Nirapathpongporn Wins Womens Am
'I really put it together this week and learned a lot from my past experience,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'I think this is the top of the amateur level. In college, I am the national champion, individually and team, and I won the Honda Award and that's about as high as you can get in college.'
Nirapathpongporn had an early 1-up lead, but lost three consecutive holes from the par-5 sixth to fall 2-down.
Park, playing in her first Women's Amateur, was unable to maintain that advantage. Nirapathpongporn rallied with wins at the ninth and 14th to square the match.
Nirapathpongporn used the win at the 14th to pick up momentum. She won the 15th to regain the advantage in the match and won the next two holes to go 3-up through 17 holes.
Park two-putted for par on the 18th while Nirapathpongporn stumbled to a bogey. Nirapathpongporn took a 2-up lead into the afternoon 18.
'I think it played a little bit more difficult this morning because it was wetter,' Nirapathpongporn said. 'It was difficult this morning, playing on wet fairways because you are thinking chunk or thin, it's just hard to go at it.'
As the second portion of the match began, Nirapathpongporn moved her advantage back to 3-up with a win at the par-4 first. Park came back to birdie the par-5 third to get back to 2-down.
Nirapathpongporn's lead dipped to a 1-up advantage when she bogeyed the par-4 fourth. Park continued her surge with a birdie at the next to briefly square the match.
The Duke standout responded quickly though. She won the next, the 24th hole of the match, to regain a 1-up lead. The duo went on to par the next five holes as Nirapathpongporn took a 1-up lead to the par-5 30th hole.
Nirapathpongporn rolled home a birdie putt to extend her lead to 2-up. Park came right back to birdie the next and get back to 1-down.
'I think the biggest high point today was that putt on No. 13, where I made that 20- or 25-footer,' Park said. 'I got to within 1-up, but I guess the momentum was just on her side today. I just didn't pull it off the way I'd like to.'
Park three-putted on the 32nd hole to drop back to 2-down with four holes to play. The pair parred the following two holes.
Nirapathpongporn sealed the match at the 35th. Her second shot found the green while Park's second came up short. After Park ran her chip past the hole, Nirapathpongporn lagged her birdie try within a foot of the cup. That putt and the match were conceded.
'All day long, especially the back nine I kept knocking it close,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'Sometimes I had difficult shots but I said the reason why I am the best player is because I keep hitting those shots. I go right at the pin because I know I can, I am not going to stay conservative and let other people take the hole.'
Park did not come to the event with high expectations, but wanted to better her game.
'I just came here to have fun and learn more and get better at this game,' said Park. 'Golf is not perfect. You can never perfect it. I think I played very well this past week. I think I played very well the past couple of days but not today, but it's okay.'
Nirapathpongporn moved to the United States at the age of 15 to learn the game of golf. Ever since moving here, she has lived on her own.
'I am just so proud of myself of how I have grown up the last six years, but I know my parents are there in Thailand but they are very far away,' she said. 'They can be my guidance, they can give me emotional support, and give advice and all that, but I am the one executing, making the decisions and just the way I have grown up the last six years, I am just so proud.'
She had plenty of praise for her opponent as well.
'She never lost it. She stayed right there,' said the 21-year-old Nirapathpongporn. 'She seemed a little tight at the very first hole of the second match. In the morning she was smiley, then she seemed all business in the afternoon, but she really held it together.'
McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks
The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.
McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.”
And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.
“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic
No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.
Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.
With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.
“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”
Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?