Pursuit of Ko continues with first major a month away

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2016, 5:15 pm

The pursuit of Lydia Ko continues.

Who’s going to press the Rolex world No. 1 hardest for that top spot as the LPGA moves within a month of its first major championship of the year?

The HSBC Women’s Champions begins Wednesday night (in the United States) with the strongest field of the year teeing it up in Singapore. The top 17 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are all there, with 23 of the top 25 in the field. They’re all looking to round into form with the ANA Inspiration scheduled March 3-6.

Lexi Thompson will tee it up at Sentosa Golf Club looking to win in back-to-back weeks after taking the title at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

“Since I first started coming to Singapore, I thought this tournament was something special,” Inbee Park said Wednesday in her pre-tournament news conference. “We get such a strong field here. We get all the players in the top every year, and it's a great competition. We get a pretty good field of not just the LPGA players but players worldwide.”

Park is the defending champion. She went bogey-free over 72 holes last year and impressively held off Ko and Stacy Lewis in a Sunday duel with all three grouped together in the final round. Park is still rebounding this week from a back injury that caused her to withdraw from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. She made her return to the LPGA last week, tying for 30th at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

“I feel like I'm definitely in better shape than I was last week or a month ago,” Park said. “It's just getting better and better, but I just don't want to rush for anything.”

Park says there is still rust to work off her game.

“Everything kind of needs to come together a little bit more, ball-striking to short game to putting,” Park said. “Everything is just a little bit not exactly where I want to be right now. But I definitely see some improvement last week.

“It's just going to take time. We have a long season, and especially I'd like to play well in the summertime.”

That’s where Park thrives, in the major championship summer run.

“Even if I don't end up holding the trophy [this week], I would really like to take something from this tournament, like some confidence,” Park said. 

While Park is looking to round into form, Ko opened the year contending right from the start, tying for third in her debut at the Coates Golf Championship, winning the New Zealand Women’s Open and finishing second at the Women’s Australian Open.

Ko was the co-leader going into the final round of Coates but struggled coming home. She entered the final round of the Women’s Australian Open one shot behind Haru Nomura and closed strong with a 67, only to see Nomura win with a brilliant 65.

“It's a really good start to the season,” Ko said. “It could always be better in that sense, but I'm very pleased with the way it started.”

Ko and Park have an interesting game of 19-week runs going in the world rankings. Ko was atop the world rankings for 19 weeks until Park overtook winning the KPMG Women’s PGA last summer. Park reigned at No. 1 for 19 weeks until Ko took it back from her in October of last year. Ko is in the 19th week of her current run at No. 1, but she won’t be giving it up this week. Nobody can overtake Ko in the world rankings, even with a victory in Singapore, but they can press the action getting ready for ANA.

Getty Images

Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

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.

Getty Images

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."