Rose quietly outplays Woods for Arnold Palmer lead

By Jason SobelMarch 21, 2013, 5:56 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s one thing to be overshadowed. It’s another to be so far under the radar that even a Florida state trooper wouldn’t catch you zooming past the crowd to the top of the leaderboard.

Thursday’s opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational may have produced the quietest 65 by a top-five player in recent memory. It wasn’t Justin Rose’s fault. He played almost flawless golf. When it came to drawing eyeballs, though, it was a matter of what Sergio Garcia once famously summarized as, “I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.”

Rose’s one-eagle, six-birdie performance was finishing up right about the time our country’s annual office shutdown began, with NCAA Tournament basketball games hardly being lost in the shuffle against his sublime round.

Video: Rose tames Tiger on Day 1 at Bay Hill

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Not that the Englishman would have been preoccupied. When asked whether he filled out a bracket, Rose admitted that he hadn’t, though he was aware of the process, then countered, “Are we talking college here? No, I’m not really up on that.”

Then there’s the fact that he competed alongside Tiger Woods in the first round – the same Tiger Woods who posted a solid 3-under 69 total. With two wins under his belt already this season, in order for a playing partner to steal attention from Tiger, they’d have to be Kate Upton.

Oh, speaking of which, she’s on her way here. That’s right – the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl is coming to hang with Arnie at his home event.

So, yeah, it’s pretty safe to say despite his ridiculously low round, Rose was overshadowed.

Then again, that may actually serve as a microcosm for this event.

There are plenty of regulations and stipulations in the official Rules of Golf – too many maybe – but one of the most important remains unwritten: You do not disrespect the King. Especially when you’re at his castle, amongst his loyal subjects, admiring his jewels.

This is meant as no disrespect, but to put the Arnold Palmer Invitational in terms of that other tournament taking place this week, this one serves as a de facto conference championship for the elite, prior to competing in the Big Dance.

Despite winning here seven times previously, Woods repeatedly tells anyone who will listen that he’s trying to peak for the four major championships. With the first of those just a few weeks away – and many top players not competing again between now and then – this week can be a final opportunity to get ready for the upcoming Masters.

But Rose doesn’t look at it that way.

“I don’t think I’m there yet,” he claimed. “I’m not at the point in my career where I solely focus on the majors. Yes, I try to do my best to get ready for them as best I can and you look at the schedule with that in mind, but winning more regularly is something I want to do. If you’ve got 15 PGA Tour events under your belt, then you think, OK, 16 doesn’t mean as much. It’s now time to win the big ones. I’m not at that point yet, but I still believe that it can happen at any point.”

So instead of peaking four times per year, he wants to peak every week?

“It’s playing enough to give yourself the best chance every single week you play. And you play the averages a little bit, too. I’m getting to the point hopefully where I can carry that off, but you never know when the game is going to get sharp, so you’ve got to play. At some point, you’re going to get hot.”

“I don’t really know how to totally do it for golf,” Sean Foley, who coaches Rose and Woods among others, said about peaking around majors. “But I know in other sports, for example, Michael Phelps isn’t swimming fast two weeks before the Olympics. Sprinters don’t want to set world records two weeks beforehand. But I don’t know how you do that in golf.”

In other words, there’s no way for an elite player to lay off the gas pedal prior to reaching Augusta National – or at least none that’s tangible.

What it means is that there’s no definitive disadvantage to Rose peaking for the equivalent of golf’s conference championship prior to the Big Dance.

“I’ve got a good chance to go in there with my game in good shape, which it should be,” Rose said. “I’m in control of all those areas right now. I just need to make sure I’m mentally fresh. I’m taking two weeks off, which I haven’t done before, but I feel like I’ve played enough golf to be sharp.”

Moral of the story? Good golf is good golf, no matter if it’s overshadowed. On Thursday, Rose’s score looked like Kate Upton on the leaderboard.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.