Kim Storms Back for Victory in Alabama

By Sports NetworkNovember 13, 2005, 5:00 pm
Ladies Professional Golf AssociationMOBILE, Ala. -- Christina Kim posted a 5-under 67 on Sunday to come from behind and win the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions. She finished at 15-under-par 273 and won by a stroke at the Magnolia Grove Golf Course.
'This is an amazing feeling and I'm at a loss for words,' said Kim, who pocketed $138,000 for the win. 'To know that I am the champion of Champions, it's just amazing.'
Christina Kim
Christina Kim is showered by champagne after her win at the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions.
The victory was the second for Kim. She broke through on the LPGA Tour at last year's Longs Drugs Challenge, but 2005 was a solid year as well. Kim made her first U.S. Solheim Cup team and earned 2 1/2 points for the winning side.
Australian Rachel Hetherington carded a 4-under 68 on Sunday to finish alone in second place at minus-14. Overnight leader Liselotte Neumann of Sweden once held a two-shot lead on Sunday, but disaster on the back nine dropped her to a 1-under 71. Neumann took third at 12-under-par 276.
Juli Inkster played well on Sunday with a 3-under 69 and moved into fourth place at 11-under-par 277. Defending champion Heather Daly-Donofrio managed an even-par 72 and took fifth at minus-10.
Kim started well on Sunday with a long birdie putt at the third and added another birdie at the par-5 fourth. She dropped a shot at the seventh to fall two back of Neumann, as the Swede played tough on the front nine to keep her advantage.
Neumann birdied the second, then rolled in a 7-foot eagle putt at the fourth. She bogeyed the sixth, but ran home a 20-footer for birdie at seven to stay two in front.
Kim gave herself a tap-in birdie at the 11th, then, from the left rough, knocked her approach to six feet at 12. She converted the birdie putt and found herself tied for the lead.
The par-five 13th proved to be critical in Sunday's final round. Kim, who played with Hetherington in the group ahead of Neumann, made a routine par at the hole to stay at 14-under par.
Neumann hit her drive 40 yards right of the fairway and had to hit a provisional ball. She laid up with her fourth, then needed three more to get in the hole. The double-bogey left her two off Kim's lead.
'It was one bad swing,' acknowledged Neumann. 'I've been hitting the ball so well. What do you do?'
Neumann had more holes to make birdies, but it became clear that Hetherington was the closest challenger to Kim. Hetherington collected a pair of birdies on the front side and when her 4-foot birdie try at 14 fell, she was one behind Kim at 13 under par.
Kim reached the green in two at the par-5 16th and had a 20-foot look at eagle. Hetherington missed a 25-foot birdie putt at the same hole, so Kim could almost put the tournament out of reach if her eagle effort fell. Her putt skimmed the hole, but she settled for a tap-in birdie and a two-shot lead.
Kim stuffed her tee ball at the par-3 17th inside 5 feet. Hetherington had almost 12 feet for her birdie try, but poured it in the center of the cup. Kim's short putt lipped out of the hole, but she converted the par putt from almost the same distance as her birdie attempt.
Both Kim and Hetherington found the fairway at the closing hole and Kim's approach spun back to 45 feet. Hetherington did not hit a great second shot, but had a reasonable 35-foot chance at birdie.
Kim lagged her putt to a foot to put the pressure on Hetherington. The Aussie misread her putt, which died to the right and came up 2 feet short. Hetherington tapped in her par putt, then Kim kicked her's in to visit the winner's circle.
'This was, by far, more difficult than my win last year in Sacramento,' admitted Kim, who also won that tournament by a single shot. 'I don't know what I did. I hit it, try and find it and do it again. It stayed in the short grass for the most part and I'm thrilled to be here.'
Sophie Gustafson posted the low round of the day on Sunday with a 6-under 66. That propelled her into a solo sixth at 9-under-par 279.
Pat Hurst (67) and Carin Koch (68) shared seventh place at minus-8, followed by Janice Moodie (69), Heather Bowie (69) and Angela Stanford (72), who were knotted in ninth at 7-under-par 281.
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    Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

    Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

    The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

    They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

    It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

    “I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

    The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.