Notes In the shadow of Wie Lewis shines

By Jay CoffinDecember 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
LPGA Tour _newDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ' While hundreds of people followed Michelle Wie on LPGA Internationals Legends Course, little ole Stacy Lewis and her support staff of one were quietly putting together an impressive round on the adjacent Champions Course.
Although Wie and Lewis both shot 69 on different courses at the same venue, it seemed as if they were playing worlds apart Wednesday at the final stage of LPGA Q-School.
But that suits Lewis just fine, the Texas native loves living under the proverbial radar.
Im not here with a bunch of people, Lewis said. I dont need a lot of people. I dont need all the attention. Id much rather just go about my business.
Lewis, 23, is here with only Shauna Estes-Taylor on the bag. Estes-Taylor was Lewis coach at the University of Arkansas and provides a friendly face during the long, tenuous 90-hole marathon. Lewis father, Dale, is on his way from Texas and supposed to be on hand to watch his daughter play the final four rounds.
The first-round 69 was a success, especially since Lewis came to the chilly Sunshine State with hopes of winning. Simply finishing in the top-20 to earn an LPGA card for 2009 is not sufficient for this fierce competitor.
If you go out there for top 20 you limit yourself a little bit, she says.
She has some work to do if shes to claim medalist honors here this week. The 3-under 69 is five shots behind leader Shiho Oyama, but Lewis will tackle the Legends Course Thursday, a place where she shot 66 in the windy final-round of the 2007 NCAA Championship to win.
If Lewis name isnt familiar from the NCAA Championship victory it could be for myriad reasons. For starters, her medical issues have been well-documented. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 11 and wore a back brace under her clothes until she graduated from high school. When she stopped growing at age 18, she underwent a six-hour surgery to put a steel rod in her back, then, ultimately went on to win 12 college tournaments over the next four years.
As an amateur, she led after 18 holes at the rain-shortened LPGA NW Arkansas Championship in 2007 but the win wasnt official because the event didnt last 36 holes. Earlier in the year she was fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
This year has brought more success to Lewis. She played in seven LPGA events and recorded a third-place tie at the U.S. Womens Open where she was in serious contention until the final nine holes. The Open accomplishment, more than perhaps anything else, proved to Lewis that she belongs among the womens elite players.
I know I can compete and Ive competed with the best players in the world and almost won and most of those players arent even here, Lewis said. Its a different mindset now.
A winning mindset.
SONGS SING NEW TUNE: Twins Aree and Naree Song are all grown up at the young age of 22. The duo dominated junior golf about eight years ago and came to the LPGA with all the expectations you could heap on teenagers being branded the next cant-miss kids.
There was some success early, if you consider top-10s successful for girls who were used to winning anything they ever played. Aree nearly won the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship as a 17-year-old when she made eagle on the 72nd hole. But Grace Park made birdie and won by a shot. Naree had varying success as well but nothing too spectacular.
After a hiatus over the past year both are looking to make comebacks in 2009 for altogether different reasons.
Aree received a medical exemption for 2008 and will have full status for next year. She was diagnosed with severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome and adrenal insufficieny, which made it difficult to focus on golf. So she took the year off to take care of her health and spent time volunteering with Girls and Boys Clubs and other childrens organizations in the Central Florida area.
Golf is important but its not everything, Aree said. There are many other things that I enjoy doing.
Naree was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and decided to take time away from the tour to get her health in order. She also spent time as a swing coach for the IMG Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., among other various things.
It was all good experience, Naree said.
Aree was at Q-School Wednesday following Naree, who will need to finish in the top 20 after 90 holes to have enough status to join her sister in Hawaii to begin the 2009 LPGA campaign. Naree shot a first-round 75.
Im trying to put weight on and get fit, which is not a bad problem to have, Aree said. Itll be a process.
Said Naree: I just need to get through this week.
SHORT SHOTS: Fashion model Anna Rawson, who led after the first round of the Bell Micro Classic in September, shot 71. The Australian has been likened to Natalie Gulbis in that she isnt afraid to strike a pose for a photo shoot. . . . Big Break Kaanapali champion Kim Welch shot 73 and Big Break V champion Ashley Prange shot 77.

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  • 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.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    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.''