Jang trying to appeal to Americans and Koreans

By Randall MellMarch 16, 2016, 8:02 pm

PHOENIX – Ha Na Jang’s dynamic emergence as an LPGA winner this year hit the tour like a freshening breeze with her colorful victory celebrations going viral.

That “Samurai Lasso” Jang unveiled winning the Coates Golf Championship sent a jolt of delight through the gallery around the 18th green in Ocala, Fla. Her Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions was just as electric.

With her 10,000-watt smile and playful disposition, Jang is the fun, new headliner in women’s golf this year, and that’s what makes her revelation at the JTBC Founders Cup this week so disconcerting.

“Now every day, crying in my room, last night, last week,” Jang said.

Jang’s spirits ought to be soaring with two victories in her last four starts, but she’s struggling emotionally dealing with a media tempest back in her South Korean homeland. She’s upset about a controversy pitting her against reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun.

If you missed this, when Jang arrived in Singapore before the HSBC Women’s Champions, her father lost control of a 15-pound carry-on bag at the airport. The bag crashed down an escalator and struck Chun in the lower back, which led Chun to withdraw from that event and also from this week’s Founders Cup.

The drama intensified when Jang won and jumped into the South Korean Olympic golf team’s four-player mix, bumping Chun out, at least for the time being.

Chun issued a statement last week that basically said she didn’t get the proper apology due her, but she didn’t want to see Jang face any more stinging criticism.

As fallout from all of this, Jang’s Beyonce dance created a backlash in South Korea that Jang didn’t see coming.

The backlash is twofold.

First, there’s an element of Korean culture critical of Jang’s animated, celebratory style.

“The Korean culture is much more reserved than celebratory,” an LPGA/South Korean liaison said. “So when she did [the Beyonce dance], a lot of people thought it was a little overboard.”

Chun’s situation exacerbated that. Her supporters complained that Jang’s dance was ungracious and ill-timed, given Jang’s father’s role in Chun being sidelined.

Here’s how highly scrutinized this whole issue is back in South Korea. Even before Chun’s injury, Jang’s “Samurai Lasso” victory move was criticized by some as disrespectful, with Jang hearing complaints that she should have compared her sword-like slashes to Korean fencing moves, not to a Japanese Samurai move.

“In Korea, it’s a very big issue,” Jang said.

Jang said she used the Samurai term sitting in front of American media because she believed the term translated better, was more easily understood by English audiences. Still, the intense scrutiny over Jang’s flamboyant style appears to be taking a toll on her. She wiped away tears Tuesday after trying to explain the situation to American media without inflaming the issue back in her homeland. She’s walking on egg shells trying to the right thing this week, trying to please American and Korean fan bases.

“It’s hard on my heart,” Jang said. “It’s a little sad.”

This is the difficult terrain Jang is trying to play through this week.

It isn’t just a South Korean issue. It’s a potentially unfortunate turn for the LPGA, because there is something about Jang that might prove to be transformative. This is a delicate topic, but there’s no getting around how South Korean dynamics play in the United States. Even after a decade of dominance, there’s a certain segment of American audiences who remain cold to South Korea’s omnipresence on LPGA leaderboards. You see it in Internet commentary threads, in chat rooms and in tweets.

Jang’s nature, the way she elicits smiles in galleries throughout her round, is potentially game changing. Her body language may be the most eloquent in the women’s game. Her mannerisms and expressions transcend spoken language. In that way, she connects meaningfully with fans without having to utter a word.

Getty Images photographer Scott Halleran, who has been shooting golf for 27 years, followed Jang for the first time in Sunday’s final round in Singapore. He makes his living trying to capture more than images. He tries to capture moments that speak to people in ways words never can.

“Following her was one of the most refreshing days I’ve ever had on a golf course,” Halleran said. “She’s the most passionate, energetic golfer I’ve been around in a long time. The last 30 minutes of that tournament was incredible.”

Halleran loved Jang’s Beyonce dance. More than that, he loved how much fun Jang had playing to the cameras, sidling up next to the small band at the trophy presentation and pretending to play the drums.

“It was by far the most high-energy trophy presentation I’ve ever seen,” Halleran said. “I think at some point I blurted out, `I wish you could win every week.’”

Stacy Lewis was paired with Jang in the first round of an event last year. They were among the first groups off early in the morning on a Thursday, and shortly into the round, with the sun barely up, Jang holed a birdie putt and let loose a spirited fist pump. Lewis laughed.

“It’s never too early to fist pump.” Lewis remembered saying.

David Stone was Jang’s caddie for nine months of her rookie year last season and said he thoroughly enjoyed their journey together.

“Ha Na is crazy, and I mean that in the best sense of the word,” Stone said. “She is funny, always smiling, joking about everything. Practice rounds with her were hilarious, some of the most fun practice rounds I’ve ever had.

“The thing about Ha Na is she is the same way on and off the golf course. Doesn’t matter if she shoots 75 or 68, she’s the same person.”

Kevin Kim, the Korean-born Web.com Tour player, put Jang through a month-long boot camp to get her ready for the start of this year.

“I’ve never seen a man or woman on the Korean tours celebrate like she does,” Kim said after watching Jang win in Ocala. “It’s just not Korean style, but she’s one of a kind.”

Dean Herden, an Australian caddie who has toted for a long line of South Korean players, including Jang, says she is a natural entertainer on and off the course.

“She is very open with people,” Herden said. “She enjoys people and going out and chatting and socializing. I never got to see her at a night club, but I’m sure she would be the life of the place.”

Herden said Jang was animated but less so while playing the Korean LPGA Tour.

“In our western culture, we love that, and Ha Na has realized this and is now opening up to it,” Herden said. “This is so healthy for our sport, and I personally hope there will be a few more younger players watching Ha Na who will realize professional golf is a living, but you can also enjoy yourself and show people how much fun you are having expressing yourself. I’m so happy Ha Na is doing what she is doing. This is what our sport needs.”

The South Korean contingent playing the LPGA is a special group.

Inbee Park will earn induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame with her 10th start this year. She doesn’t get enough credit for how important her mastery of the English language has been to her connection with American media. Park’s ability to tell her story in her record-setting runs was important to the LPGA. So Yeon Ryu and Na Yeon Choi have been important, too. They’ve been terrific Korean ambassadors in the LPGA ranks. Sei Young Kim, the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year last season, may not be as animated as Jang, but she has shown a fun-loving personality in her 14 months on tour.

For Jang, the challenge now isn’t just continuing to connect with American fans. It’s walking the line between American and Korean tastes.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: