Feng leads, but Park, Wie, Kerr, Ko on her heels

By Randall MellJune 7, 2014, 10:34 pm

Michelle Wie and Inbee Park will be chasing Shanshan Feng Sunday at the Manulife Financial Classic with the LPGA delivering yet another stellar leaderboard going in to a final round.

Feng’s 4-under-par 67 Saturday put her out front in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Cristie Kerr, 17-year-old Lydia Ko and Anna Nordqvist are all in the hunt in what promises to be another shootout at the Grey Silo Golf Course.

At 15-under 198, Feng is two shots ahead of Wie (68) and Park (65). She’s three ahead of Kerr (65).

Ko soared up the leaderboard Saturday with a 64, the day’s low round, giving her a chance to become the youngest Rolex No. 1 in the history of the women's game. She moved four shots off the lead and needs to win to have a chance to overtake Stacy Lewis as the new No. 1.

Nordqvist (69), seeking to become the first three-time winner this LPGA season, is also four shots back.

Manulife Financial LPGA Classic: Articles, videos and photos

Wie kept herself in the hunt despite a rough start. She bogeyed two of the first three holes to fall off the pace but rallied with six birdies and a bogey the rest of the way.

“Quite a shaky start,” Wie told reporters after her round. “I missed a good birdie opportunity on the first hole, and then I kind of duck-hooked it on the second hole and had to take an unplayable. Actually, it was a really good bogey. Then I kind of hooked it on the next hole, hit it in the bunker. So I just couldn't get my tempo right in the beginning, but definitely felt like I finished strong.”

That kind of start might have derailed Wie a year ago, when she ranked No. 100 in the world. With five finishes of fourth place or better this year, including her victory at the Lotte Championship, her first title in four years, Wie’s confidence is high. She joked after the third round that she was more upset about breaking a nail than she was about the early bogeys. She has climbed to No. 10 in the world with the kind of resilience she showed after Saturday’s rough start.

“I’m getting more and more confident,” Wie said. “But it's always a work in progress, because golf is such a finicky game. It's like, one day you're feeling really great, the next day you're not.”

Feng is looking for her fourth LPGA title.

“I’ve had no pressure this week,” Feng said. “Last year, I missed the cut here, so I came just to have fun.”

Feng, Wie and Park will be in the final group Sunday.

Park got herself in position to claim her first LPGA title since winning the U.S. Women’s Open almost a year ago. She would love to go to Pinehurst No. 2 in eight days to defend her title coming off a victory.

“The first win is always very important, and that would give me a lot of confidence going into the U.S. Open, that's for sure,” Park said. “So, yeah, that's going to help a lot.”

Park saw her 59-week reign atop the Rolex Women’s World Rankings end last week, when Lewis overtook her with a victory at the ShopRite Classic. Park can’t gain her No. 1 ranking back with a victory Sunday, but Rolex world No. 3 Ko can get there.

If Ko wins, and Lewis finishes eighth or worse, Ko will head to the U.S. Women’s Open as the youngest No. 1 in the history of professional golf. Ko's small divisor, with fewer starts than Park, enables her to make the rankings jump to No. 1 with a win.

Lewis starts Sunday tied for 18th, eight shots back.

“You never know what's going to happen,” Ko said.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.