Park still tops S. Korea's embarrassment of golf riches

By Randall MellAugust 4, 2015, 6:30 pm

This newest wave of gifted young South Koreans is making an intense push to the top of the women’s game, but Inbee Park remains a step ahead of them.

More so than ever, the talent pouring out of the Korean LPGA Tour is making an impact on the game’s grandest stages. Yes, the South Koreans have been dominant for a long time, but never as dominant as they are now.

Four of the top five players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are Korean born.

Korean LPGA members Hyo Joo Kim and In Gee Chun won majors over the last 12 months before becoming LPGA members. Jin-Young Ko took the 54-hole lead into the final round of the Women’s British Open last weekend in a bid to give KLPGA members three of the last five majors.

After winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open Sunday, Park said this new wave is pushing her.

“It’s definitely a big motivation for me,” Park said. “They’re just lined up waiting to come here, to come to the LPGA and compete at the world level.

“I just can’t be too comfortable where I’m sitting right now. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself to play better and better, and play a little bit smarter and wiser. I need to do something to get better every day.”

It’s working both ways. Park’s feeling pushed, but in winning her sixth major in the last 14 played, she’s pulling these young, new South Koreans up to a different level with her.

“They do look up to her a lot,” said Brad Beecher, Park’s caddie. “You can tell, the other fathers and coaches, they’re watching her, to relay it to their daughters. You’ll spot them out there on tournament days. They aren’t even watching their own daughters. I won’t name names, but I’ve spotted a few parents doing that.”

Beecher said even Inbee has noticed fathers and mothers of other players watching her play and practice. He says Park has asked him what’s going on.

“They’re watching you,” Beecher says he told her. “You’ve got all your peers’ families looking up to you.”

Jin-Young Ko, 20, talked about looking up to Park as her idol after she took the 54-hole lead at Trump Turnberry. Ko’s caddie, Jeff Brighton, said he thinks Park’s bold Sunday charged rattled Ko. With giant leaderboards well placed at Turnberry, Ko could see Park making her move.

“I was a little bit over thinking, and then I was a little bit nervous,” Ko said.

Even with the loss, add Jin-Young Ko to this long list of youthful Korean talent crashing major championship stages and the world rankings. Ko jumped to No. 17 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

Sixteen of the top 30 players in the Rolex world rankings are Korean born. Count four South  Korean LPGA rookies among that top 30. Chun will join the LPGA as a rookie next year, and Jin-Young Ko says she hopes to join in the near future.

“They’re so talented,” American Cristie Kerr said. “They’re machines. They practice 10 hours a day.”

For a few years there, some of South Korea’s best young talent was staying home to play the KLPGA and Japan LPGA tours. Why this new push to the American-based LPGA?

“I joined the LPGA in hopes of making the Olympics team,” Sei Young Kim told

Kim isn’t alone making the move. With golf returning to the Olympics next year, the LPGA offers the best avenue to qualify. The Rolex Women’s World Rankings is used to determine who qualifies, and the LPGA offers more world-rankings points than any other women’s tour in the world.

The competition to make the South Korean Olympic team is becoming extremely intense. With a maximum of four players allowed to make the team, nobody outside the top 10 in the world rankings today would make the South Korean team. That prompted Park last week to say she believes everyone among the top 50 should be able to compete in the Olympics.

There is other motivation for South Koreans coming over to the LPGA now. With the tour’s schedule rebuilt, there’s more money to be won now than there was a few years ago, when the American-based tour’s schedule shrunk to an anemic 23 events.

While Lydia Ko doesn’t play under the South Korean flag, you can include her in the wave of Korean-born stars. Why? It isn’t just the fact that Ko was born in South Korea before moving to New Zealand when she was 6. While Ko clearly relishes being a Kiwi, she says her South Korean heritage remains very important to her, to the point where she says she considers South Korea one of her two homes.

Ko, who now has an American base in Orlando, was asked last week at the Women’s British Open where she considers her “emotional” home.

“I think I'm really lucky that I have the Korean background in me,” Ko said. “I grew up in a totally different country in New Zealand. Those two would be home. If I go to Korea or New Zealand, that's where I feel most welcomed. I love going there. Most of the time, when I'm in Orlando having a week off, my mom cooks me Korean food. That's where my Korean background comes into it. I guess it's really hard to choose just one certain country, but I'm really fortunate that I'm getting great support from both.”

While Ko isn’t typically considered South Korean when looking at the international makeup of women’s golf, her dual emotional tug adds to the embarrassment of riches that Korean golf claims.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.