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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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.