Ko gives herself belated birthday gift with 'Skirts' win

By Randall MellApril 27, 2015, 3:29 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – This won’t count as Lydia Ko’s first major championship victory, but it sure felt like it should.

With Lake Merced offering a brutish test that played a lot like a U.S. Women’s Open, with a strong, deep field to beat, Ko won a war of attrition Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Classic.

She was the last woman standing with long shadows falling over a long, hard day.

While Ko won’t go into the record books as the youngest woman to win a major championship claiming this title, she had to beat the youngest woman ever to win a major. Ko defeated Morgan Pressel in a playoff with a birdie at the second hole of sudden death. Pressel became the youngest winner of a major when she took the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2007 at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old. Pressel was trying to win her third LPGA title Sunday, her first since taking the Kapalua Classic in ’08.

Ko once more turned the 18th at Lake Merced into her personal stage, creating some terrific theater for the second year in a row. Last year, she ended this event by making birdie at the 72nd hole to beat Stacy Lewis by a shot. She set up this year’s victory by hitting a wedge to 8 feet at the final hole of regulation, then making a birdie to force the playoff. She hit a wedge to 5 feet at the same finishing hole on the second playoff hole. She won by making that last birdie chance after watching Pressel’s 10-foot chance slip left of the hole.

“It’s always a very close one here,” Ko said. “This tournament always makes my heart clench. I always get so nervous.”

It marks Ko’s first victory as a legal adult. She counts it as a belated birthday present, her first victory since turning 18 on Friday. It’s the third worldwide victory this season for the Rolex world No. 1, her second LPGA title of the year. She’s now 2-0 in playoffs in her LPGA career.

Though Ko insists she feels pressure, she looked her typically unflappable self with the intensity ratcheting up. She was chuckling good naturedly stepping to the tee to begin the playoff. She laughed and shook her head after hitting her last wedge close to set up her winning putt.

Ko was asked if she really does feel nerves.

“I do get nervous,” Ko said. “You have to take my word on that. My 17th-hole shot at Ocala definitely proves it, doesn't it?  That was a pretty bad shot.”

Ko shanked a shot at Golden Ocala at the end of this year’s season opener, losing out on a chance to win there. It was a rare failure for this young star.

Pressel didn’t see any nerves in Ko on Sunday.

“She's very, very impressive, and she’s always there [in contention],” Pressel said. “At her age, she plays with so much poise and calmness that I don't think you see from other kids her age.”

Pressel caught herself with the last comment.

“I guess she's not a kid anymore, sorry,” Pressel said.

Ko started the day three shots back, then dug herself a bigger hole with a bogey-bogey start to fall four behind.

“I said `Man, this is an awful start,’” Ko said.

But she battled to the end. She felt like the long birdie putt she holed at the 15th was a difference maker. She ignited a roar dropping a birdie from 40 feet that got her within a shot of Pressel.

“I thought it was going to stop in front of the hole,” Ko said. “But it went in and definitely gave me a lot of confidence.”

For Pressel, there was disappointment in the end, but she has come so far so quickly since overhauling her swing before the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix six weeks ago. She said she was lost with her swing on the Asian swing at season’s start, but she found a spark reuniting with swing coach Ron Stockton. She tied for third at the ANA Inspiration three weeks ago, missing out on a playoff by one shot.

“I definitely feel like there are so many positives,” Pressel said. “If you would've told me before I left Phoenix that I would finish third at ANA and then second, I don't think I would've believed you.

A shot behind at Sunday’s start, Pressel took charge early. She holed a 55-foot eagle at the sixth hole that gave her a two-shot lead. She left Lake Merced kicking herself over missed chances, including a missed 5-foot birdie putt at the fifth hole and a missed 4-foot birdie chance at the ninth that would have given her a three-shot lead going to the back nine.

“Nothing was really sharp,” Pressel said. “I definitely missed some putts that I could have made.  It was a very strange day. Missed a 4-footer for birdie, make a 50-footer for eagle on the next hole, and then three-putt. I was kind of all over the place.

“But I gave myself a chance, and that's what I came here to do.”

Ko won changing her strategy at the 18th. After laying up to 108 yards at the end of regulation and then 111 yards on the first playoff hole to hit pitching wedge in, she hit a longer hybrid as her layup at the second playoff hole. She laid up to 96 yards so she could hit sand wedge, instead. She hit it so hard she couldn’t believe the divot she took and thought she might have hit it too heavy.

It was nearly a perfect shot, though, spinning to 5 feet to help her close out.

“We were both hitting the ball good, so in the end I knew it would come down to somebody making a putt,” Ko said.

Golf is getting accustomed to seeing Ko make those putts.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.