World No. 1 Ko addressing biggest fears

By Randall MellApril 22, 2015, 11:50 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – As unflappable as Lydia Ko appears, she isn’t fearless.

In fact, she could show you a list of her 10 biggest fears, because she has been delving into them, plucking them out into the light of day, shaking them around and analyzing them. She’s even writing about them.

Lest you think she’s become too meticulous preparing for championship golf, know that she’s just doing her homework. Ko has officially started her freshman year at Korea University. As one of her first assignments in a psychology course, she was asked to identify her 10 biggest fears and detail how she is addressing those fears.

In the shadow of the Lake Merced clubhouse at this week’s Swinging Skirts Classic, Ko chuckles when asked if she cares to share a fear or two that she is writing about. She has, by the way, one of the most engaging chuckles on tour, a laugh that makes you feel like you grew up next door to her.

“I’ll give you a funky one,” she says. “I’m scared of the dark.”

Really?

“Yes, it’s a big story in our family,” Ko says. “We had a two-story house in New Zealand, and our kitchen was upstairs. So, I was walking upstairs in the dark, and my dad had hung a white shirt on the door. For a second, I thought it was a ghost.”

Ko smiles remembering it, remembering how her family loves telling the story, too. She is asked just how young she was when this “event” made such a formidable impression. Maybe 5, 6 years old?

“No,” she says. “It wasn’t that long ago, actually. I think I’ve gotten even more scared of the dark since then.”

Ko is laughing at herself again. She says she is “really weird,” because she loves to watch the TV show “Criminal Minds,” even though it “creeps” her out. Of course, she isn’t weird, and the fact that she likes to watch scary shows reminds you that she really is a teenager, that she really is just 17 years old, for a couples days more, at least.

Though Ko isn’t legally an adult until Friday, when she celebrates her 18th birthday, she remains a marvel of precociousness. It isn’t just her game. It’s all she’s juggling inside and outside the ropes with such gracefulness.

Ko will tee it up Thursday at the Swinging Skirts Classic as the Rolex World No. 1 for the 11th consecutive week. She’s the defending champion here this week, seeking her 11th worldwide title, her third this year. And, oh yeah, she’s now officially going to college, a psychology major making her start with three classes this semester. She also is enrolled in an English course and is taking German as another language.

Psychology, though, is her real academic interest. That’s what got her thinking that maybe she’ll retire when she’s 30 and start a new career. When she enrolled, she told her agent, Michael Yim, that she was already thinking she would like to get a doctorate in the field.

“Obviously, education is important to her,” Yim said.

Ko sees that studying psychology isn’t just an investment in her future. There could be dividends long before she graduates. Doing her assignment, analyzing her fears, she rolled some golf into it. She even talked to her sports psychologist, Jim Loehr, about it.

“It was a really cool assignment, because it was something I could relate to,” Ko said. “I did some about my golf. I’ve been spending some time with Dr. Loehr, so I’ve been kind of mixing our sessions with my assignment.”

Some of Ko’s schooling is online, some straight from emailed assignments from professors. She worked out a special program to allow her to continue to compete while studying. So Yeon Ryu did the same thing at Yonsei University, earning a degree in sports business while she played professionally. Michelle Wie attended Stanford and continued to play on tour.

“There are a lot of assignments,” Ko said. “It isn’t easy.

“My professors send pages of data, sometimes 50 pages, and I’ve got to read them and write reports on them. I just had an assignment where I had to read two chapters of a book. They were 100 pages each, and I had to write reports.”

Ko works in her homework between fighting off Rolex No. 2 Inbee Park, No. 3 Stacy Lewis and a contingent of ambitious LPGA pros that includes the best rookie class to ever hit the LPGA.

There’s serious work on the range required to stay ahead of this era’s best. Last week, Ko met with swing coach David Leadbetter for a full day at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. They worked for six hours fixing little problems that emerged in her last start, the ANA Inspiration two weeks ago.

Knowing she was the favorite to win the ANA, that she could make history becoming the youngest winner of a major championship, Ko struggled. She tied for 51st. It was her worst finish of the year, her worst finish in her 13 major championship starts.

Given her continued run of excellence, an off week was bound to come, but she’s world No. 1, and her game gets extra scrutiny. She came to the ANA having already won twice this year, having not failed to finish among the top 10 in 10 consecutive LPGA starts. The first-round 71 she put up at Mission Hills was her 29th consecutive round under par, equaling Annika Sorenstam’s modern record.

Ko, though, didn’t break par for the rest of the week. She was uncharacteristically errant off the tee. She hit just three of 14 fairways on Sunday, just six on Friday. She played too much from the rough to be a factor.

Though Ko didn’t blame fatigue, didn’t complain about playing her fifth event in six weeks with international travel in between, Leadbetter saw her tiring.

“The major came at the end of a long stretch,” Leadbetter said. “It came at the wrong time.

“I think that’s one of the things you learn as a player, to peak at the right time. I think she peaked too early.”

Ko is a range warrior. She loves to hit balls. It’s something Leadbetter has tried to temper, encouraging her to take her rest and enjoy it.

“There’s no question in my mind, she was really fatigued at ANA,” Leadbetter said. “I could tell the first part of the week. It wasn’t anything you could put your finger on. She was just a little off, her strategy was off. She made some mental errors. In the end, you don’t like making excuses, but you look at the stretch of tournaments she went through, the travel, what have you, it’s a lot of golf.”

And most all of it playing while in contention on weekends, when the pressure is greatest.

Leadbetter said he would like to see Ko make a change in her major championship preparation. He would like to see her take the week off before a major, or at least not play so much leading into one.

Ko did rest after the ANA Inspiration. Following a corporate outing the day after the championship, she stayed in Palm Springs with her mother, Tina. They went shopping. The next day, they drove to Los Angeles, where Ko spent the day with her friend, Danielle Kang. Upon returning home to Orlando, Ko said she slept all day. She spent the next day at hair salon and an Orlando Magic game before getting back to work with Leadbetter on the business of golf.

“Lydia really loves to work at it,” Leadbetter said. “She has an amazing work ethic, but I have to hand it to her, she actually paced herself pretty well last week. She didn’t kill herself. We tidied up a few things, and I would say she’s pretty much back on track, and I’m expecting her to play well.”

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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.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''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.