Love and happiness helping Creamer, McIlroy to successes

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2014, 6:35 pm

The heart is golf’s great X factor.

Sometimes, winning and losing isn’t so much about getting a golf club in the right positions as it is getting the heart in the right place.

Just ask Paula Creamer.

Even before she won the HSBC Women's Champions Sunday with that dramatic eagle at the second playoff hole, Creamer spoke about how she was in such a happy new place in life, how her engagement to Derek Heath this past offseason was giving her a fresh perspective on her life and what’s important.

“I’m in such a great place,” Creamer said way back at the season opener, after the first round of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. “I’m so happy. Derek just makes me want to be better, makes me want to be a better person. It’s always hard, life out on tour, but now, being able to share things other than with my parents and my caddie, Colin (Cann), it’s been very exciting.”

Creamer, 27, reiterated how important that is to her after she beat Azahara Munoz in that playoff Sunday at Singapore for her 10th LPGA title, her first in almost four years.

“There are a lot of up and downs, but Derek just makes me so happy,” Creamer said. “He just motivates me.”

Social snapshots of the happy couple: Paula and Derek

Photos: More couples in golf

There’s a familiar ring to this theme in golf of late.

Halfway around the planet from Creamer, Rory McIlroy was saying almost exactly the same thing after the first round of the Honda Classic. He said the nature of his life outside the ropes was making his life better inside the ropes, too.

“I'm in a great place,” McIlroy said. “I couldn't be happier. We've got a home here in Palm Beach. Personal life is great. Looking forward to getting married at some point in the future. If everything's settled off the course, then it helps me perform better on it. I couldn't be in a better place right now.”

Roll back the tape to the end of last year, and you’ll hear Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park talking about how changes in her personal life led to one of the greatest years the LPGA has ever seen, to her run of three major championship titles.

In her acceptance speech after being presented the Rolex Player of the Year award late last year, Park didn’t focus on swing changes, or swing thoughts, or new equipment. She talked about contentment off the course, about how happy she was with her fiancé, who doubles as her swing coach.

“I am someone who believes in finding happiness,” Park said. “My goal at the beginning of the year was simple: Let’s be happier than last year. Unexpectedly, as soon as happiness became my goal, I achieved more than ever.”

Of course, contentment in one's personal life doesn’t guarantee success in golf. A lot of well-adjusted players with terrific personal lives miss cuts. Still, personal woes don’t help. Turmoil, strife and emotional upheaval aren’t typically helpful in shooting low scores.

After she won Sunday, Creamer was asked how much her personal life helped her break her frustrating drought of 79 starts without a win.

Photos: Creamer sinks 75-footer for eagle, goes wild

“It has everything to do with it,” Creamer said.

Her first phone calls after winning were to loved ones. First, she called her mother, Karen, and her father, Paul. Then she called her fiancé.

“Derek was the second one,” Creamer said. “We’re not married yet, so my dad would have been upset if I called Derek first. It’s pretty neat when you can share this with everybody.”

Heath is a 33-year-old pilot from Newport Beach, Calif. Paula met him at the Kia Classic last year through her parents. Paula's father and Derek's father flew together in the Navy and both became commercial airline pilots. They remain close friends.

Right from year's start, Creamer has been sharp. She tied for third in the season opener in the Bahamas. She also tied for third in her second start at the Women’s Australian Open.

Through four events this season, Creamer leads the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year race, leads the Race to the CME Globe and leads the LPGA money list.

With the win, Creamer will move back inside the top 10 in the Rolex world rankings, moving over Lexi Thompson as the second highest ranked American behind Stacy Lewis.

Creamer is in a “great place” on multiple levels early into the 2014 season. She will tell you the X factor is working for her. 

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.''