Ryu making her own legend

By Randall MellMay 18, 2017, 11:30 pm

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – So Yeon Ryu can’t seem to escape Lexi Thompson’s shadow.

Thompson was all the buzz in Wednesday’s pro-am at the Kingsmill Championship, skydiving from 10,000 feet into the first fairway before her tee time. Strapped to a Navy SEAL in a tandem jump, Thompson dramatically promoted her new charity benefitting the families of wounded and fallen special ops forces.

Come Thursday morning, Thompson was almost immediately the story here again, soaring to the top of the leaderboard with a 6-under-par 65.

Ryu played right in front of Thompson, where she couldn’t help hearing the celebrations that Thompson was setting off with five consecutive birdies coming home.

Ryu shot 70.

Behind the bleachers at round’s end, as Ryu answered a reporter’s questions, Thompson passed a walkway into scoring, drawing the clamor of adoring fans who wanted the American star’s autograph.

It seems like it’s been like this for Ryu since she beat Thompson six weeks ago in that controversial ending to the ANA Inspiration.

Ryu won her second major championship that day, but she did so in an awkward ending with so much of the focus on Thompson and the four-shot penalty Thompson was assessed on the back nine of that final round.

In the rules debate that ensued, Ryu never got the credit or acclaim a major champion usually enjoys.

How has the fallout affected Ryu?

“She’s been accepting,” said Cameron McCormick, her swing coach. “So Yeon is the sweetest person in the world.”

McCormick knew that before he watched Ryu approach Thompson on the driving range at the Texas Shootout three weeks ago, the first event Ryu and Thompson played together since the ANA. McCormick watched Ryu hug Thompson before heading off to warm up for the first round.

“Lexi wrote something very nice about me in her Instagram right after the ANA,” Ryu said, explaining the hug. “She congratulated me and said she didn’t want anything that happened to take away from my victory. I told her that probably wasn’t easy to write after a loss, and I told her I really appreciated that. I also told her I thought she handled herself very well afterward.”



Ryu says she understood the uproar that followed the ANA, but she’s human, and it was difficult knowing her story wasn’t being told, that the risky overhaul she made to her game wasn’t going to be detailed or fully appreciated.

“It was such an uncommon situation, so I understood, but I’m not going to lie,” Ryu said. “There wasn’t a lot of joy, seeing a different story being told. But, you know, I thought about Lexi, about the heartbreaking situation she was in, and I thought about things differently.

“I decided, let’s win another major, and I’ll make my story later.”

Tom Watson, Ryu’s caddie, said the uproar that followed the ANA, the debate over the two-shot penalty Thompson got for incorrectly making her ball in the third round and the additional two-shot penalty she got for signing an incorrect scorecard, left Ryu briefly wondering if Ryu really deserved to win.

“The first few days after, I think it was hard for her,” Watson said. “She struggled thinking maybe she didn’t really win, but Lexi lost. We talked about that, and she came to understand that she played some great golf over the last five holes that day, when anything could have happened.

“We talked about the shots she hit under pressure, the putts she holed under pressure, and she started believing she deserved to win.”

Ryu’s victory didn’t come as a surprise to the people closest to her. Before the 2016 season, Ryu left her long-time coach Ian Triggs to go to work with McCormick, who also works with Jordan Spieth.

Ryu didn’t tweak her swing under McCormick.

“She made massive changes,” Watson said.

Ryu assigned Watson the task of finding a new coach after the 2015 season, and he led her to McCormick.

McCormick immediately reshaped Ryu’s takeaway, making her swing flatter, less upright.

“Before, she had an almost straight-out wrist cock, early in the takeaway, with the face of the club going open right away, with the toe in the air when her hands were hip high,” Watson said. “Now, the club face is more neutral.”

Watson said the face stays more on plane with Ryu’s spine tilt throughout the swing.

“She feels like she’s very, very closed, going back with her arms and shoulders,” Watson said.

Ryu says she likes the new ball flight McCormick created.

“Before, my ball flight was way too high,” Ryu said.

Ryu said McCormick created a foundation that has added to the repertoire of shots she can hit, that he has made imagination a new weapon in her arsenal of shots.

“When I see Cameron, he never asks me to hit a straight shot,” Ryu said. “He asks me to hit a lot of different shots, to hit a push draw, a draw, a fade, to hit it high, to hit it low. He asks me to hit so many different kinds of shots. He’s given me more options to hit shots.

“It’s a totally different swing.”

Ryu was one of the best ball strikers in the game when she went to McCormick, but Watson believed she was too one-dimensional with her ball flight.

“So Yeon is a lot more creative now, and that’s probably the biggest change in her game,” Watson said.

The risks Ryu took to make these changes is the story that wasn’t told when she won the year’s first major.

Back when she first started working with McCormick, Ryu struggled getting comfortable.

“She wasn’t certain it was the right thing to do,” Watson said.

Ryu was at a crossroads, but she committed so thoroughly to the swing changes that she moved to Dallas to be near McCormick, who is based there.

Through seven starts this year, Ryu has a victory and two second-place finishes. She hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in any of those starts.

Ryu leads the tour in scoring (68.57), money winnings ($885,456) and greens in regulation (81 percent).

Ryu is also one of the best total drivers in the women’s game, ranking 24th in driving distance (261 yards per drive) and 36th in driving accuracy. She’s 16 yards longer per drive than she was two-and-a-half years ago.

“She seems even longer than that,” Watson said.

Ryu says there’s also more creativity in her short game. Ian Baker Finch teams with McCormick on Ryu’s putting.

Mostly, Ryu says she has more belief in her game.

The ANA victory was Ryu’s fourth career LPGA title, her first in two-and-a-half years. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2011, before she was an LPGA member, and there was pressure in her South Korean homeland to validate it with another major.

“Sometimes, when you can’t win, you feel like you’re a failure,” Ryu said. “So, I really had to do some talking to myself, to tell myself, `You’re not a failure, you’re just in this process of going from good to great.’”

Ryu opened this year feeling good about her game, and even better about it when she finished second in her season debut at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

“I definitely felt like a win was coming, that it was just a matter of time, but I didn’t want to push myself too much,” Ryu said.

McCormick’s work with Ryu has been as much about building confidence as it has been about building a swing.

“Results will almost always follow belief,” McCormick said. “What you believe to be true will almost always become true if it isn’t already true.”

So what Ryu believes about winning the ANA matters.

“It validated the first major,” McCormick said. “It validates all the hard work a player puts in, all the time you spend in the mind, so to speak, figuring out the infinitesimal gains in precision that are necessary to compete on the world stage.”

Ryu isn’t looking to validate yet another major now, but she would like to win a third so she can better share the story behind what it takes to win one.

 

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”