India's Ashok eager to prove Olympics were no fluke

By Randall MellAugust 24, 2016, 12:50 am

India’s Aditi Ashok is in California this week trying to turn her Olympic momentum into an LPGA tour card.

Hardly waiting to catch her breath after stirring hearts with her dreamy start in Rio last week, Ashok flew to Rancho Mirage the day after the Olympics ended to begin her next big adventure. She will tee it up Thursday at Mission Hills in the first stage of LPGA Q-School.

“It’s my goal to play on the LPGA tour,” Ashok told in a telephone interview. “To be able to play here this week, where the ANA Inspiration is played, it’s so much fun. I played the Dinah Shore Course. I want to play it again next year, when the major is here, and so I’m really working hard to do that.

“But I’m going to try not to think about that during a round, but to think about one shot at a time. That should get me through.”

The last week has been a whirlwind for Ashok, the upstart 18-year-old from Bangalore, India, who got the world’s attention grabbing a share of the second-round lead in the Olympics. She said she was surprised to see Bollywood actors from India and big-name cricket personalities tweeting about her during the Games. She was inspired hearing how proud her fellow countrymen were of her making worldwide news.

“It was a huge experience for me,” Ashok said. “A lot of people from India were excited, and a lot were following me and supporting me. I think that was the whole idea of golf in the Olympics, to get more people interested in golf.

“I haven’t been home yet, but the Indian Golf Union told me juniors have already been inspired to take up golf. I hope that’s true.

“I’m sure if I had played better on the weekend, I would have made my country even more proud than they are now, but I’m sure I’ll have more chances.”

Ashok ended up tying for 41st, but that’s not what India will remember about her appearance in the first Olympic women’s golf competition in 116 years. They’ll remember Ashok grabbing a share of the second-round lead with Ariya Jutanugarn. They’ll remember the enormous pride she generated in a nation where golf struggles for attention.

“That was fun,” Ashok said. “I’ve never led a tournament with such big names in it.”

Ashok was the youngest player in the Olympic women’s field. At 17 last fall, she became the youngest player to win the Ladies European Tour Q-School. Because she didn’t finish high school until April, she made a late start as an LET rookie season this year. If all goes as she hopes, Ashok will remain a rookie next year, but this time with the LPGA.

“I’m going to be playing in some big events, and the Olympic experience gives me confidence I’m ready for them,” Ashok said.

The Olympic experience came with so many fringe benefits. Ashok got to talk to her idol, Annika Sorenstam, again. Ashok first met the Hall of Famer at Sorenstam’s junior event. Ashok also received a special request from Gary Player after a round. She was escorted to the International Golf Federation lounge to meet him.

“It was amazing,” Ashok said. “He shared some of his views of my game and how he thinks I can get better. He said I should work on becoming more solid from 100 yards and in. I think I’m good in that area, but the things he told me made sense. He talked about how it’s the one area that’s really going to help my scoring, on good days and bad days.”

Ashok said another special moment came with her father, Gudlamani, as her caddie. She said he turned to her during a delay in the first round and said something that warmed her heart.

“My father thanked me for making him a part of it all as my caddie,” Ashok said. “I said, `What are you talking about?’ He said being part of the Olympics meant so much to him. He was trying to tell me what a big deal sharing the experience with me was to him. I felt lucky to have him with me, and to see how happy he was all week.”

Gudlamani will caddie for his daughter again this week. There’s a field of 360 players at first stage Q-School. Ashok must finish among the top 60 and ties after four rounds to advance to second stage. The final stage will be at LPGA International in Daytona Beach in December.

Ashok knows her whirlwind journey won’t end when the first stage of Q-School ends. She has been told there is a long list of interview requests for her from the Indian media when she gets home. Ashok doesn’t have an agent. Her mother, Mash, manages her business affairs, but Aditi has been told that some sponsorship opportunities have already surfaced.

“Nothing’s finalized yet,” she said.

Still, the last week hasn’t all been dreamy. When Ashok arrived in California from Brazil, her golf clubs didn’t make it with her. She had to play Monday’s practice rounds with borrowed clubs. She was relieved when her clubs arrived Tuesday and she was able to practice with them.

“I think I proved in the Olympics I was good enough to compete,” Ashok said. “It’s something I look forward to doing more often.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry