Ko your average teen despite new pro status

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2013, 10:17 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko seems old for her age.

Sometimes, she appears to be 16 going on 30, but her mother knows better.

Tina, Ko’s mother, reminded us on the eve of her daughter’s debut as a professional at the CME Group Titleholders that Lydia really is still a teenager.

While Tina says Lydia isn’t very materialistic, she has been peppering her mother with a particular wish.

“She wants a puppy,” Tina said Wednesday after Ko’s news conference at Tiburon.

Before just about every tournament, Tina says, Lydia tries to strike a deal with her. If Lydia wins, she wants the puppy. Now, as a pro, she could buy it herself with the prize money.

“I say no,” Tina says.

Tina reminds Lydia that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog because they travel so much, and they’ll be traveling even more when Lydia begins her rookie season as a full LPGA member next year. And they can’t leave the dog with Lydia’s father, Hong, or older sister, Sura, back at their Auckland home in New Zealand.

“They have allergies to the hair,” Tina said.

It says something about Ko that with all the things she might have purchased with the $934,000 she left on the table as an amateur in 11 LPGA starts this year, she only pines for a puppy. As is Lydia’s nature, however, she doesn’t get upset about her mother’s veto.

“There isn’t a bad bone in Lydia’s body,” says Danielle Kang, who is Ko’s closest friend on the LPGA’s tour. “She’s just a very happy kind of person, very mature for her age. It shows in her golf. She plays so carefree, having fun. I kind of lost that when I turned pro.”

Ko might have left nearly a $1 million in LPGA winnings on the table this year, but she didn’t go without some spending money. Tina revealed that Lydia earned her allowance this past year playing golf.

“$5 a birdie,” Tina said.

Ko was asked if she knew what the first-place check is worth this week. It happens to be $700,000, the richest winner’s take in all of women’s golf.

“I wasn’t that interested,” Ko said. “Then my mom looked it up, and she said it was like, $500,000 last year and it’s gone even higher this year. I said, `Oh, so people who don’t come in first place will get less money this year.’”

While the tour kept this year’s CME Group Titleholders purse at $2 million, it substantially ratcheted up the winner’s share.

Naturally, with Ko playing as a pro for the first time, she’s being asked a lot about money this week. She won’t really know how playing for money affects her until she’s over a putt worth a lot of it.

“As a rookie next year, I think that will be the year I learn the most,” Ko said. “Being a professional and being an amateur is totally different, and next year I’ll have to learn a lot. This year, I think I only played one or two tournaments back to back, so that’s a whole different thing where I’ll need to play three or four in a row.

“Next year, I’ll need to perform well, but it’s more about learning and getting more experience.”

The Kos don’t seem in any rush to cash in on the financial opportunities there for Lydia. Though Ko visited Callaway last week to test equipment, there is no pending deal. She also visited TaylorMade and is interested in testing Fourteen, the Japanese clubs. The Kos also have yet to choose an agent or strike an endorsement deal.

“She’s still wearing amateur clothing,” Ko said.

In fact, Ko was wearing a New Zealand Institute of Golf cap in her news conference Wednesday at Tiburon. That’s where her coach, Guy Wilson, is based, and it’s where she practices a lot when she’s home.

There is a new logo on Ko’s bag, Puma, but that’s only because Puma replaced Srixon as the funding sponsor for New Zealand Golf, the national foundation that supported Ko’s amateur run.

Ko travels only with her mother, Tina, a former middle school English teacher in South Korea, where Lydia was born before the family moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. Lydia’s father, Hong, takes over the parental golf role when Lydia is home practicing.

“Her father is with her from morning till darkness at home,” Tina said.

Hong ran a small business, but Tina said it failed in recent years. The couple have devoted themselves to Lydia’s career, with New Zealand Golf’s help. The national foundation has funded the Kos' travel and golf needs.

Tina and Hong are married, but Tina kept her maiden name, Hyon. Lydia’s mother and father don’t play golf. Neither does Sura, 24, Lydia’s older sister. Sura studied architecture but works at the Auckland airport now.

“Lydia and Sura are very close,” Tina said. “Lydia calls Sura her angel.”

Lydia is also very close with her parents, two very different personalities. Tina says Hong’s intensity rises and falls from morning to night, something Lydia teases him about. Asked where Lydia’s unflappable disposition comes from, Tina smiled. She said Lydia gets her even-temperament from her, but to Lydia’s dismay, she also passed on her looks to Lydia.

“My husband is good looking, much better than me,” Tina said. “My oldest daughter, she’s really beautiful like her father. Lydia says, mom, `Why is my sister much more beautiful than me?’ I say, `Sorry, Lydia, it’s my fault.’”

Hong is with his daughter whenever she practices back home in New Zealand. He has never traveled to the United States for any of her LPGA starts. He doesn’t speak English. There is a small Korean community in Auckland where he doesn’t really have to speak English. Lydia speaks Korean with her father.

The Kos revealed Wednesday that they are looking for an American base to live. They may purchase an apartment, but likely not until next year, at the earliest.

“We are looking in Florida, Texas, and a couple other places where there’s no income tax,” Ko said.

Ko got a big laugh in the media room when she revealed part of her conversation with Phil Mickelson while she tested equipment at Callaway last week.

“Phil mentioned that one of his biggest mistakes was staying where the taxes are high,” Ko said.

Ko calls Mickelson an idol, and when asked her career ambitions, she pointed to Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.

“I want to be remembered like Annika or Lorena,” Ko said. “They did so much for the LPGA, the women’s game. One of the big things is I want to be known quite well to the spectators for being very nice and very friendly. I obviously want to be the world’s best golfer in the future.”

Ko’s first steps as a pro to that end come Thursday at Tiburon.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

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.