Mahan celebrates his first win as a father

By Jason SobelAugust 25, 2014, 12:09 am

PARAMUS, N.J. – While her father was busy attempting to navigate the 18th hole at Ridgewood Country Club on Sunday afternoon, little Zoe Olivia Mahan was blissfully oblivious to the buzz in the air.

Playing the role of adorable toddler to perfection, she wore a purple dress over flower-patterned pants, white sneakers with the Velcro straps pulled tight and pink-framed glasses, all topped with a green bow in curly hair.

Just 50 yards from the final green, separated by a wall of bleachers filled with applauding fans and fronted by tournament officials with blue blazers and flawlessly coiffed hair, Zoe held the hand of her mother, Kandi, while navigating a wobbly path of her own. She heartily clapped along with the bleacher creatures, but when they lustily offered their loudest cheer of the day, her mother scooped her up and made a beeline through the tunnel toward the source of their emotion.

Hunter Mahan culminated his final round at The Barclays with an unsteady bogey, holing an 8-foot putt to finish off a 6-under 65. No matter, though. Still two shots clear of his next closest competitor, he visibly huffed a sigh of relief.

That instinctive reaction could have meant so many things. Relief from the final-hole bogey that began when he belted his tee shot too far to the right. Relief from a week spent yo-yoing atop the leaderboard, jockeying with so many other players for the title. Or relief from clinching his first victory in more than two full years.

Not that he hasn’t had his chances.

It was just over a year ago when Mahan led the Canadian Open entering the third round. He was warming up on the driving range when his manager received a phone call. Kandi was going into labor in Dallas – and for the geographically challenged, it should be noted that Dallas isn’t very close to Canada.

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He didn’t flinch. Quickly withdrawing from the tournament, he hopped on a plane and headed due south, arriving in time to see the birth of Zoe later that afternoon.

Within a few days, the happy family was interviewed on multiple national television shows, telling their story while graphics such as “MILLION-DOLLAR BABY” flashed across the screen.

This week, it was Kandi and Zoe who were watching on television, as Hunter contended for three days without them. Visiting family in Odessa, Texas, his wife decided on Saturday night that – win or lose – she wanted them to be there for him when he finished his final round the next day.

“It’s just great to be together no matter what,” she said. “If he did win, we definitely wanted to be here. So we decided we were going to go, me and Zoe.”

They left Odessa at 10:30 a.m. and arrived in New Jersey at 4:15 p.m., as Hunter was playing the 15th hole. Navigating traffic even better than he’d navigated Ridgewood, they arrived shortly thereafter, with him still playing the 16th hole.

Mother and daughter hid in the clubhouse for a little while, then roamed toward that spot adjacent to the 18th hole while Mahan was in the midst of trying to win.

After he did, after it was all but final and the crowd cheered in his honor, after he huffed that sigh of relief, he turned and unexpectedly saw Kandi hustling toward him, enthusiastic smile on her face, Zoe in her arms.

“I was almost in shock, I think,” he later explained. “All of a sudden, there's my wife and daughter and I'm like, ‘Wait a minute, should they be on the green or not? What do we do?’ There was a lot going on in my head and it was hard to keep everything kind of straight. They didn't come in all week and I wasn't planning to see them until tomorrow. Obviously to see them right now and to win is a special feeling.”

His win will be tinged by narratives surrounding the Ryder Cup (he’s aiming to earn one of three captain’s picks that will be unveiled in just over a week) and the FedEx Cup (he jumped from 62nd on the points list to first, ensuring that he will play all four playoff events for an eighth consecutive season).

Those details aren’t insignificant, but the story of Mahan’s sixth career PGA Tour victory is that it’s his first as a father – and his first since giving up a potential title to see the birth of his daughter.

“I was playing great that week as well, but you never know what could have happened,” he said. “It feels good to get a W. It's been a couple years, and it feels good the way I did it.”

Kandi knows this one was different.

“I think it’s so special for him,” she beamed. “He has always said it’s a dream of his to win a tournament and have his baby girl there.”

Not long after the victory was clinched, Kandi handed Zoe over to her proud father. “Hi, baby girl!” he cooed, lifting her into the air, punctuated by a kiss. The little girl smiled and clapped, just like everyone else who had just watched her dad win the tournament.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''