Friendly rocks help Choi bounce back for Open win

By Randall MellJuly 9, 2012, 12:58 am

KOHLER, Wis. – Na Yeon Choi’s head could have been filled with all kinds of demon thoughts.

It should have been swelling with ghoulish possibilities.

After hooking her tee shot into a hazard at the 10th hole and making triple bogey, Choi faced every professional golfer’s nightmare.

She looked like she was on the verge of collapse, the most historic collapse in U.S. Women’s Open annals.

No leader of a U.S. Women’s Open had ever given away a six-shot lead in the final round. Suddenly, Choi looked like she was going to give it away over the final 10 holes.

With that triple bogey, Choi’s once six-shot lead was slashed to two.

That kind of head-spinning turn can rob a player of confidence and momentum.

Choi won’t be remembered for losing anything Sunday, not for losing her head or her resolve.


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Choi will be remembered for the resolute way she bounced back to win this U.S. Women’s Open.

“I think I had pretty good control of my emotions today,” Choi said.

That’s like saying Shakespeare had pretty good command of the English language.

Choi eloquently put on a clinic in how a leader ought to handle adversity when it strikes on the back nine of a championship.

That was as impressive as her nearly flawless 65 was on Saturday.

Choi will also be remembered, literally, for “The Bounce,” or “The Bounces.” She will be remembered for how her tee shot slammed into the rocks on the edge of the water right of the 13th green, how her ball fortuitously bounced once, then a second time, off those rocks before bounding safely just over the back of the green.

One bounce is lucky. Two bounces? That veers into questions of cosmic intent.

Choi improbably made par.

Her heart should have been in her throat watching her ball bound on the water’s edge, but she laughed when she saw where it ended up.

“When I had that happen, I looked at my caddie,” Choi said. “All the winners of a tournament, they had a little bit of luck. So, I thought, maybe today I had luck from that tee shot, and then that's why I can win today.”

After her triple bogey at the 10th, Choi didn’t hang her head. She didn’t look rattled at all. She chatted with her caddie about everything and anything but golf on her way to look for her ball.

“After No. 10, I thought I might screw up myself if I keep anger or frustration,” Choi said. “But I thought I need to fix that. So, I started talking with my caddie. I asked him when he was going back home.”

They talked about their flights out of Wisconsin, about her vacation next week back to South Korea.

Choi’s resolve helped her bounce back with a birdie at the 11th hole, bumping her lead over Yang to three shots.

Trouble, though, would strike again at the 12th, when Choi hooked another shot left, this one into deep, wiry hay on a hill left of the green.

“I almost thought I should take an unplayable, but even if I take an unplayable, I might get bad lie again,” Choi said.

So she impressively slashed a pitch out of the rough to 20 feet behind the pin. She rolled that putt in to save another improbable par.

Choi actually built her lead back up to five shots before ultimately winning by four.

Choi credited Vision 54 founders Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott with helping her focus on the right things. She got a text from them on the eve of the final round. They told her sometimes you have to forget 65s, to forget good things, when there’s more work to do to reach a dream.

Choi, 24, claimed her sixth LPGA title Sunday, her first major in a special place. Blackwolf Run is like sacred ground for South Koreans. It’s where Se Ri Pak won in ’98 to inspire Choi and a nation of young players to take up the game. Choi is the fourth South Korean in five years to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

Pak waited around to help Choi celebrate. She was there among fellow countrywomen dousing Choi with champagne on the 18th green.

That touched Choi. She was 9 when she got up in the middle of the night back in South Korea and watched Pak win this championship.

“My dream was, I just want to be there,” Choi said. “And 14 years later, I'm here, right now, and I made it. My dreams come true. It's an amazing day today.”

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.