Similar pressure on South Korea, U.S. in International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 23, 2014, 6:41 pm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Americans are in a resurgent march, taking back strongholds lost.

The South Koreans are in a reluctant retreat, looking to reassert their status as the dominant force in women’s golf.

Welcome to the International Crown, where it’s all about honor, country and posting low scores.

The inaugural biennial team event begins Thursday promising to play upon nationalistic pride, and no countries have more of that riding on this week’s outcome than the United States and the Republic of Korea. That’s because they’re such heavy favorites here at Caves Valley Golf Club. They’re the top two seeds with seven of the nine highest-ranked players in the field coming from their rosters. If anyone else wins this week, it’s a giant upset.

With the United States taking the No. 1 seed from South Korea on the last day of team qualifying for the International Crown, there’s a growing restlessness among South Korean fans used to seeing their women excel.

Get ready: LPGA International Crown primer

“American players are playing very well this year, and it obviously hasn’t been like the last couple years,” said Inbee Park, the highest-ranked South Korean at No. 3 in the Rolex world rankings. “We definitely feel the pressure, and we definitely feel like we have to step it up.”

The South Koreans have won more LPGA titles (49) since 2008 than any other nation in the world. They’ve won more majors (16) than any other nation since 2001.

The tide, however, is changing in the women’s game. The Americans are on the rise, already having won more LPGA titles this year (11) than they have in any year since the turn of the century. Meanwhile, the South Koreans have almost been shut out, with Park claiming their lone LPGA title.

The Americans also have claimed the first three majors of the 2014, marking the first time they’ve done that since 1999.

And topping it off, American Stacy Lewis seized the No. 1 ranking from Park last month.

“I think we do have more pressure than other countries, because a lot of Korean people care so much about the results,” Na Yeon Choi said. “We got our four players together here, and we talked about how we have to be together this whole week, to show them back home that we are one, we are together. It’s not individual here. It’s a South Korean team. Hopefully, we will make something good happen for everyone watching us.”

A year after Park became the first woman in 63 years to win the first three majors of the year, the South Koreans are feeling pressure to produce more success. They’re hearing questions back home about what’s wrong with them this year.

Park, Choi and fellow teammates So Yeon Ryu and I.K. Kim made a pact Tuesday. “We decided we’re not going to read any newspapers, no surfing the Internet,” Choi said. “Sometimes that affects focus, emotions. We’re really trying to focus on what we can do, and after the tournament, we’ll see the results.”

It was just a little more than a year ago that the Americans found themselves in the South Koreans’ shoes. With Park winning at Sebonack, it marked the fourth time in five years a South Korean had won the U.S. Women’s Open. It also marked the 10th consecutive major the Americans failed to win, the longest winless spell in the history of American women’s golf. Lewis would end that drought by winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open, and now the Americans have won four of the last five majors.

The International Crown is being broadcast live in South Korea. If there’s more pressure on the South Koreans than on any other nation here, there’s an upside to that. They’re used to it. They’re used to grandiose expectations with women’s golf more popular than men’s golf back in their homeland.

“They play that way week in and week out,” says Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who will help call the action for Golf Channel this week.

For their part, the Americans say they don’t view South Koreans as rivals on tour week to week.

“The media likes to clump everybody together, based on where they're from,” Lewis said. “As players, I don't think we do that. I don't think we group Inbee and So Yeon Ryu and we say we want to beat the South Koreans.

“But I think in this competition, I think they're a great team. I don't care what the numbers say. I think they're going to be a hard team to beat.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.