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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Bowditch reveals back injury, eyes fusion surgery

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:03 pm

After struggling through a couple lean years on the course, Steven Bowditch is ready to go under the knife.

Bowditch has won twice on the PGA Tour, and the Aussie was a member of the International Team at the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea. But his game fell apart shortly thereafter, as Bowditch has made just two cuts in his last 40 starts dating back to July 2016 while putting up some eye-popping scores.

Bowditch's exemption for his win at the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson expired in August 2017, and he spent last season without full-time status on Tour for the first time since 2010. He made eight starts, notably finding a caddie via Twitter search before missing the cut at the John Deere Classic in July.

But the 35-year-old revealed Tuesday that his on-course struggles have been tied to some health concerns that have been difficult to pinpoint. Having finally received the appropriate diagnosis, he is preparing for a spinal fusion surgery next month between the L5 and S1 vertebrae - the same two that Tiger Woods successfully fused last year:

Bowditch's estimate of a "late 2019" return likely means he'll miss the entire 2018-19 season. When he returns he would do so with past champion status based on his wins, which also included the 2014 Valero Texas Open.

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Thomas, Koepka grouped as both vie for No. 1 in Korea

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 1:44 pm

The PGA Tour remains in Asia this week, where another star-studded field is gathered for a no-cut event. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the CJ Cup in South Korea, where Justin Thomas will look to retain his title as the tournament's lone champion with the action getting started Wednesday night for American viewers (all times ET):

7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im

Thomas won the inaugural edition of this event last year in a playoff, and he returns to defend his title with hopes of supplanting idle Dustin Johnson as world No. 1. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Koepka, who is making his first start since being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and, like Thomas, could move to world No. 1. Rounding out the group is Im, a Korean native who went wire-to-wire leading the Web.com Tour money list in 2018 and nearly won his first event as a PGA Tour member in Napa.


CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els

Leishman lost to Thomas in overtime at this event last year, but he returns to Jeju Island with plenty of momentum after dusting the field last week en route to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. Joining him will be Kim, who won the 2017 Players Championship and will have plenty of support from the Korean fans, and Els, playing this week on a sponsor invite as he continues to keep an eye on potential stars for the Presidents Cup team he will captain next year.


8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

They're two Aussies who teamed on plenty of Presidents Cup squads and have both reached the top of the world rankings, and now they'll play together for the first two rounds in Korea. Day is making his first start since East Lake, while Scott made a rare appearance at the Japan Open last week where he tied for 50th. Rounding out the trio will be Matsuyama, another Presidents Cup fixture who tied for fourth at the Tour Championship to end last season.


8:35 p.m. Wednesday, 7:25 p.m. Thursday: Kevin Tway, Austin Cook, Xander Schauffele

Tway finished T-27 last week in Malaysia in his first start as a PGA Tour winner, having taken the trophy two weeks ago in Napa. He'll be joined in Korea by Cook, who contended throughout last week en route to a T-13 finish, and Schauffele, the former Rookie of the Year who shot 65-68 over the weekend in Kuala Lumpur.

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Stock Watch: It's still Miller time

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2018, 12:58 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Johnny (+10%): A polarizing figure to the end, Miller was the rare candid and uncompromising voice in the chummy world of pro golf. Paul Azinger (the reported successor) has a big seat to fill in the booth.  

Marc Leishman (+8%): Few can light up a board like Leish, who went 26 under at the CIMB without breaking a sweat. With that beautiful, high fade and his streaky putter, he will continue to be a major breakthrough candidate for 2019.

Eddie Pepperell (+6%): Is there a more fun cat in all of golf? He won ugly on a nasty day at the British Masters, delivered some more money quotes afterward, and now has two Euro Tour titles (and two runners-up!) this season and a ’19 Masters invite upcoming.

Bernhard Langer (+5%): A “quiet” season is still two wins, but at age 61 he’s started to fall off the pace to catch Hale Irwin’s record 45 wins. (He’s seven back.) This is an important playoff run for Langer.

Jordan Spieth (+3%): He got that strength-of-schedule requirement out of the way early by adding the Vegas event to his calendar – the first time he’s teed it up domestically in the fall. This has been such a bizarre year, it wouldn’t surprise at all if he comes out and grabs a slump-busting W.


FALLING

Shubhankar Sharma (-1%): Just 22, he still needs to learn how to win – and he will. The Sunday 74 in Mexico and closing 72 in Malaysia will be critical learning experiences for the rising star from India.

Tour tracks (-2%): What a contrast, seeing PGA Tour types tearing up a nondescript course in Malaysia (with a dozen players 19 under or better) while Justin Rose and Co. battled a firm and bouncy Walton Heath that surrendered only two 72-hole scores lower than 5 under. Hmmm. 

