For Ko, Lewis, fortune and fortitude

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2014, 11:43 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko took home a fortune Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Stacy Lewis was more than happy realizing the promise of a very special fortune cookie.

Ko, just 17, swept the big money prizes at Tiburon Golf Club, claiming the $1 million jackpot as winner of the season-long Race to the CME Globe and a $500,000 first-place check after winning the Tour Championship in a three-way playoff. Lewis swept the tour’s important awards, becoming the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to claim the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring and the official money title in the same season. 

Afterward, Lewis reached into her pocket, pulling out a fortune she dug out of a fortune cookie her father handed to her the night before, while they were watching her beloved Arkansas Razorbacks win.

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“I never really read into these things at all,” Lewis said. “But ...”

Lewis read the fortune: “Good news of a long awaited event will arrive soon.” She liked it so much she stuck it in her pocket before the final round Sunday.

“Pretty good omen,” Lewis said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

Lewis claimed the Rolex Player of the Year Award for the second time in three seasons. She claimed the Vare Trophy for the second year in a row. She claimed the official money title for the first time.

“That's what I came here for,” Lewis said. “I went into the week wanting to win these three awards. The $1 million and all would've been nice, but I would take these three over $1 million any day.”

Lewis, 29, relished what the awards mean.

“The coolest part to me is I get to be on the trophies with some pretty amazing women, and be a part of history,” Lewis said. “I've said all along I don't play for the money. The money is nice, but that's not what I play for. I play to win tournaments and to play consistent golf. That's what these awards show, who plays the most consistent throughout the entire year.”

Ko made some big money, but she also made some history as well. She clinched youngest Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year before arriving this week. While the $1 million prize that comes with winning the Globe doesn’t count as official money, the $500,000 Tour Championship winner’s check does. It makes her the first rookie to win more than $2 million in a season.

“This is a pretty special week,” Ko said. “It’s a week I’ll never forget.”

Ko needed overtime to add to her remarkable resume, winning at the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff. She beat Carlota Ciganda with a par after Ciganda pulled her approach into a hazard and after Granada was eliminated when she missed a 5-foot putt for par at the second playoff hole.

Though Ko won’t turn 18 for another four months, she has now won five LPGA titles. It’s her third victory this season, equaling Lewis and Inbee Park for most this season.

At week’s start, Ko was staggered seeing $1 million stuffed into a glass cube. She thought the $16,603 she won in her professional debut here a year ago was a lot of money.

“When I saw that $1 million in the box, I was like, `Wow, I wonder who the winner of that will be?’” Ko said. “It's amazing. I've never seen that much cash in one place before.”

What’s she going to do with the $1.5 million total winnings? Ko says she would like to purchase an expensive purse that her mother has been eyeing, but she says she won’t be making any large purchase for herself.

Ko was thrilled at Sunday’s finish, Lewis relieved.

While winning the Globe and Tour Championship were nice frosting on a brilliant rookie year for Ko, Lewis desperately wanted to sweep those awards, prizes she seemed to have in hand until Park began pushing her hard the last couple months of the season. While Park was heating up at year’s end, Lewis was cooling off.

“I just feel like a ton of weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Lewis said.

Hall of Famer Beth Daniel followed Lewis around Sunday. She has been watching her from afar through this push at season’s end.

“I knew the last month her golf game wasn’t there,” Daniel said. “She gutted it out. I mean, it was a total gut-out. I told her when she walked off the 18th green here, that might have been the hardest round she’ll play her entire life.”

Meg Mallon, the four-time major championship winner, was there Sunday watching Lewis, too.

“It’s just a testament to her character that she kept fighting and didn’t give up,” Mallon said.

For Lewis and Ko, fortunes truly favored them.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x