Ko, Park pit similar games against each other

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2015, 9:21 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – They don’t swing the club the same way, but they play the game so similarly.

Lydia Ko and Inbee Park are chess masters who aren’t just plotting their way around a golf course this week. They’re plotting to get in position Sunday to win the load of large awards and prizes that are making the CME Group Tour Championship almost feel like a major championship.

“The most scary thing about Lydia is she’s so similar to me,” Park said at week’s start. “I can’t really see that much difference with me. I don't know what her plan is and what she's thinking, but it's almost the same as me. That’s the most scary thing about her.”

The difference in Thursday’s first round? Ko’s putter was hotter.

Ko opened with a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for ninth, three shots behind Austin Ernst. Park opened with a 71.

While Ernst is playing for the $500,000 first-place check, Ko and Park are playing for that and so much more. They’re playing for the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

For Ko and Park, the point projections for all those different prizes could be dizzying if they allowed themselves to dwell on them.

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“If you think about it, there might be more on the line this week than at Evian,” said Ko, who won the Evian Championship for her first major in September. “I’ve got to focus on one shot at a time and not think of it as a major.”

For Park, there’s yet another prize within reach as she’s just one point away from meeting the 27-point requirement to make the LPGA Hall of Fame. Park can meet that with a victory or by winning the Rolex Player of the Year Award or the Vare Trophy. They’re each worth one Hall of Fame point.

“I don’t know how they are sleeping at night, to be honest with you,” said Brittany Lincicome, a two-time major championship winner. “To have so many different prizes on the line, I don't think I would sleep. I would be so nervous.”

Both Ko and Park slipped a spot in the standings in their bid to win the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot. Sei Young Kim’s 68 moved her into first place in projected CME points. Ko dropped to second and Park to third.

“I’m very excited,” said Kim, the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year. “It’s my dream. It’s come almost true. I try not to think about it on the course. It’s step by step.”

Ko played alongside Park and Stacy Lewis in the first round. They started the day 1-2-3, respectively, in CME points. Lewis opened with a 72 and now sits fourth in CME points.

“I’ve got to hit the ball better,” Lewis said. “Not really think about the lead, just play better golf.”

Ko gained the advantage on Park Thursday by holing putts. She needed 27 putts to Park’s 31.

“I hit a lot of greens and fairways, just couldn’t putt,” Park said. “These Bermuda greens got me again. I haven’t putted that well on Bermuda greens.”

Park rebounded from trouble early. She hooked her approach at the first hole into the water and made bogey.

“Just got off to a sluggish start,” she said.

The field will be re-grouped Friday based on first-round scores, meaning Park and Ko won’t be playing side by side again. The tension promises to mount as Sunday gets closer and projections and calculations for the CME Globe and other prizes become more meaningful.

“We've got the world's best golfer and the top players here,” Ko said. “It’s a great field, so in a way it does feel like a major. With everything that might come along on Sunday, might be even more than that. I’ve just got to say, `Hey, hit good shots.’”

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.