Large pack chasing Ko in Founders Cup

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2014, 1:57 am

PHOENIX – It’s more ballet move than golf swing.

Lydia Ko should play to Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky.

There’s music in the 16-year-old’s movements at this week’s JTBC Founders Cup.

That’s what Shirley Spork thinks. One of the 13 founders of the LPGA, Spork, 84, has studied a lot of swings over the years. She played with Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg and Louise Suggs. More than that, Spork is a student of the swing who became one of the great women teachers. She was instrumental in the creation of the LPGA’s teaching division.

Spork made a point of getting out in a golf cart and following Ko this week, but she says she would have been content just watching her hit balls on the range.

“I enjoy watching her play,” Spork said. “She has absolutely perfect tempo and rhythm. Each and every swing has the same tempo and rhythm. It’s the same with every club in her bag.

“She’s a blossoming star, just coming into existence. Hopefully, she keeps that swing and doesn’t let anyone mess with it. She’s going to be great.”

Ko’s star continues to rise at the Founders Cup, where she will take aim Sunday at winning her third LPGA title before her 17th birthday, her sixth professional title overall.

With a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Ko seized the 54-hole lead at JW Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club. She goes into the final round one shot ahead of Jessica Korda (66), Sun Young Yoo (68) and fellow rookie Mirim Lee (70), but this is shaping up as a potentially wild shootout with nine players within three shots of the lead on a golf course that is yielding a load of birdies.

Michelle Wie (67), So Yeon Ryu (68) and Azahara Munoz (64) are among a pack of five players three back.

Defending champ Stacy Lewis (67) Paula Creamer (64) and Morgan Pressel (67) are just four behind.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some nerves,” Ko said. “But it’s great you have a one-shot lead.”

It’s looking like it will take a blitz of birdies to win this event.

“It’s perfect scoring conditions,” said Korda, who won the LPGA season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas. “Definitely, a low score is going to take it tomorrow.”

Cristie Kerr equaled the course record Saturday with a 63. Creamer and Munoz shot 64s.

Korda checked the leaderboard as she started her round.

“I was like, `Wow, that’s some serious scoring out there,’” Korda said.

Ko is among six players who have shot in the 60s every round this week.

“There are obviously going to be low scores,” Ko said. “That’s why you’ve just got to concentrate the whole way, and you never know, until the last hole, the last putt.”

Ko may be a rookie, but nobody’s treating her like one here. Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old two seasons ago. She defended that title last year.

“It would be pretty special to have my first win [as an LPGA member] be here at the Founders Cup,” Ko said.

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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.