Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.