Getty Images

Kizzire goes the distance for second win

By Rex HoggardJanuary 15, 2018, 5:49 am

HONOLULU – No matter how talented or determined a player may be, winning is an acquired skill.

Even Tiger Woods needed a few starts (four, actually) after turning pro before he figured out how to win on the PGA Tour. Perhaps a better example would be David Duval, who had played 86 events before he finally broke through at the 1997 Michelob Championship. He would go on to win 13 times, including a major, and ascend to No. 1 in the world.

So when Patton Kizzire broke through after 58 starts in the Big Leagues late last year at the OHL Classic there was always the notion that after two years on Tour as a solid if not somewhat overlooked player he could be poised for something special.

It took him just two more starts to add to his collection, outlasting James Hahn on Sunday at the Sony Open to win the longest playoff in tournament history and end a surreal week that included an erroneous missile threat on Saturday.

Kizzire needed a scrambling par at the final overtime stop, the par-3 17th hole, which seemed about right. In what the champion called a “peculiar week,” it was only apropos that they would need extra frames to crown a winner.

“Today was a battle. I didn't have my best stuff. It was a wild week. It was a wild day,” Kizzire said in his signature southern drawl that didn’t exactly fit in with the hectic final moments.

Full-field scores from the Sony Open in Hawaii

Sony Open in Hawaii: Articles, photos and videos

Kizzire, who became the season’s first two-time winner, could have won the event outright with a 17-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole. He didn’t. He would also miss birdie attempts from 18 feet (75th hole) and 24 feet (77th hole) that would have sealed the victory, before he finally rolled in the game winner.

Hahn had his own list of potential walk-offs he could lament.

Hahn, whose previous two victories both came in playoffs, also failed to convert an 18-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole, an 11-footer at the first playoff hole, a 17-footer at the third and a 9-footer at the ninth. Ultimately, it was a missed 9-footer for par at the sixth playoff hole that sealed his fate and promised to make the next few days an experiment in revisionist history.

“I played good enough to win, but I didn't,” said Hahn, who started the day six strokes off the lead held by Tom Hoge but shot a week’s-best 62 to finish at 17 under and force overtime. “If I'm not coming out of the room with the trophy, it really feels like I was defeated out there. I mean, I had a putt to win it. I'm going to be playing that over and over and over again.”

For players like Hahn, and Kizzire, the pain of losing almost always outweighs the joy of winning. It’s the nature of the game.

“I'd rather lose by 100 than lose by one [stroke]. I'd rather miss the cut than lose in a playoff. It just doesn't sit well with me,” Hahn reasoned.

For Kizzire, however, winning took some time. It always has.

On the Tour in 2015, he endured a pair of runner-up finishes before he finally broke through, in a playoff no less, 20 starts into his career on the secondary circuit.

Although he didn’t need extra holes, Kizzire’s victory in Mexico was just as stressful as his triumph in Hawaii. He took a one-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler into the final round and matched him stroke-for-stroke to win by the same margin.

“That was big for me to come out on top and to know that I can do it and to see myself do it,” said Kizzire, whose closing 68 included nine consecutive pars to begin his day and a hole-out for eagle at the par-4 10th hole to move into the lead. “I used that experience today.”

The flashbacks likely began at the 17th hole in regulation when Kizzire’s tee shot sailed left and he needed to convert from 5 feet to maintain a share of the lead.

There were plenty of moments throughout a hectic day when Kizzire could have succumbed to the pressure, and for all the putts he missed there were just as many crucial attempts he made to keep the playoff going as sunset approached.

For Kizzire, 31, learning how to win was almost as simple as learning that on days like Sunday at Waialae Country Club you don’t always need your best stuff.

“He’d won at every level. He’s just one of those guys who wants to win,” said Todd Anderson, Kizzire’s swing coach. “You can tell the guys who aren’t afraid to say they want it and that’s him.”

And now he wants more after learning, through trial and plenty of error, what it takes to beat the world’s best, even if that means enduring a marathon final round.

Getty Images

Bubba holes birdie from bunker after caddie calls it

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 10:31 pm

Bubba Watson started the final round of the Genesis Open with the lead, but quickly squandered it with three bogeys on the front nine.

That didn't crush the two-time tournament champion's (or his caddie's) confidence though, as evidenced by his birdie on the par-3 14th hole, which he made from the greenside bunker.

Watson regained the final-round lead by finding the bottom of the cup with this splash-out from the sand, a shot his caddie, Ted Scott, apparently called before he hit it:

Hey, when you caddie for a guy who has two green jackets hanging in the closet at home, sometimes you just know.

Getty Images

Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

Getty Images

Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

Getty Images

J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.