Park wins psychological edge over Ko, Lewis

By Randall MellMarch 8, 2015, 4:42 pm

Inbee Park won the battle royale in Singapore.

She held off 17-year-old sensation Lydia Ko and American star Stacy Lewis in their dynamic final-round grouping Sunday and that made winning the HSBC Women’s Champions all the sweeter.

Make no mistake, for Park, there was special satisfaction looking her toughest foes in the eyes and beating them straight up, deeper meaning in beating her rivals like that, too.

There was new psychological turf claimed, borders re-staked and memories built for future empowerment.

“I think it definitely gives me a little bit more confidence playing with Lydia and Stacy at the same time,” Park said in her news conference afterward. “It's probably like a dream pairing. We get this a lot in the first and second rounds, but it's tough to actually have that in the final round. I had to play better than them in the final round to win.

“It's not the pairing I really look forward to playing in the final round. It’s very difficult and probably the toughest pairing that I probably have all year.”

Ko arrived in Singapore red hot, coming off back-to-back victories at the Women’s Australian Open and New Zealand Women’s Open. Park took Ko’s best shots early Sunday but didn’t rattle, crack or even blink.

Two shots ahead at day’s start, Park watched Ko make birdies at the fourth and fifth holes to tie her for the lead. She watched Lewis get within one shot of her with a birdie at the fourth hole.

“I was kind of expecting Lydia and Stacy to make birdies, and I kind of expected them to play well today,” Park said. “I was just telling myself, I'm not making any birdies but I'm not making any bogeys. I'm not making any mistakes, so that's a good sign.”

Remarkably, Park didn’t make a bogey all week.

With her wire-to-wire victory, and without a dropped shot over the entire 72-hole event, Park was a rock, both an immovable object atop the leaderboard and an irresistible force rolling across the difficult Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course.

“No bogeys around here, on a course where you can hit a good shot and you can get bad luck,” Ko said. “That's pretty phenomenal.”

How phenomenal?

Ko made three bogeys in the final round alone, and Lewis had six through four rounds. Nobody beside Park had fewer than three bogeys all week.

“I don't think I can even believe myself that I didn't make any bogeys for 72 holes,” Park said.

With her final-round 2-under-par 70, Park ended the week at 15 under overall, two shots better than the runner-up Ko and four better than the third-place Lewis. It was Park’s first victory this year, her 11th worldwide title over the last 25 months.

Six weeks ago, Ko took the No. 1 ranking from Park. While Park won’t get it back with Sunday’s victory, she narrows the gap on Ko. She moves to within .95 points of Ko in their average world ranking, which will put the No. 1 spot up for grabs when they tee it up together again in two weeks at the LPGA’s return to the United States, the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix.

Typically, Park makes her largest impression with her putter, but she won in Singapore with superior ball striking. She hit every green but one in regulation over the weekend and all 18 greens in regulation on Sunday.

“I don't think anybody else played better long game than me this week, that's for sure,” Park said.

Park missed just six greens in regulation (66 of 72) the entire week in Singapore. Ko missed five greens on Sunday alone; Lewis missed nine on Sunday.

Hands down, Park is the best putter in the women’s game, having led the LPGA in putts per GIR three times in her career and twice in the last three seasons. What has to be catching the eye of her foes is how much her ball striking has improved under the eye of her coach and husband, Gi Hyeob Nam. Park told us at year’s start she was a little frustrated with her putting last year - even though she ranked third on tour in putts per GIR - because she thought she hit the ball so much better last year than she did in her record-setting 2013 campaign that she gave herself so many more good birdie chances last year.

To be sure, Park’s ball striking made an impression on her peers. Ko uncharacteristically battled her driver Sunday, fighting a pull or hook. She also missed two short putts for par, a 5-footer at the eighth hole and a 3-footer at the 12th hole. If the intensity required winning in back-to-back weeks took something out of Ko, she wasn’t saying so.

“I'm going to work a little bit more over the next week to get a little bit more consistent in my long game,” Ko said. “I think that will give me a little room, so my putter doesn't have to work so hard.”

Lewis battled her driver, too, forcing her to scramble impressively to stay in the hunt. She made a crazy good par at the 12th after her ball wedged in the top of a palm tree, forcing her caddie to climb a cart to go up and identify it.

Given the overall consistency of Ko, Park and Lewis, nobody should be surprised to see these three dueling again soon, though not necessarily all three together in the final Sunday pairing again. That was so unusual, such a treat to fans of the women’s game.

“This is just early, we have so many tournaments to come,” Park said.

So many more trophies and world-ranking points to be won, and so much more psychological turf to be claimed.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

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While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm