H.J. Kim out-duels Lewis to win Founders Cup

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2015, 2:16 am

PHOENIX – The LPGA ought to think about setting up a satellite office in Seoul.

South Koreans are looking determined to own this year in women’s golf.

Hyo Joo Kim kept the South Korean flag firmly planted in this LPGA season Sunday holding off Stacy Lewis to win the JTBC Founders Cup.

With a 5-under-par 67 in the final round, Kim fended off bold early charges from one challenger after another on a leaderboard that was tightly bunched on the front nine at Wildfire Golf Club. Her 21-under 267 total ended up being three shots better than Lewis (68) and five better than Ilhee Lee (66), Mi Hyang Lee (68) and Pornanong Phatlum (67).

South Korean or South Korean-born players have won all six LPGA events staged this year.

Na Yeon Choi won the Coates Golf Championship in the season opener. Sei Young Kim won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic,  Lydia Ko the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Amy Yang the Honda LPGA Thailand and Inbee Park the HSBC Women’s Champions. Choi, Kim, Yang and Park are South Korean. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Kim, 19, is part of a gifted wave of young South Koreans making up what may be the strongest rookie class the tour has ever seen.

“They’re fearless,” Lewis said.

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Hyo Joo Kim was a major championship winner before even taking up LPGA membership. She won the Evian Championship last year while playing the Korean LPGA Tour, where she was the Rookie of the Year in 2013. She claimed LPGA membership at the start of this season by virtue of that Evian victory. Though she’s considered a rookie, Kim started this week No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She will move up to No. 4 this week.

“She put a lot of pressure on and was just solid all day,” Lewis said.

Kim wasn’t alone among South Koreans taking a lofty world ranking into their LPGA rookie season.

Remarkably, four rookies from South Korea started this year ranked higher than major championship winner Paula Creamer.

Ha Na Jang, who just missed a putt to force a playoff with fellow countrywoman Na Yeon Choi at the season opening Coates Golf Championship, is No. 21 in the world. Sei Young Kim is No. 22. Q Baek, who many South Koreans expect to make a big impact this year, is No. 12. They’re all proven winners in their homeland.

“I have known these players since we played the Korean ladies tour,” Kim said through a translator. “I know how good they can be. In fact, everyone on the LPGA is really good, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. I’m just trying to find my place.”

At one point on the front nine, six players were within a shot of Kim. The back nine turned into a duel between Kim and Lewis.

Kim was two shots ahead of Lewis stepping to the 10th tee, but she looked like she might open a door to Lewis there. After hitting her drive under a tree to start the back nine, Kim asked for relief from a “dangerous situation.” A large beehive hung near the top of the tree. Kim was denied relief. She appealed, but she was denied again. After punching out, Kim made bogey, allowing Lewis to move within a shot of her.

“I wasn’t frustrated,” Kim said of the ruling. “If anything, I was just scared of the bees.”

Sensing an opening, Lewis picked up her game, but Kim kept answering all the good shots Lewis made. Lewis birdied the 12th, 13th and 15th holes and didn’t pick up a shot.

“I fought like crazy,” Lewis said. “That back nine was pretty cool, the way we made birdies back and forth and on top of each other.”

Finally, at the 16th hole, Lewis narrowed the gap, but she had to hit a stellar shot to do so. After watching Kim carve her approach shot there to 7 feet, Lewis hit hers to 4 feet, making her birdie putt after Kim missed.

Kim wouldn’t waver again. In fact, she slammed the door on Lewis with a birdie at the very difficult 18th, where a tough hole location yielded just six birdies all day. Lewis made a good play from a divot in the fairway to give herself a 30-foot birdie chance, but she three-putted for bogey, giving Kim her three-shot margin of victory.

Lewis made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine.

Kim made five birdies over the final eight holes.

“In the morning, I wasn't concentrating on winning, because I was playing with Stacy Lewis,” Kim said. “I’m a rookie. I just felt that by playing with her, I would learn a lot from her. So, I was just trying to make a good impression.”

Kim did more than that.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.