Amateur Ko, 15, a serious Kraft contender

By Randall MellApril 4, 2013, 2:07 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – The Kraft Nabisco Championship may have to hire a lifeguard to watch over Poppie’s Pond in Sunday’s finish this year.

There’s this young kid who wouldn’t shock the women’s game if she jumped in as the winner of the year’s first major championship.

Lydia Ko is just 15, and it’s not quite clear if she knows how to swim.

“I hope so,” Ko cracked Wednesday.

The women’s game has witnessed its share of phenoms, but nobody quite like Ko.

At 15 years, 4 months and 2 days old, Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open last summer to become the youngest winner of an LPGA event. Eight weeks ago, she became the youngest winner of a Ladies European Tour event, claiming the New Zealand Women’s Open. The week after that, she made a serious run at winning the LPGA’s season opener, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Ko shared the 54-hole lead with former world No. 1 Jiyai Shin but faded in the final round.

If Ko were to win the Kraft Nabisco, she would eclipse Morgan Pressel as the youngest winner of a major championship by nearly three years. Pressel was two months shy of her 19th birthday when she won at Mission Hills.

Kraft Nabisco Championship: Articles, videos and photos

You won’t find an LPGA pro who discounts Ko’s chances.

“I am just completely impressed with her as a player,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “I just can’t see where she’s not going anywhere in the next few years but being a very, very significant player.”

Ko, who was born in South Korea but raised in New Zealand since she was 6, doesn’t seem fazed by the game’s largest stages. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur last summer. When she won in Canada two weeks later, she was paired in the final round with Stacy Lewis, the LPGA’s Player of the Year last season and the current Rolex world No. 1. Ko wasn’t intimidated. Lewis started that Sunday one shot behind Ko but ended up six shots behind her.

Notably, Ko is paired with Michelle Wie in the first two rounds this week. As a 13-year-old, Wie tied for ninth in her Kraft Nabisco debut 10 years ago. She was fourth here as a 14-year-old and third as a 16-year-old.

Wie’s struggles of late are evidence that nothing’s certain, but Ko looks good as a possible contender again this week. Her combination of skill and temperament should suit major championship tests. She handles the spotlight so well. When Ko made a run at winning in the Women’s Australian Open, she shot 63 in the first round while in a marquee pairing with Yani Tseng and Wie. She was five shots better than Tseng that day, 11 better than Wie.

“She doesn’t seem like she’s 15 years old,” Tseng said. “She didn’t even look like she was nervous.”

Lewis was also impressed with how unflappable Ko was when she was paired with her in that Sunday final round in Canada.

“Ignorance is bliss,” Lewis said. “I don’t think she even knows how good she is.

“I expect her to come out and play really good this week. She probably doesn’t even really realize it’s a major or a big event. It’s just kind of the way she is. She’s just very calm and relaxed.”

Ko, who turns 16 on April 24, is the female universe’s version of Jason Dufner.

“She talks about being nervous, but, boy, you can never see it,” Rankin said. “She's just very, very calm. She has just a beautiful golf swing, and she seems to play within herself.”

The big question Ko keeps getting is how long she’s going to wait before turning pro.

Karrie Webb was asked before the Women’s Australian Open if Ko should embrace the amateur game a while longer.

“That’s not my advice to her,” Webb said. “Obviously, she’s proven that she’s ready to play professional golf.”

Ko has stated an interest in going to college, but she could turn pro and still do that. So Yeon Ryu won the U.S. Women’s Open while enrolled in college in South Korea. Wie played the LPGA while at Stanford.

“I couldn't really give a certain year of when I will turn pro,” Ko said Wednesday. “We don't normally think about it when we go back home. The time I think about it is when I'm here, getting asked the questions. My parents and I, my coaches, we have never really talked about it seriously.”

Ko is accompanied to tournaments by her mother, Tina Hyon. She picked up a former LPGA and PGA Tour caddie this week, Patrick Boyd, who now works in his family’s home and commercial security business in Southern California.

Hyon told the Sunday Star Times of Auckland, New Zealand, last month that there is no hurry to turn pro.

“I just think she is too young to make such a big decision, she's maybe a couple of years away,” Hyon said. “Lydia will be the one to make the decision. My role as a parent is to make sure she makes the most informed decision.”

A dive into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday would threaten to speed up the timetable.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.