Hana Bank a de facto major for South Koreans

By Randall MellOctober 11, 2017, 5:54 pm

The KEB Hana Bank Championship may not be a major championship, but it feels like one for all the South Koreans teeing it up this week in the lone LPGA event played in their homeland.

It may not be an Olympic event, either, but it also has that kind of feel to it for the Koreans, with so much nationalist honor, pride and responsibility compounding the challenge.

So there you have a summary of what this week means to the Koreans, with the combination of quasi-major championship and Olympic pressure defining the nature of the test at the Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon.

Though it’s a limited field, with 78 players, the strength of the field at the top of the game adds to the prestige of the title.

Fifteeen of the top 16 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are teeing it up and 21 of the top 23. The strength of the field is also enhanced with 12 players from the formidable Korean LPGA Tour exempt into the competition.

Overall, there are 31 Koreans in the field, 10 more than from the United States, the second-most-represented nation.

Notably, there will be at least one Korean in every pairing sent out in Thursday’s first round.

How much pressure is on the Koreans?

This event has been more difficult for them to win than the U.S. Women’s Open over the last decade. They haven’t won the KEB Hana Bank Championship the last two years and have won it just four times over the last 10 years. Conversely, they’ve won seven of the last 10 U.S. Women’s Opens.

Rolex world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park gave a glimpse of the strong sense of responsibility Korean players have to their homeland. She apologized on Tuesday for her performance at the KLPGA’s Pak Invitational a few weeks ago, when she tied for 34th.



“I didn't really get the result I wanted at the time, so I was quite sorry for my Korean fans,” Park said. “I hope this week gives me an opportunity to redeem myself to my fans.”

Two-time major championship winner In Gee Chun provided another look at the stressful dynamic earlier this year.

After Chun was hospitalized this summer with a mysterious esophageal malady, her coach, Won Park, said he believed mounting pressure from back home was a factor. While Chun has recorded five second-place finishes this season, she hasn’t been able to break through for another win.

“In Gee is a superstar in Korea, but people have such high expectations,” Park told GolfChannel.com at the time. “It’s like second-places finishes weren’t good enough.”

Chun said she was only dealing with pressure common to all top players, but she spoke this week of the frustration that mounted with so many second-place finishes.

“Of course, when you don't win, there is a certain disappointment, and I was slightly depressed at times,” Chun said.

Chun has a large fan club, The Flying Dumbos, who will be following her this week. She says she will judge the week’s success by how much fun she has with them. She got the nickname “Dumbo” because of her excessive curiosity.

“This is my first time in a year since I am playing in Korea, in front of my Korean fans, and so I'm really excited,” Chun said. “I hope I can channel this kind of excitement into positive energy.”

Rolex world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, who didn’t make the Korean Olympic team last year, said trying to make that team was a gut-wrenching proposition.

“Just makes me crazy,” Ryu said last year. “With the media, it’s like if someone is going to make the team, they’re a great player. Then if somebody cannot make it, they’re a really bad player.”

Ryu ascended to world No. 1 this year while claiming two victories, including the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. This marks her 16th consecutive week atop the rankings, and she leads the Rolex Player of the Year points race, but she says she hasn’t been satisfied with her play of late. She tied for 40th at the Evian Championship in her last start and missed the cut at the Cambia Portland Classic before that.

“To be honest, I think for the last six weeks, or about a month, I haven’t had the same kind of buzz,” Ryu said. “I really hope to be able to feel that again.”

For the Koreans, winning this week will generate a major kind of buzz.

Bradley, wife welcome baby boy, already rocking Patriots gear

By Grill Room TeamNovember 20, 2017, 6:40 pm

Keegan Bradley and his wife Jillian announced on social media that they welcomed a baby boy, Logan James Bradley, to the world last week.

The Bradleys both posted photos on Instagram over the weekend, introducing their healthy newborn baby, who was (not-surprisingly) already decked out in head-to-toe New England Patriots gear.

Bradley, 31, grew up in New England and is not shy about showing his support for the area's sports teams.

Logan James Bradley 11/13/17 He’s changed @jillian_bradley and my life forever. We couldn’t be happier #gopats #dab

A post shared by Keegan Bradley (@keeganbradley1) on

A big congratulations is in order for the new parents.

And all you other adorable kids of PGA Tour golfers, you've officially been put on notice. You've got some new competition.

Country music star Owen to play in Web.com event

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 6:19 pm

Country music star and avid amateur golfer Jake Owen has accepted a sponsor invitation to play in the 2018 Nashville Golf Open on the Web.com Tour.

Owen, 36, has sold millions of albums while becoming one of the top male singers in the country genre. He has also been frequently spotted on the links, teeing it up last week alongside host Davis Love III in the RSM Classic pro-am and participating each of the last three years as the celebrity partner for Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Owen will now try his hand in competition against some of the game's rising stars at the May 24-27 event, held in his hometown and benefitting the charitable foundation of PGA Tour pro Brandt Snedeker.

"I am truly honored to have this opportunity to play golf with guys whose work ethic I admire so much, like my buddy Brandt Snedeker," Owen said in a release. "I know how hard everyone works to get to play in these (Web.com Tour) tournaments. I'm really grateful, and I can't wait for this week in May 2018 to get here."

Owen will be following in the footsteps of NBA superstar Steph Curry, who played on a sponsor invite earlier this year at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic and, while missing the cut, largely exceeded expectations. Curry is currently listed as a 0.8 handicap, while Owen played at Pebble Beach in February as a 3 handicap.

Like Curry, Owen will play via an "unrestricted" sponsor invite and will retain his amateur status.

Jeremy Roenick uses golf clubs to catch rattlesnake

By Jason CrookNovember 20, 2017, 6:00 pm

Jeremy Roenick has never seemed to be afraid of much, whether it was another guy breaking his jaw on the hockey rink or an alligator interrupting his golf game.

The retired American hockey legend who currently works as an NBC Sports analyst was at it again over the weekend, coming across a rattlesnake in Arizona and just casually using a couple of golf clubs to catch it before grabbing it with his bare hands and showing it off for the camera.

The person recording can be heard calling Roenick "psycho" and "nuts" several times before the snake is thrown off the property.

That person is not wrong.

What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft

Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts

Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne

Ball: Titleist Pro V1