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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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.