If Jang is feeling pressure, she isn't showing it

By Randall MellFebruary 6, 2016, 1:15 am

OCALA, Fla. – Ha Na Jang is patiently waiting to break through to win her first LPGA title, but she knows patience runs thin back in her South Korean homeland.

She’s already a star back there.

Jang was a star on the Korean LPGA Tour before she teed it up to start her rookie season in the United States last year.

That’s why Korean fans and media expect her star to keep shining over here.

It’s why there’s pressure ratcheting up after Jang went winless in her rookie debut last season.

Jang, 22, came over with the newest wave of young South Korean mega talents last year, with Hyo Joo Kim and Sei Young Kim. It didn’t ease Jang’s circumstance when Sei Young won three titles on her way to claiming the Rolex LPGA Rookie of the Year Award and when Hyo Joo also won to add to the Evian Championship she claimed as a non-member the year before. Plus, there was In Gee Chun’s success. Chun came over from the Korean tour in July and won the U.S. Women’s Open.

Back in 2013, Jang was the KLPGA’s Player of the Year. She beat out Hyo Joo Kim, Sei Young Kim and Chun for the award.

So with Jang now sharing the lead going into Saturday’s finish to the Coates Golf Championship, there’s escalating pressure to measure up.

Or is there?

“I don’t think about what other players are doing,” Jang said. “I just want to think about playing my game.”

Kevin Kim, Jang’s swing coach, says she isn’t kidding. He says she’s a special player with special focus.

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“She is a little different,” Kim said. “She doesn’t really care what other players are doing.”

That isn’t easy given how popular women’s golf is in South Korea and how much scrutiny that nation’s golf stars receive. Jang may live in San Diego now, but she’ll always be a proud product of the South Korean women’s golf programs.

So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion, says the success Koreans have enjoyed playing the American-based LPGA makes it difficult on all the KLPGA stars coming over.

“So many Koreans have won on the LPGA, it makes for more pressure,” she said. “I hate to say it, but with the Korean media, it seems like if you haven’t won, it’s like you’re a failure.”

Jang will get a lot of attention Saturday. She was tied for the lead at 7 under with world No. 1 Lydia Ko when the third round was suspended because of darkness. They’re paired together.

Jang came so close to breaking through last year. She finished second four times, holding the 54-hole in three of those runner-up finishes. She lost the Marathon Classic in a playoff to Chella Choi.

“I did feel a little more pressure, tiny bit more pressure, because of those second-place finishes,” Jang said.

Kevin Kim says all the second-place finishes motivate Jang more than anything her Korean peers have done.

“Second-place finishes, they can be really tough to deal with,” Kim said. “And when you’ve had the lead after 54 holes, it’s especially tough. It’s why she’s working so hard.”

One of Jang’s second-place finishes came at the Coates Golf Championship last year, when she Monday qualified to get into the field and then seized the 54-hole lead. She finished one shot behind Na Yeon Choi, who knows all about the unrelenting pressure to win that Korean players feel coming from their homeland.

After Choi won at Golden Ocala last year, she said she felt great relief ending a two-year victory drought. She said she was overwhelmed by criticism back in Korea. Choi said it got so bad, she considered downsizing to a 2G cell phone so she wouldn’t be able to connect to the Internet to see what was being written about her.

“I got hurt from reading that stuff,” Choi said.

If Jang is feeling pressure to break through this week, she isn’t showing it. She plays with fun-loving spirit. She’s animated, with an easy smile and unveiled emotion.

Ko said she likes the way Jang plays.

“She has a lot of positive vibes, great energy,” Ko said. “You can see by her fist pumps. I know she's a really confident player. It’s fun playing alongside her.”

After Friday’s round, Jang said she likes Golden Ocala, because the narrow, tree-lined design reminds her of Korean courses she likes. She also likes where she has her game.

“Very confident ... very comfortable,” Jang said.

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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.

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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.