Park, Kim set to renew rivalry in Women's PGA finale

By Randall MellJune 14, 2015, 12:01 am

HARRISON, N.Y. – Threepeat?

Inbee Park says she isn’t focused on trying to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for the third consecutive year. She’s just trying to beat Sei Young Kim once.

“I have to say, my history with her is not great,” Park said after posting a 7-under-par 66 Saturday to take a two-shot lead on Kim going into the final round at Westchester Country Club.

Kim beat Park in a crazy playoff at the Lotte Championship in April. That’s the event  where Kim chipped in at the 18th hole to force a playoff and then holed out from 154 yards with an 8-iron to win on the first sudden-death hole.

Kim’s an LPGA rookie, and that was her second title this season. She turned Park into a mere bystander in her first victory, too. Park played alongside Kim in the final round of the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in January and watched Kim go on to win it.

“She probably feels like, `I win when I play with Inbee,’ because it's twice that she has won, and I played with her both times,” Park said. “There is always a first time. I’ve never won in front of Sei Young. So, never know, hopefully tomorrow.”

Kim started Saturday with the lead and promptly birdied the first two holes. She stretched her lead from one shot on Karrie Webb to five shots in practically the blink of an eye.

KPMG Women’s PGA: Articles, videos and photos

“She played unbelievably well,” said Webb (72) who is six shots back. “It was impressive to watch pretty much how flawless it was, except for a couple of shots.”

Even Webb, however, was surprised to see the long-hitting Kim bogey the last hole, a par 5, to give Park that two-shot cushion.

“I don't mind my position right now, because I feel comfortable,” said Kim, who built a reputation for comeback victories on the Korean Tour. “I have done this before. So tomorrow I will be aggressive, and I will do my best to try to win tomorrow.”

With Kim off that fast start Saturday, Park wouldn’t let her run away. Playing in the pairing in front of Kim, Park was brilliant. She made seven birdies and no bogeys on a firm, fast and tough setup. Park hit every fairway, and she hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

“It was the same approach Inbee takes in all the majors,” said her long-time caddie, Brad Beecher. “Look at the pins, know the ones you can’t touch. Then when you are able to attack, play a little more aggressively.”

There are five par 5s at Westchester, and Park attacked them, making birdies at four of them.

The Women’s PGA Championship is the rebranded name of the LPGA Championship, which Park won the last two years. Park is seeking her fifth major championship title in the last 12 majors played.

Kim was in control until late on Saturday. She had a one-shot lead with two holes to go, but Park birdied the 17th in front of her to tie for the lead and then Park birdied the 18th to move a shot ahead. Kim missed a 5-footer for par at the last to bogey to fall two shots back.

Park will be back alongside Kim in Sunday’s final-round pairing. They’ve both separated themselves from the field. Webb, Suzann Pettersen (71) and 17-year-old Brooke Henderson (71) are tied for third but six shots off the lead.

Park was asked if it’s a two-woman race.

“It just really depends how they set up the golf course,” Park said. “If they set it up really, really tough, I think it can be just me and Sei Young trying to battle each other. But if there are a lot of pin placements that we can get to, I mean, there’s been a 7-under par score every day for the last three days, so why not tomorrow?”

Park, 26, and Kim, 22, are playing so well, they could put on a Sunday show and run away from everyone else. It could turn into match play. Though Kim is the rookie, her recent record against Park seems to give Kim something of a psychological advantage.

“Sei Young is a long hitter, and this golf course really suits her, because a lot of the par 5s are reachable,” Park said. “A couple of the par 5s that I can't get too, she can get to. It's a matter of keeping up with her on the par 5s and I think I will be pretty safe.”

Kim has those two titles this year, but her record isn’t without a blemish. She took a three-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration and squandered it. Still, she proved at Pure Silk and Lotte she knows how to close. She won won five times playing the Korean LPGA Tour and led that tour in driving distance the last two years. Her caddie, Paul Fusco, knows Westchester Country as well as anybody in this field. He used to be Vijay Singh’s caddie and was on Singh’s bag for two of Singh’s four victories at Westchester Country Club.

“Paul’s helped me incredibly,” Kim said. “When I was told Paul won here twice with Vijay ... I felt I was going to play well here. Hopefully tomorrow, all of his energy transfers to make sure that I will do my best to win tomorrow.

Park will be doing her best to end Kim’s reign over her.

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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.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”