Lewis, Ko ready to battle again at LPGA opener

By Randall MellJanuary 29, 2015, 10:43 pm

OCALA, Fla. – Fire and ice.

It’s a pretty good show if you can catch it.

The fiery Stacy Lewis vs. the unflappable Lydia Ko.

The Coates Golf Championship featured the touring production in a pairing over its first two rounds, and the duo didn’t disappoint. They usually don’t. They’re in contention together yet again for another LPGA title.

While much is made of the emerging rivalry between Inbee Park and Lewis, you could make an argument that the veteran Lewis and the youthful Ko are laying a solid foundation for a meaningful rivalry of their own. They seem to bring out the best in each other in their unusually frequent pairings, and they’re doing it again.

With Golden Ocala playing tough Thursday, Lewis moved into contention with a 2-under-par 70 in the LPGA’s season opener. She sits in second place, four shots behind rookie Ha Na Jang, who made an impressive afternoon charge with a 7-under-par 65 to get to 12 under overall.

Ko (69) was tied for third, five shots behind Jang.

If Lewis and Ko can catch the impressive Jang and take their act into the final round, there may be a lot more at stake than a trophy and a $225,000 winner’s check. With Inbee Park off to a sluggish start, Lewis and Ko are in position to seize the Rolex No. 1 world ranking from Park.

Ko entered the week at No. 2 in the world with Lewis at No. 3.

If Ko wins the Coates Golf Championship, she moves to No. 1 no matter what Park or Lewis do.

If Lewis wins, she moves to No. 1 if Park finishes eighth or worse and Ko finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse.

Park shot 75 Thursday and sat more than a dozen shots off the lead.

Lewis, 29, has had a front-row seat for the remarkably swift ascendance of Ko, 17.

When Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA event, taking the trophy at the CN Canadian Pacific Women’s Open when she was just 15, she did so playing alongside Lewis in the final round.

When Ko won the Swinging Skirts Classic in San Francisco last year, she played all four rounds with Lewis.

Though Lewis wasn’t paired with Ko in final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last summer, she overtook her and Cristie Kerr in a dramatic back-nine battle to win by a shot.

Lewis and Ko have dueled more than Lewis and Park have.

When the 2014 season ended at the CME Group Tour Championship, they shared the spotlight. Lewis swept the Rolex Player of the Year Award, Vare Trophy and the money-winning title. Ko took home the richest payday in the history of women’s golf, claiming CME’s $1 million season-long points bonus and the $500,000 CME Group Tour Championship.

Lewis said their games set up well together.

“We play well on the same type of golf courses,” Lewis said. “You look at this one, and San Francisco, a tree-lined golf course, you’ve got to hit it on the right spot on the greens, play smart. I think our games are just really similar, so we play well on the same courses.”

Ko seems to relish playing alongside Lewis. There’s mutual respect. They appear to have a lot to talk about. They were chatting amiably up more than one fairway again Thursday.

“She’s a great kid,” Lewis said. “She usually has a few good stories to tell here and there. She’s fun, easy to play with.”

But not easy to beat.

“Stacy has played great every single time I've played with her,” Ko said. “I kind of try and feed off her, and she's someone I look up to, and I always learn. She's such a confident player. I always enjoy playing with her. Yeah, it's always fun whenever I get paired up with Stacy.”

They’ll be looking to have some fun trying to beat each other again at Golden Ocala this week.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry