Park prepares to build upon stellar 2013

By Randall MellApril 1, 2014, 9:30 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – How does an artist follow up a masterpiece?

How daunting were the challenges for Michelangelo after he painted the Sistine Chapel? Or for Beethoven after he composed his ninth symphony?

The first major championship of the year arrives with that question.

How does Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park follow up the artistry she exhibited in last year’s majors?

Park didn’t just win the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2013. She launched a major championship run the likes of which the women’s game hadn’t witnessed in six decades. By going on to win the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open, Park became the first woman to win the first three majors of the year since Babe Zaharias in 1950.

Park, 25, may well leap into Poppie’s Pond after topping the field at the Kraft Nabisco again this week, but how does she top herself in the 2014 majors? How does she top one of the greatest seasons in the history of women’s majors?

“Every new season, I think about doing better than the last season,” Park said. “That’s usually my goal. Obviously, it’s going to be very tough to beat last year.”

Tough? She would have to do something no man or woman has ever done. She would have to win four major championships in the same calendar year. Park, though, says tournament results aren’t a total gauge of how she measures success. Park said she elevated her game, in great part, by focusing on being a complete person, on being content and happy off the course. She says she is tackling the challenges this year in the same way.

If you think that’s a lot of nonsense, ask LPGA pros who have been around Park the last four or five years.

“You always see her and her fiancé when they're traveling,” Stacy Lewis said when asked about the difference in Park’s game last year. “They're always holding hands, walking in the airport, and they are very cute together. You can tell she's very happy in her life, and obviously very happy with where her golf game is. More than anything, that's what's showing in her game.”

Fellow South Korean Na Yeon Choi envies more than Park’s great putting skills.

“Sometimes, I’m very jealous of Inbee, because she has a very happy life,” Choi said.

Park’s formula for contentment, however, links her heart and swing in ways few players do.

That’s because Park’s swing coach is also her fiancé. She has been engaged to Gi Hyeob Nam for more than two years. Nam began traveling with her full time in 2012, and it’s no coincidence her game took off about the same time.

Nam’s magic runs beyond the heart.

Park broke through to win the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 19 at Interlachen, becoming the youngest winner of the championship. After that, she endured four winless seasons amid some erratic ball striking. Her game came together in a hurry with Nam guiding her.

Nam found something in Park’s swing that turned around her waywardness. He fixed her early release, creating a lower ball flight.

When Park accepted her Rolex Player of the Year Award last year, she talked about what Nam’s commitment to her means.

“He took a tremendous risk when he decided to stand by me and support me on the tour,” Park said. “I don’t think I could thank him enough for the sacrifices he has made. Despite not speaking English, he made a decision to move to a foreign country with only one thing, faith in me.

“Some people say he is the lucky one, but they are wrong. I am the lucky one. Because of him, I was able to fall in love again with golf. I began to enjoy my life on tour and that is reflected in my play.”

Park is off to a strong start again this year. She won the World Ladies Championship on the Ladies European Tour last month and has finished in the top 10 in all four of her LPGA starts this year. She believes her ball striking is better than it was a year ago, and she's waiting for her putter to get hot.

“I’m going to have tough weeks,” Park said. “But, I think, just being a happier person, not thinking so much about results, just thinking about what I can do and what I can control.”

 

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.