Park cruises to win in final round of Kraft Nabisco

By Randall MellApril 8, 2013, 2:43 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Inbee Park has a terrific counter punch.

A day after Lizette Salas revealed that boxing champ Oscar De La Hoya was rooting for Salas to go for the “knockout” at the Kraft Nabisco, it was Park who landed the big blow early.

Park pretty much won by TKO on the first hole of the final round Sunday at the Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Course.

Three shots ahead of Salas at day’s start, with nobody else closer than six, Park buried a 20-foot birdie putt at the opening hole. With Salas cold-topping her approach to No. 1, advancing it just 15 yards in the rough on the way to making double bogey, Park was on the better side of a staggering three-shot swing. With another birdie at the second hole, Park was off and running with a seven-shot lead in a finish that offered little drama.

Closing with a 3-under-par 69, Park claimed her second major championship title, ultimately winning by four shots over fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu, who tried to make it interesting with a closing 65. Park finished at 15-under 273 overall.

“She looks like she played another golf course,” Ryu said. “This golf course is really hard.”

Park’s victory gives the South Koreans three major championship titles in a row, four of the last five.

“It feels very good,” Park said. “It has been awhile since I won a major. It feels very special.”

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Park broke through to win her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen in 2008.

This victory shouldn’t surprise. Park and Stacy Lewis are the two hottest players in the women’s game. Park won the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average last year. Lewis was the Rolex Player of the Year. The victory is Park’s second already this year, equaling Lewis’ fast start. The two have won four of the first six LPGA events this season.

Lewis, who tied for 32nd on Sunday, will remain the Rolex world No. 1 when the newest women’s rankings are released on Monday. Park will climb to No. 2 after starting the week at No. 4.

“I think Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis might be the next big battle this year,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said.

Park seems to be in contention every time she tees it up now. She has won four of her last 16 LPGA starts dating back to last summer. She had a remarkable run last year where she finished first or second eight times over 14 events. She finished outside the top 10 just twice in that five-month span.

“I feel a lot of confidence with my swing and with my putting,” Park said. “Everything has been going the right way this season, and it feels good.”

Not a power player, Park wasn’t sure of her chances coming into the Kraft Nabisco, thinking she hit the ball too low for the Dinah Shore course’s quick surfaces. Park, though, showed masterful control through four rounds. Nobody hit more greens in regulation all week (57/72). Her ball striking has improved dramatically since she asked her fiancé, Gi Hyeob Nam, to coach her last year.

Really, though, Park’s putting is her greatest weapon.

Park, wielding her Odyssey Sabertooth putter like some magic wand, may be the best putter on tour. She has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation three of the last five years. Twice, she has finished first in putts per GIR and total putts.

From the start Sunday, Park’s putter didn’t let her down. She rolled in that 20-footer at the first and another 15-footer at the second. She buried a couple 30 footers for birdies coming home with just one hiccup, a short miss at the 17th that did not really matter.

“I’ve seen Inbee do this before,” Lewis said. “When she’s rolling it, you can’t beat her.”

Park was rolling in birdies that landed like knockout punches Sunday at Mission Hills.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x