Wife's health gave API winner Leishman perspective

By Ryan LavnerMarch 20, 2017, 12:16 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Three feet from victory Sunday, Marc Leishman thought about his son’s nagging question.

For the past year, his 5-year-old son, Harvey, has asked, “Daddy, why don’t you ever win a trophy?”

It wasn’t for a lack of effort, of course. Leishman has desperately tried to snap a five-year winless drought. He nearly won two majors during that span, at the 2013 Masters and 2015 Open. He has been in final-round contention in all but one tournament this year. No trophy, though, and so the questions continued.

It didn’t help that Jason Day won eight times over the past two seasons, and each time was bum-rushed on the 18th green by his two young kids, Dash and Lucy.

“Hey, why can’t I run out on the green?” Harvey asked. 

And so the kid wasn’t about to miss out Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, even though the end result was still in doubt. He and brother Oliver, 3, raced onto the green to congratulate their dad, who had pitched to 3 feet and made the slippery par putt to post 11-under 277.

When Kevin Kisner failed to make a closing birdie to tie, Leishman scooped up his kids in a bear hug to celebrate the long-awaited title.

“You won, Daddy!” Harvey squealed. “Let’s go get the trophy!”

This Arnold Palmer Invitational meant so much more than just the shiny silver trophy.

Two years ago, Leishman was told that his wife, Audrey, had a 5 percent chance of surviving after a series of infections put her in a medically induced coma.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


While Marc was at Augusta National preparing to play in the following week’s Masters, Audrey came down with a 102-degree fever and flu-like symptoms, and that worsened into strep throat and pneumonia, and that became acute respiratory distress syndrome and toxic shock syndrome. By the time Marc returned home to Virginia Beach, Va., his wife was hooked up to a ventilator, her lungs were filled with fluid, and the prognosis was dire. Leishman spent the next 96 hours by her bedside, barely able to eat, his mind racing, as the thought of being a single father of two young boys became a distinct possibility. 

“I was ready to give it away,” he said.

Two days before the Masters – and after a doctor’s critical decision to turn her on her stomach – Audrey’s condition improved and she regained consciousness. Marc returned to the Tour later that month, and he lost a playoff at The Open a few months later. 

“They went through their nightmare when I was in my coma,” Audrey said. “When I woke up, it was a big relief for them, and that’s when my nightmare started. That’s when I realized what had happened to me and how sick I really was.”

Audrey’s health has remained a concern over the past two years. She routinely developed some kind of respiratory infection. There was even a minor complication at this event last year, when a family trip to the theme parks ended up with Audrey in the hospital to receive IV fluids and steroids.

Her health finally began to turn around last May, when she underwent a tonsillectomy. In September, she was cleared by her infectious disease doctor.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” she said. “He said that I was released and told me to have a good life. I’ve never left a doctor’s office being that happy.”

A month later, Audrey, 33, was pregnant with the couple's third child, a girl, now due in July.

The traumatic experience gave Leishman a much-needed dose of perspective on a tour full of charmed existences.

“It makes golf less important,” he said. “It’s not life and death. We have been in that situation and it’s not fun.” 

Leishman’s hard-earned victory was a fitting end to an emotional week that was always going to be about more than birdies and bogeys.

That tone was set early, with the unveiling of the 13-foot Palmer statue, and then continued throughout the week with the well-attended opening ceremony and the colorful umbrellas that adorned hats and bags and shirts, and the inspirational signage throughout the course.

The beloved tournament host always camped out on the 16th tee, and he would have loved what he saw from Leishman. Lining up his 50-foot eagle putt, Leishman realized that he’d struck virtually the same putt during a practice round Tuesday and missed 3 feet left. He backed off, readjusted his line, and holed the putt to leapfrog the leaders. Two solid pars to close gave Leishman his second Tour victory, and first since the 2012 Travelers.

"Very special," he said. 

The only thing missing was Palmer’s customary greeting to the left of the 18th green.

Fortunately for Leishman, Harvey and the rest of the family helped fill that sizable void.  

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.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


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.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.''