Green-reading materials (-5%): Good luck enforcing the new rule that limits images to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards, and allows only handwritten notes from a player or caddie. The books still grind pace of play to a halt and reduce the skill involved in reading a green, so why not ban them altogether?

Tiger vs. Phil (-7%): There have been wrong turns at seemingly every corner: No fans or local kids on-site; no undercard matches; not on network TV; not under the lights; not for their own cash; no charitable aspect; not played 15 years earlier. What a missed opportunity. All of it.

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NBC Sports' Johnny Miller announces retirement from lead golf analyst role

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 16, 2018, 12:40 pm

2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open in February Will be Miller’s Final 18th Tower Call

On the eve of 30 years as NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst, Johnny Miller has chosen to make his final 18th tower call at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be staged from Thursday, January 31 – Sunday, February 3. 

“When NBC Sports approached me 30 years ago about a move to TV, I never could have imagined how it would lead to so many lasting relationships and countless memories made alongside a team of talented friends, both in front of and behind the camera,” Miller said. “I’m forever grateful to my family for their support during this fulfilling chapter of my life. As I say farewell to the 18th tower, I look forward to spending more time alongside my wife Linda, our children, and our 24 grandchildren. Soon it will officially be Miller time.”

Miller was named lead analyst of NBC Sports’ golf broadcast team in 1990 and quickly made his mark as the game’s most candid commentator, calling some of golf’s most memorable shots for the past three decades. Garnering eight Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst,” Miller’s insight and frank approach have earned him both critical praise and viewer appreciation, as well as the respect and occasional raised eyebrow from those competing inside the ropes. 

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is simply the gold standard,” said Tommy Roy, NBC Sports’ lead golf producer. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA TOUR’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

“Johnny Miller is the best golf analyst ever and he will be missed by millions of fans. Early in his career, he made a commitment to serve the fans by telling it like it is and for three decades he’s served those fans incredibly well,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “Whether they agree or disagree with Johnny, everyone wants to hear what he has to say. His unfiltered approach has not only been refreshing, but it’s what makes him great. He is a part of the fabric of NBC Sports, and as one of the most influential voices in golf, he will forever have a home here.”

“This truly marks the end of a broadcast era,” said Dan Hicks, NBC Sports’ play-by-play host, who – with Miller – owns the record for longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf (2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open marks 20 years). “Johnny changed the landscape of golf commentary and analysis with his unique, unfiltered and honest manner, which made for a deep connection with viewers at home. Johnny was always unpredictable, so there was never a dull moment with Johnny in the booth. To sit next to him will always remain one of the greatest honors I could ever have in this business.”


 HIGHLIGHTS OF MILLER’S GOLF ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Golf Career:
    • World Golf Hall of Fame, inducted 1998
    • 1973 U.S. Open: Miller shot a 63 in the final round at Oakmont Country Club to win. This was the lowest round to win a major championship until it was tied by Henrik Stenson at The Open in 2016.
    • 1976 Open Championship: Miller beat Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus at Royal Birkdale en route to being named “Champion Golfer of the Year”
    • 25-time PGA TOUR winner
    • 1974 Player of the Year
    • U.S. Ryder Cup wins in 1975, 1981
    • Three-time World Cup participant, winning in 1973, ‘75
    • Two-time All-American at Brigham Young University (1967-’68)
    • Gold Tee Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association (1996)
    • Jack Nicklaus Golf Family of the Year Award, National Golf Foundation (1997)
    • Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame inductee (2013)
    • Ambassador of Golf Award, Northern Ohio Golf Charities (2014)
    • Memorial Tournament Honoree (2016)
  • Golf Broadcast Career:
    • 29 PLAYERS Championships
    • 20 U.S. Opens
    • 14 Ryder Cups
    • 9 Presidents Cups
    • 3 Open Championships
    • 2016 Rio Olympics
    • First event: Bob Hope Desert Classic (January 18-21, 1990)
    • Farewell event: Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2019. Miller won the Phoenix Open in back-to-back years in 1974-‘75.
    • 8-time Emmy Award nominee for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Event Analyst”
    • In 2019, 20 consecutive years Miller has sat next to Dan Hicks, NBC Sports play-by-play host, together sharing the record for the longest-tenured 18th tower tandem in broadcast golf.
    • Prior to Hicks, Miller’s previous broadcast partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.
  • Biographical Information:
    • Born and raised in San Francisco, resides in Utah
    • Turned professional in 1969 after graduating from Brigham Young University
    • Married to Linda Miller on Sept. 17, 1969.
    • 6 children, 24 grandchildren
    • Has contributed to the design of more than 30 golf courses, including Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif., host of the PGA TOUR’s Safeway Open. Miller also serves as the event’s tournament host.