Ko seeking first win in nearly a year

By Randall MellMay 17, 2017, 8:13 pm

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Lydia Ko has reigned as Rolex world No. 1 for 101 weeks, the last 82 in a row.

Ariya Jutanugarn is coming off a five-victory season as the LPGA Player of the Year.

So Yeon Ryu won the first major championship of the year and leads the LPGA in money winnings, scoring, greens in regulation and Rolex Player of the Year points.

Nobody, though, has taken charge of the year. In fact, Ko and Jutanugarn are looking for their first victories of 2017.

That is the year’s early storyline going into this week’s Kingsmill Championship.

Through 10 LPGA events, there have been 10 different winners.

While that doesn’t seem so unusual, it is.

That’s the longest stretch the LPGA has gone opening a season without a multiple winner in 26 years, since 1991, when 15 different winners won the first 15 events of the year.

“It just shows that week in and week out, you really never know who is going to win,” Ko said.

Ko has won at least three times in each of her first three full seasons on tour.

“The amount of talent on tour is huge,” Ko said. “You can see that through, obviously, all our winners this year, and when you see, at the end the year, the first-time winners, eight, nine new winners, you go, `Wow, it's not just about three players. It’s not just about the big three. It's about the whole tour.’

“I think that's great for the game. It's a lot of players from different countries, from the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. It gets a lot of people into the game.”

Cristie Kerr had a chance to become the first multiple winner of the year at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout three weeks ago, but lost a sudden-death playoff there to Haru Nomura on the sixth extra hole.

“When I first came out, there might have been 20 or 30 girls that could win,” Kerr said. “Now, everybody can win on a given week.”

Ko, who turned 20 last month, has already won 14 LPGA titles in her career, but she’s seeking her first victory in 10 months, since she won the Marathon Classic last July.

In a year of transition, Ko seeks her first victory with her new coach (Gary Gilchrist), her new equipment (PXG) and her newest caddie (Peter Godfrey). She says she feels good about where they’re all helping her go.

“The weeks that I've had top 10s, I've hit the ball really well but I was struggling on the greens,” Ko said. “But then in Hawaii, I was able to get a few putts to go in on the weekend. I think that was a huge difference for me getting the best results I had since my last win at the Marathon Classic.”

Ko tied for second at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii last month, her best finish in 2017.

“Hopefully, I will be able to get a few more things to click,” Ko said. “At the end of the day, I don't feel like it's way off. It's just a few putts, that are sliding by, for them to drop, and a few more fairways hit. It's very small, but at the end of week they end up being a big difference, between a top-10 finish or being in contention, or being outside of the top 10.”

Jutanugarn also is seeking her first victory of the year, her first in almost nine months.

Ryu won the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major. It catapulted her into the mix for the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, which finally feels within reach for anyone outside Ko, who has held the top spot for the last 18 months.

Just .249 points separate the top three in the world rankings.

Any of the three could walk away with the No. 1 ranking come Sunday evening.

“I don't really look at the rankings myself,” Ko said. “I don't go in my spare time and look, `Hey, what position am I in?’ I kind of know these things through media and when people tell me, `Hey it's getting close. It could change this week.’

“It's been a huge honor to be in this position. It's always been a dream of mine to be the No. 1-ranked player. For it to have happened so early, it's something I'm very fortunate about.”

Ko knows what the increasing depth of talent means.

“I know I need to work hard, and I need that performance, to try and maintain it,” Ko said. “I’ve just got to focus on the round, the shot in front of me, and not get too carried away about the results and the rankings. Just got to focus on me. I think that's the important thing going forward.”

Ko would love to make it 11 different winners in 11 events come Sunday evening in Kingsmill.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.