Ko stays calm, cards 71 in pro debut

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2013, 10:05 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko’s hands weren’t shaking.

Her knees weren’t wobbly.

The 16-year-old from New Zealand didn’t seem fazed standing over her first tee shot as a pro Thursday in the start of the CME Group Titleholders at Tiburon.

That impressed Michelle Wie.

Playing alongside Ko, Wie’s mind raced back to her own debut as a pro at the Samsung World Championship eight years ago. Wie was 15.

“I remember my first shot,” Wie said. “I was actually telling Lydia about it as we were walking. I remember at Bighorn at the first hole, it was uphill. I hit my 3-wood, and I remember hitting it just a little bit thin, and I was just shaking. I was so nervous. I remember hitting the first fairway and just throwing my hands up in the air, I was so happy.

“Lydia looked calm, a lot calmer than I looked.”

Pro debuts are unpredictable experiences. Wie left hers with a sour taste in her mouth. She was disqualified in the Sunday finish at Bighorn after it was deemed she took an illegal drop during the third round.

Ko striped her first tee shot at Tiburon into the fairway, but she didn’t look comfortable early in her debut, even though she said she felt surprisingly at ease grinding out a 1-under-par 71.

She’s tied for 30th.

“It didn’t feel too odd or special,” Ko said. “That actually surprised me. I thought I was going to be nervous.”

Ko missed good birdie chances at the first and second holes, missing putts from 5 and 10 feet.

And then she uncharacteristically made a mess of the third hole, making her first double bogey as a pro before making her first birdie. She hooked her tee shot into the trees and onto pine straw. From there, she hooked her second shot, a 7-iron, through some more trees, her ball squirting out onto coquina in a sandy waste area.

“I was trying to hook it [around the trees], but I think I was too ambitious,” Ko said.

Ko chunked her third shot, unable to get it out of the waste area. Then she clumsily knocked her fourth well past the hole. She two-putted for 6.

Ko made another bogey at the seventh, missing a 2-foot putt for par.

“It was a silly mistake,” Ko said. “I have a tendency to kind of jam the putt in with the short ones. I think I tried to do that, but on a slight downhill slope it was too much.”

Ko didn’t betray any frustration going 3 over through seven holes. She was her typically unaffected self. In fact, she bounced back at the eighth hole to make her first birdie as a pro, knocking in a 12-footer. She made four birdies to get under par over the final 11 holes.

“Getting angry obviously doesn’t help my game,” Ko said. “So, I just tried to stay calm.”

Ko is making her 12th LPGA start this year, but the first where she can take home a check. She left $934,000 on the table playing as an amateur in LPGA tournaments this year. Notably, her pro debut is coming with the largest first-place check in women’s golf up for grabs. There’s $700,000 waiting for the winner.

“One of the good things was I actually wasn’t thinking about any money or related stuff,” Ko said. “I just tried to play my game, which was obviously very helpful.”

Ko’s game has already been good enough to win two LPGA events before her 17th birthday. She will be looking to step up and make it three this weekend.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.