Many changes for Ko before debut as LPGA member

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2014, 10:37 pm

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Lydia Ko will start the new season with a new coach, a new caddie and a new set of golf clubs.

She’s also getting closer to setting up an American base in Orlando, Fla., to play the tour’s domestic events.

With an offseason filled with more drama than she expected, Ko knows what consternation all of this will cause.

Is she making too many changes?

Will she have the same chemistry going with so many new pieces around her game?

Will she need time to acclimate to her new ensemble before she wins again?

Ko understands those are the questions that will be asked when she tees it up at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic Thursday in her first event as a rookie member of the LPGA. She is only 16, but she’s quickly learning that every little change in her game comes with intensifying scrutiny. With Ko at No. 4 in the Rolex world rankings, the level of interest in her is swelling, especially back in New Zealand, where she’s something of a national treasure having already won five pro events.

“A lot of people are saying, `You’re making big changes. After turning pro, you’re doing this, this and this different,’” Ko said Wednesday after her pro-am round in the Bahamas. “Yes, but I love a challenge.”

When Ko confirmed she was switching coaches last month, it created a giant stir back in New Zealand among Kiwis who didn’t like the fact that she was leaving Guy Wilson, the New Zealand Institute of Golf coach who taught her to play. Steve Williams, the Kiwi caddie who knows something about emotional splits and is a friend to Wilson, said he was “shocked” and could not “fathom” why she would leave him.

The backlash back home surprised Ko, and those in the know will tell you it hurt her.

“I was so surprised,” Ko said. “I didn’t know it would be a story, but it was big news in New Zealand.”

Ko is being coached now by David Leadbetter and Sean Hogan, who is on Leadbetter’s staff. She said she believes it’s best for her game to have a coach near where she will make her American base. She doesn’t like being coached at an event and prefers to do her work between events.

The backlash was instructive, alerting her to the realities of her growing fame.

“A lot of people have advised me, telling me this is what’s going to happen, that it’s not always going to be good, there will be some negative as well,” Ko said. “I’ve talked to players, and they’ve supported me. I had to do what’s best for my situation.”

Ko continues to impress LPGA officials and fellow players with her poise. The fact is, the Ko family has never rushed a decision relating to her career. The Kos took their time carefully considering Lydia’s transition to the professional game. While decisions about endorsements (ANZ), equipment contracts (Callaway) and coaching seemed to come in rapid-fire releases, they were long in the making.

And make no mistake, Lydia has a strong voice in all of these decisions.

Count Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis among those believing Ko knows exactly what she’s doing.

“Really, I think the sky’s the limit for her,” Lewis said. “There’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment, playing week in and week out on our tour, but once she figures that out, I think she’ll probably be the No. 1 player sometime in the future.

“She has a great demeanor about her. You would never know she’s as successful as she is at a young age. She just seems to handle it all really well. It’s refreshing. She’s very humble.”

Lewis and Ko will be paired together in the first two rounds of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Lewis played alongside Ko in the final round of the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open. Though Lewis was on her way to winning Rolex Player of the Year that season, Ko wasn’t fazed, holding off Lewis to become the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 15.

“There’s nothing really with her game that blows you away,” Lewis said. “You look at Inbee [Park] with her putting, or Lexi [Thompson] with her distance, they blow you away a little bit. Lydia just seems to get the ball in the hole quicker than anybody else. That’s the best thing I can say about her. She’ll just be going along, going along, and before you know it, she’s 5 or 6 under.”

Ko’s new caddie is Scott Lubin, who once caddied for Jack Nicklaus.

“Everything’s different,” Ko said.

Ko would like nothing better than to show with a continued run of success that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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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.