a lot since then, enough to be taken seriously nearly every time he tees it up. – Damon Hack

As a society, we’ve become desensitized to certain things. From violence on TV to unpredictable weather, we learn to live with issues that would have been bigger news for previous generations.

A similar desensitization has happened in the game of golf. Not that long ago, a teenager could tee it up with the world’s best professionals and that alone – score and result notwithstanding – would have been enough to warrant major headlines. But now? It’s become a weekly standard to see young men and women competing alongside their heroes. Check that: competing well.

And so when 15-year-old Lydia Ko won the New Zealand Women’s Open on Sunday – already her third victory in a professional event – much of the golf world offered a collective shrug toward the accomplishment.

Been there. Done that.

We’ve seen players such as Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel set the game afire at a young age, so we’re now accustomed to it.

Well, forget suspending disbelief; it’s time we suspend belief when it comes to young players winning tournaments in general and the exploits of Ko in particular. What she has done prior to her Sweet 16 is nothing short of remarkable. Her “career” – if you can call it that for a sweet kid with a brilliant smile – has already surpassed those of some big-name professionals. It doesn’t look like there’s any end in sight, either, as she’s got all the tools to become a superstar. Yes, I know. You’ve heard that before. And like Roger Daltrey once screeched, we won’t get fooled again. But take a minute to realize just how impressive Ko has been and just how bright her future is.

In other words, stop the desensitization. – Jason Sobel

Barring injury, Brandt Snedeker will be the first FedEx Cup champion to play the Tour Championship the next season. Following back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open, Sneds cruised to victory on Sunday at Pebble Beach and has 1,282 FedEx Cup points. That was good enough to rank 18th on last year’s regular-season points list and likely good enough for a return trip to East Lake. – Rex Hoggard

I learned – no, it was brutally enforced – that it should be pros-only during the final round at Pebble Beach. Let the celebs have their fun on Saturday, which is always the most unwatchable telecast of the year, and then clear the way for the pros. That’s the way it is at the Humana Challenge – the amateurs play each of the three courses in the tournament rotation, and never have there been complaints about pace of play there. But it’s unfair for the play-for-pay types to endure rounds of five-plus hours when they’re trying to win the event or grinding to improve their status for the reshuffle. Watching three days of wayward driving and yippy putting is already torture enough. – Ryan Lavner

Lydia Ko's desire to remain an amateur has been admirable, but the 15-year-old is giving away so much money doing so. The pressure to turn pro ratchets up with her third professional title in 53 weeks.

It isn't just the money she is leaving on the table. More than that, it is the fact that she is just too talented to get much more out of the amateur game. If she is going to continue to get the most out of her remarkable gifts, she is going to have to do it as a pro. The amateur game has little left for her, and yet she is so young to live in a competitive adult world.

If you are Lydia Ko, or the folks who love her, it's a tougher call today than it was last week. If she wants to go to college, to round out her life experiences, it might have to be as a pro, on the same route that So Yeon Ryu and Michelle Wie took. Ko is too talented to play for a college program. – Randall Mell

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.