Ko splits with Leadbetter after three years

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2016, 1:03 am

Lydia Ko and swing coach David Leadbetter are parting ways.

Ko told Leadbetter Tuesday night that she wanted to go in a new direction, and Leadbetter made the split public releasing a statement on his website Wednesday night.

“She called me and said, `David, this is the hardest decision for me, you’re like family, but I’ve decided I need to make a change,’” Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com.

Ko and her management team couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“Lydia’s a great person, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time together,” Leadbetter said. “We did a great job together, just look at the record. We can hold our heads up high.”

Leadbetter said he believes Ko’s father, Gil Hong Ko, and her, mother, Tina, were likely heavily involved in the decision to fire him. He believes they were also behind the firing of Lydia’s caddie, Jason Hamilton, during the Asian swing this fall.

“My parting words to Lydia were that I think she needs to take control of her life and her golf game,” Leadbetter said. “She’s the No. 1 player in the world. She isn’t 15 anymore; she’s nearly 20. Her parents have done a great job bringing her up and getting her to a certain level, but she is old enough now to where she should be making her own decisions.”

Ko is making some sweeping changes. She fired Hamilton after the Hana Bank Championship in October. They were together for two years. She is also apparently poised to announce she’s leaving Callaway for a new equipment deal with PXG Golf, according to news reports. Now, there’s news of the Leadbetter split.

Ko’s changing swing and second-half swoon are clearly at the root of her decision to leave Leadbetter, but she limited explanations to “wanting a fresh set of eyes.”

Ko won five times around the world in the first half of this past season, but she didn’t win after claiming the Marathon Classic in July. She struggled this fall, contending less. She went five consecutive events without a top-10 finish late in the year, her longest run without a top 10 since she began playing LPGA events as a 15-year-old.

While Ko denied she was working on swing changes during the Asian swing, Leadbetter confirmed she began moving away from the swing they built together while in Asia.

“There were swing changes in Korea we weren’t made aware of,” Leadbetter said.

Ko left her long-time coach in New Zealand, Guy Wilson, to go to work with Leadbetter and his longtime associate, Sean Hogan, in November of 2013. Her parents told Leadbetter at the time they wanted to fix Lydia’s shut face at the top of her back swing and turn her fade into a draw. They also wanted her to get longer.

Leadbetter built Ko what he called a “Mid A swing,” a version of his “A Swing,” which features a more upright takeaway with a transition to a more shallow downswing. Leadbetter said the steepness of Ko’s takeaway had become “too exaggerated” as this past season wore on. He says fatigue during a brutal summer stretch of big events and fitness issues led to the swing problems.

“Her swing certainly got looser,” Leadbetter said. “It looked like she was lifting the club too much, and as the year went on that grew worse. Her trainers will tell you fitness was an issue, and I think that was a huge factor. So, all of a sudden, you’re not hitting the ball as well, and you lose some confidence and you have a tough run of form.”

Leadbetter said Ko and her father began working on changes while playing the Asian swing, where they were mostly away from Leadbetter and Hogan.

“The fix for her dad’s part was to try to flatten her backswing,” Leadbetter said.

Ko won 15 times in her three years under Leadbetter and Hogan, including two major championships, and she has held the Rolex No. 1 world ranking for 78 weeks. In her last 50 starts going to the CME Group Tour Championship, she had 33 top-10 finishes, 11 of them victories, but she wasn’t herself through the late summer and fall. She led the Rolex Player of the Year race, the battle for the Vare Trophy for low scoring and the LPGA money list beginning the Asian swing. She left the season without winning any of those honors.

Leadbetter said Gil Hong Ko’s presence on the practice tee was becoming a stronger influence in his work with her this year.

“It’s been difficult the last few months, when she’s hearing more than one voice,” Leadbetter said.

Leadbetter was asked if he is bracing for criticism of his “A Swing.”

“The A Swing worked great for two-and-a-half years,” Leadbetter said. “That’s my answer.”

Leadbetter said he treasures what he and Hogan accomplished with Ko.

“These things happen in the world of coaching,” Leadbetter said. “We did a great job together.”

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.