Newsmaker of the Year, No. 4: Park vs. Ko

By Randall MellDecember 16, 2015, 1:00 pm

Lydia Ko and Inbee Park made 2015 another march through the record books.

Ko was on so many leaderboards this year, if you didn’t see her name up there, you wondered if somebody should issue an Amber alert.

Same with Park.

Ko and Park didn’t just combine to win 10 of the 31 LPGA events staged this year. They combined for 32 top-10 finishes, 22 top-five finishes. Ko or Park finished first, second or third in more than half (16) of the events staged.

Ko won five times. So did Park.

Ko won a major, Park won two.

Ko won the Rolex Player of the Year title, Race to the CME Globe and the tour money title.

Park, 27, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame doing so. She’ll become the youngest inductee ever sometime next year.

“They both push each other,” said Brad Beecher, Park’s caddie. “No matter what week it is, one of them is playing outstanding golf. It inspires the other one to play better. I don’t know that it’s a rivalry where they feel like, `I must beat her.’ I think it’s more like, `I want to be as good as her. I want to do what she’s doing.’”


Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list


Ko’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, said the two players bring out the best in each other.

“Inbee’s a great player,” Hamilton said. “Whenever you see you are in a pairing with Inbee, it’s a plus. She drags you up. She has that effect on people.”

Ko keeps proving herself golf’s ultimate prodigy, sweeping through the grandest of youthful slams. At 17, back in February, she became the youngest man or woman to rise to the No. 1 ranking in professional golf. At 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old, she won the Evian Championship, becoming the youngest woman to win a major championship. She became the youngest LPGA Player of the Year and money title winner, and she also became the youngest player to reach 10 career LPGA victories.

Park added two more major championship titles to her total this year, winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She has won six of the last 15 majors. That moves her into elite company at seven major championship titles overall. She has won as many majors as Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb. Only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Babe Zaharias (10), Annika Sorenstam (10) and Betsy Rawls (8) have won more.

Ko closed her first major championship victory with a masterpiece.

Ko’s 63 in the final round of Evian may have been the best performance in the history of women’s majors. Evian isn’t Oakmont or St. Andrews, far from it, but the venue isn’t what distinguished the effort. It was the fact that her 63 was so much better than anybody else’s score trying to win on Sunday, when the pressure to perform is greatest. That’s what made her round feel so historic. Her 63 was seven shots better than anyone else in contention, than anyone among the final 18 players teeing off on that Sunday in France.

Park’s 2015 highlight also came in the final round of a major. Her 7-under-par 65 at Trump Turnberry gave her the title she most wanted this year, the Women’s British Open. The LPGA and Park recognized it as the crowning achievement in a career Grand Slam, her fourth different major championship triumph, though the career “Grand Slam” designation remains debated with the LPGA featuring five majors.

Winning the Women’s British Open came with extra meaning because of Park’s history in that major. She took a one-shot lead into the final round at Royal Birkdale in 2014 and faltered on the back nine. At St. Andrews the year before, she came into Scotland having won the first three majors of the year but fell short trying to make a Grand Slam run when she lost there.

“I’ve set one goal, and one goal only this year, and that’s winning the British Open,” Park said after winning at Turnberry.

Ko and Park left their footprints all over the 2015 season, and they will be looking to do the same next year in extending their march through the LPGA’s record books.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.