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.

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“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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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.