Kim back in major contention after Kraft heartbreak

By Randall MellJune 28, 2013, 9:26 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Look who emerged from the ethereal mist rolling over Sebonack Golf Club with the lead through Friday’s morning wave at the U.S. Women’s Open.

I.K. Kim is back on a major championship leaderboard.

Out of the fog, out of her funk and maybe, finally, out of the shadow hanging over the most unfortunate turn in her career.

More than a year since her heartbreaking loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Kim is giving herself a chance to claim a prize that so cruelly escaped her at Mission Hills Country Club.

Anyone who follows the game knows the stunning turn Kim endured when it seemed certain she would claim her first major. Her inexplicable miss of a 14-inch putt at the 72nd hole broke more than her heart in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It broke the hearts of a legion of fans who love and admire her gentle spirit.


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All these months later, Kim, 25, is back as more than a sentimental favorite.

How can you not root for a player who gave away her entire $220,000 first-place check to impoverished students and Special Olympic athletes after winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2010?

That was the last of Kim’s three LPGA titles.

With a 3-under-par 69 Friday, Kim pushed ahead of Inbee Park just as Park was teeing off in the afternoon wave. When Kim signed her scorecard, she was two shots clear of Park, three ahead of Caroline Hedwall and three in front of Lizette Salas. Late in the day, Park vaulted into the lead with a 4-under 68.

Kim, though, isn’t about to get ahead of herself. She confessed to confidants she might have done that before jabbing her putt off the lip at Kraft Nabisco. There is a weekend of big shots and putts left and a formidable fellow South Korean to beat with Rolex world No. 1 Park trying to win the first three majors of the season.

“There’s a lot of golf to play, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Kim said. “That’s the beauty of major championships.”

The not-so beautiful part, too, but Kim said she feels good about her life and the strong supporting cast behind her. While there are a lot of players who want to win this week, you won’t find many who wouldn’t enjoy seeing Kim break through. Back in South Korea, a nation of golf fans would celebrate.

“Everybody is cheering for I.K.,” said So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “It was a really sad moment at Kraft Nabisco, and I think everyone really felt badly for I.K., and then she struggled with her game after that. So, she really has a lot of support, but I think she is just fine and hopefully she can continue playing well.”

After that Kraft Nabisco loss, Kim struggled with a wrist injury. She couldn’t really give herself a good chance to bounce back with a win, but she’s finding her form again this year. All that’s missing this season is a victory. She has a second-place finish, two T-4s, a fifth-place finish and a sixth-place finish. She is sixth on the LPGA money list so far in 2013.

Though Kim has not won a major, she has a strong record contending, especially in the U.S. Women’s Open. She tied for third in this championship in 2008, tied for third again in ’09, finished fourth in ’10 and tied for 10th in 2011. She has finished T-10 or better in 10 of her last 20 major championship starts.

“I.K. has been playing so well,” said Paula Creamer, who was paired with Kim in the first two rounds this week. “You feel like you’re shooting a hundred over watching her, and I’m only 1 over. She’s playing so well in these conditions.”

Jonny Scott, Laura Davies’ former caddie, picked up Kim’s bag six months ago. He did so believing in her ability to bounce back.

“She’s one of the best players in the world,” Scott said. “It was windy out here today, and she was really solid from start to finish. When it’s like this, if you don’t catch a shot right, the wind can take it anywhere here. She hasn’t missed much.”

While Kim’s putting came under the microscope at Kraft Nabisco, she’s actually, statistically, one of the best putters in the women’s game. Remarkably, she led the LPGA last year in putts per greens in regulation. She has had some issues with short putts in the past, even before the short miss at Kraft Nabisco, but there are a lot of players who wouldn’t mind having her stroke.

Creamer said the strongest part of Kim's game may be her ability to make so many birdie putts of 20-25 feet.

“I think her putting is great,” Ryu said. “I don’t think she has any weaknesses.”

Scott, though, watched Kim miss a 4-footer for par at the end of Thursday’s round. Of course, for the folks bunched around the 18th green at Sebonack, it brought to mind that miss in the desert last year.

“She’s made a lot of putts this week,” Scott said. “You don’t get to 7 under at a U.S. Open without holing a lot of putts. She looks comfortable. She’s not too nervous. She’s just enjoying this.”

Two more days like this, and she might enjoy one of the biggest rebound wins in women’s golf.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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