Sei Young Kim upstaging LPGA's Big Three

By Randall MellApril 5, 2015, 2:27 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Move over, Big Three.

Sei Young Kim is threatening to crumple that storyline and pitch it in a garbage can.

She’s looking determined to lead a rewrite of what the big story will actually be when this LPGA season ends.

This might be the best crop of rookies ever to play the LPGA, and Kim might end up being the best of them.

Big Three Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis look like they’re going to have their hands full this season.

With a 3-under-par 69 Saturday, Kim held off early charges from Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome. At 10 under overall, Kim is three shots ahead of Lewis (68) and four ahead of Pressel (71), Lincicome (70) and Thai rookie Ariya Jutanugarn (66). 

Kim was at her best in the end Saturday while Pressel, Lewis and Lincicome all struggled to close out their efforts.

Tied for the lead on the back nine, Kim birdied two of the last three holes.

Growing up in South Korea, Kim said she watched this championship when it was known as the Kraft Nabisco.

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“If I win tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever,” Kim said through a translator.

At 22, Kim isn’t your typical rookie, and this isn’t your typical rookie class, a group led by a cast of up-and-coming South Korean stars.

Kim was a proven champion before going to the American-based LPGA Q-School in December and earning membership with a tie for sixth. She won five times on the Korean LPGA Tour over the 2013 and ’14 seasons, one of them a Korean major. After joining the American tour this year, she didn’t take long to assert herself. She won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in a playoff in her second start. Now here she is again, with a chance to win her first major.

“I'm really having fun,” Kim said. “I'm getting a kick out of it because this is a tournament that I've watched since I was young. To be here playing, I can't believe it.”

Kim said she has never won while holding a lead going into a final round. All five of her Korean titles were comeback victories.

Kim will be paired with Lewis on Sunday. All the South Koreans know who Lewis is, a former world No. 1 and two-time major champion who won her first LPGA title here at the Kraft Nabisco in 2011.

“She’s just such a dominating force out there,” Kim said of Lewis. “I'd probably even chicken out starting a conversation. But you know, just to be able to play with her on the final day, it's an honor.”

Two weeks ago, Lewis took on South Korean rookie Hyo Joo Kim in a brilliant Sunday duel at the JTBC Founders Cup. Lewis played well, but Hyo Joo Kim played better to take the trophy.

“We knew they were coming,” Lewis said of the South Korean rookies. “Inbee and some of the girls were kind of telling us that there were some young Koreans coming that were pretty good. We didn't really know what to expect.

“You can tell they've got a lot of experience from playing in Korea, and they know how to win. They know how to putt, which is most important. They're impressive, especially Hyo Joo Kim. I threw everything I had at her in Phoenix and she kept responding by making putts and hitting shots. They're not scared, not scared at all.”

Four of these South Korean rookies are ranked higher than major champions Paula Creamer and Mo Martin in the Rolex world rankings. Two of them won LPGA events before officially joining the tour as rookies this year.

Hyo Joo Kim is No. 4 in the world. She won the Evian Championship last year while playing the Korean Tour. If Sei Young Kim wins the ANA Inspiration, South Korean “rookies” will have won the last two majors.

Sei Young Kim is No. 22 in the world rankings, Q Baek No. 17 and Ha Na Jang No. 20.

Baek, 19, won an LPGA event last year, the HanaBank Championship. It was the first LPGA event she ever played. She played as Kyu-Jung Baek, just recently changing her name upon claiming 2015 LPGA rookie membership off her HanaBank title.

Sei Young Kim said there’s motivation keeping up with the other South Korean rookies.

“They're all players that I've played with, competed with in Korea,” Sei Young Kim said. “The media sort of portrayed us as fierce rivals. So, I'm used to playing them. Seeing them playing well definitely motivates me. It’s very, very motivating.”

These South Korean rookies have to be motivating the Big Three, too.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry