Women's Open spotlights rising star in Park

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2017, 1:37 am

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – This U.S. Women’s Open looked as if it were going to be pulled apart at the seams at week’s start.

With players caught in the middle of a tug of war between social activists enraged that the championship was being played on a course owned by President Donald Trump and with the USGA committed to defending its turf, the championship practically groaned amid the strain before the first shots were struck.

This U.S. Women’s Open was so divisively configured, but that’s what made Sunday’s ending so surprisingly unifying.

So jarringly harmonious.

With South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park being whisked through a passageway to scoring after virtually sealing her victory, she looked up to see the last extraordinary scene in this surreal week.

Park looked above to see President Trump leap out of his seat in his private box to race to the window above her. She looked up to see the President of the United States in his bright red “Make America Great Again” cap enthusiastically applaud her and wave to her with a wide, approving smile.

The president may love America, but he loves golf, too.

And as infuriating as that may be to the activists lined up against, him, he loves women’s golf.

So President Trump stood like everyone else, cheered like everyone else, and let Park know how much he admired the way this rising new international star dissected his prized course with her flawless finish.


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“Congratulations to Sung Hyun Park on winning the 2017 @USGA #USWomensOpen,” he later tweeted.

Park beamed with the Harton S. Semple Trophy afterward.

“I still cannot believe that it is actually happening,” Park said through a translator. “I almost feel like I'm floating on a cloud in the sky.”

Park was grateful for the way the American galleries at Trump National embraced her.

“I recognize the fans who flew in from Korea to cheer me at this tournament, and also the great Americans who live around here, they were so gracious and hospitable, providing me Korean food day after day so I could nourish myself and gain strength,” Park said through a translator. “I also like to thank my fans here in the United States.”

Park, 23, is already a superstar in South Korea, where she dominated the Korean LPGA Tour before joining the American-based tour this year as a rookie.

Now Park looks poised to challenge for the Rolex world No. 1 ranking with the top of the women’s game looking so wide open.

With her breakthrough victory Sunday, making her first LPGA title a major championship, Park will crack back into the top 10 in the world rankings. She started the week at No. 11.

Park has so many nicknames, all tributes to her star power.

Back in South Korea, she is known as “Dak Gong,” which is roughly translated as “Shut up and attack!”

Park did just that on Sunday, posting a bogey-free 5-under-par 67 to come from three shots back to win.

At 11 under overall, Park finished two shots ahead of 17-year-old amateur Hye-Jin Choi (71), who shared the lead with Park until pushing her tee shot at the 16th into the water.

Park knows Choi’s pain, but she knows sweet redemption, too.

Needing a birdie at CordeValle to get into a playoff at the U.S. Women’s Open last year, Park pulled her approach into the water at the 72nd hole in a bid to reach the green in two. She ended up tying for third.

Park said that memory came rushing back at the 18th Sunday, where Trump National’s closing green is hugged by water.

“That was a good experience that I had last year, and I was able to garner the championship this year,” Park said.

Park’s other nickname in South Korea is “Namdalla,” which means “I’m different.”

American LPGA players could see that right off, but they have come up with their own nickname for her here.

“Her nickname is Tiger Woods on this tour,” said David Jones, Park’s caddie. “That kind of says it all. I don’t need to say more than that.”

Jones, notably, was the college roommate of Ricky Elliott, Brooks Koepka’s caddie. Koepka won the U.S. Open last month.

If Park was going to become a Tiger-like figure of the LPGA, Jones knew she needed to put in some serious work on her short game. She did coming into this week, and, wow, did it pay off.

Jones said Park didn’t win the U.S. Women’s Open with her 67 Sunday. He said she won it with her 73 on Thursday.

“She was playing as bad as I have ever seen her,” Jones said. “She was nothing short of horrendous, but she turned a 77 into a 73.”

Jones said she did it with all the work she put into her short game coming into the U.S. Women’s Open.

Park is her own coach, and Jones said she fixed her own short game prepping for this championship.

While Park is a power player, one of the longest hitters on tour, Jones said she won the U.S. Women’s Open with that fortified new short game.

“Her chipping was out of this world,” Jones said.

Park left Trump National showered with the cheers of golf fans here.

She left with President Trump cheering her as heartily as anyone else.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''