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Thomas ready for new season, eyes three-peat

By Associated PressOctober 9, 2017, 12:38 pm

A year ago at this time, Justin Thomas was simply hoping to prove that his victory in the 2015 CIMB Classic wasn't a fluke.

Thomas, 24, returns to the West Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this week seeking a three-peat only a matter of days after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup and being voted winner of the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award.

"I still am having a hard time grasping and understanding that I leave for another event in a couple days," Thomas said after receiving the Jack Nicklaus Trophy that goes to the Player of the Year.

"It's a tremendous honor. It really sunk in when I got the call from the commissioner (Jay Monahan). It was something I felt I may win because of ... how the year played out. I was with my parents when I got the call, so I was able to kind of share the moment with them a little bit.

"Any time you can win an award with someone like Jack Nicklaus' name on the award, it definitely means a lot."


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Thomas, who won the CIMB Classic by one stroke over Adam Scott of Australia two years ago on the strength of an 11-under-par 61 in the second round, repeated his title when he shot 64 in the first and last rounds to beat Hideki Matsuyama of Japan by three shots.

This week, he will try to go one better than Ryan Moore, who claimed the title in Malaysia in 2013 and 2014.

"I feel like I would have played a lot of courses really well, but (TPC Kuala Lumpur) obviously suits my eye, and I think the fact that there's a lot of wedges and scoring clubs bodes well for me," Thomas said after winning the first of his five titles in 2016-17 en route to capturing the FedExCup.

"It's great to win again here. It's obviously a place I'm very comfortable with and I think a lot of that is because of just everything that goes on here. I mean, the fan base and ... everything is done very well. It's very exciting to come back. This is by far my favorite place I've been out of the country or that we go to out of the country.

"It's definitely worth the 24- or 25-hour travel day that it was to get here."

Thomas followed that up by sweeping through Hawaii in January. He won the SBS Tournament of Champions by three strokes over Matsuyama before rolling to a seven-stroke victory over Justin Rose a week later at the Sony Open in Hawaii after opening with a tournament record 11-under-par 59.

Even though he cooled off a bit over the next several months, he posted four finishes in the top 10, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in June. However, he saved his best for a sizzling finish to the season.

The former Alabama All-American, who won six times for the Crimson Tide before turning pro in 2013, claimed his first major title by two strokes over Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

A few weeks later, he shot 63-66 on the weekend to win the Dell Technologies Championship by three shots over pal Jordan Spieth in the second week of the playoffs.

Thomas capped the season by finishing one stroke behind Xander Schauffele to claim solo second in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta to wrap up the FedExCup.

So, where does he go from here? He is going to see three wise men.

"I'll probably spend some time talking to Mr. Nicklaus or Tiger (Woods) because those are guys – those are the only people – or even Jordan, those are the only people I know that have had such success in one season multiple times," said Thomas, who is ranked fourth in the world.

"I know how hard it is to do because of how deep the Tour is right now and how many great players there are. ... (The five-win season is) something that's going to be tough to continue or tough to replicate, but I'm definitely going to give it my best.

"I know I'm going to have to sit down re-evaluate things at some point, because this just doesn't happen every year."

And he hardly had time to catch his breath before starting over.

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

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Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”