Ko could rescue waterlogged Evian

By Randall MellSeptember 14, 2013, 5:16 pm

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – The Evian Championship could be looking at one wild finish with 16-year-old amateur sensation Lydia Ko poised to shock the golf world yet again.

That’s if there’s actually a finish.

Nobody’s quite sure if the LPGA’s fifth major will end with a flood of birdies or just a flood with heavy overnight rains expected. The Evian grounds crew was busy covering its greens with tarps after Saturday’s play was complete.

Japan’s Mika Miyazato tops an intriguing leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round, if anybody’s noticed. The event’s first two rounds have almost been overshadowed by all the angst and debate over whether the Evian Championship ought to be a major, whether Evian Resort Golf Club is truly a major championship test and whether the tour should have shortened a new major desperate for credibility to 54 holes.

Those questions aside, the competitive questions are growing compelling.

Can Ko really pull this off? At 16 years old, can she become the youngest winner in the history of major championship golf? Can she really become just the third amateur to win a major in the women’s game?

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With a birdie-birdie finish Saturday, Ko fashioned a bogey-free 4-under-par 67 to move a shot behind Miyazato (69).

At 8-under 134, Miyazato is looking to win her first major at 23.

There are some formidable challengers beyond Ko chasing.

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (69), looking to win back-to-back LPGA titles, also trails by a shot.

Stacy Lewis (67), looking to become the first American to win back-to-back majors since Juli Inkster in ’99, is two shots back.

Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (71) is among a trio three shots back.

Ko, though, could be just the antidote for what’s ailing the Evian. If she wins, who’s going to remember all the angst that shrouded Evian’s debut as a major? Ko is the ultimate trump card. If she wins, the buzz it will generate around the world will drown out all the wailing and gnashing of teeth this week.

Weather permitting, Ko will go off in the final threesome Sunday with Miyazato and Pettersen.

“There are so many players who are close,” Ko said. “I’ve just got to play my game.”

Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when she claimed the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old last year. She successfully defended her title three weeks ago in a five-shot runaway. She has won four professional titles as an amateur.

While Ko’s ball-striking was phenomenal Saturday, she grew frustrated with her putter. She missed three birdie chances inside 10 feet on the front nine, two of them inside 6 feet, but her mood lightened after she closed with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes.

Ko hit every fairway but one. She missed just three greens.

“I definitely gave myself a lot of opportunities,” Ko said. “I missed a lot of putts. I was pretty angry, and it was really building up. When I putted my birdie at 17, I said, 'Come on, please, it’s time to go in.’”

Ko will be 16 years, 4 months and 22 days old on Sunday. Morgan Pressel was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old when she became the youngest winner of a major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in ’07.

Only two amateurs have won women's majors. Catherine Lacoste won the U.S. Women’s Open in ’67. Pat O’Sullivan won the Titleholders in 1951.

Some proven major championship winners are also eager to overtake Miyazato.

Lewis, 28, is the Rolex world No. 2. She’s looking for her fourth LPGA title this year, her eighth in the last two seasons. She won the Ricoh Women’s British Open, closing fiercely last month. She won at St. Andrews with a birdie-birdie finish and a 5-iron through the wind at the Road Hole, a shot that ranks among the best ever hit in the close of a major.

Those memories are there to help Lewis this week.

“It took awhile for that to sink in, but knowing you can hit those shots, that I can hit the 5-iron like I did into 17, I think that’s huge for your confidence,” Lewis said. “I think I was three behind with two or three holes to play. Just knowing that anything can happen, and you have to keep hanging in there.”

Pettersen has some terrific momentum going. Five weeks ago, she was the heart and soul of the European Solheim Cup team that won on American soil for the first time. She won the Safeway Classic two weeks ago, claiming her 12th LPGA title. She hasn’t finished worse than T-7 in her last four starts.

At 32, though, it’s still what lies ahead that motivates Pettersen. She wants to win a second major. She wants to be No. 1.

“I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business out here,” Pettersen said. “I feel like my best game is ahead of me, and that’s what keeps me on my tippy toes.”

With a Rolex world ranking of No. 3, Pettersen is looking to move up. She has been as high as No. 2, but hasn't yet gained that top spot. She is probably the best active player today who hasn’t been No. 1.

“Winning tournaments is what I’m striving for,” Pettersen said. “If you do that, the rest will take care of itself. You can’t control what your opponents are doing. Inbee Park has had a fantastic season. I’ve been up against a few good No. 1s. I just think it makes you want it even more, grind it out, get even better every day.”

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."