Illinois Women Bring Home Title
MIAMI. -- Illinois held on to its first-round lead during the final round to capture the team title at the Golden Panther Women's Championship, hosted by Florida International University at the par 71, 6,003-yard Doral Resort Silver Course in Miami.
Illinois shot a score of 324 to give the team a 36-hole total score of 633. The Illini finished 12 strokes better than North Carolina-Greensboro, who placed second with a score of 646. Georgia State placed third at 653, 20 strokes behind the victorious Illini. The win marks the first tournament title of the 2002-03 season for the Illini and the first for the program since it won the Illini Spring Classic last season.
Leading the way for Illoinois was senior Laurin Kanda, who captured runner-up honors at 13-over par. Kanda finished second in the 80-player field after carding rounds of 77 and 78 for a total score of 155. She just missed winning the individual title, finishing one stroke behind Florida International's Courtney Burdick, who captured medalist honors with a score of 154. Kanda's second-place finish ties her career-best as an Illini, dating back to her freshman season in the fall of 1999 when she tied for second at the Wolverine Invitational.
'As a team we're very excited to come away with the win,' Kanda said. 'We played really well yesterday and although our scores weren't as low today, we held on and won and it's really exciting to start the spring season by winning our first tournament.
'As for myself, it's hard not to be a little disappointed with missing first place by one stroke, because I can look back and think of how one shot or one putt here or there would have made the difference,' Kanda added. 'But runner-up is still a great honor and definitely gives me confidence heading into our upcoming tournaments.'
Three Illini golfers in all finished in the top 10 in the individual standings. Junior Michelle Carroll tied for fourth with a score of 15-over par 157. The fourth place performance by Carroll marks the highest finish of her collegiate career. Senior Renata Young placed seventh at 16-over par (158) to join Kanda and Carroll in the Top 10.
Illinois takes a two-week break and is next in action Feb. 24-25 at the Central District Challenge in Parrish, Fla.
Golden Panther Women's Championship Final Team Standings
1. Illinois 309-324=633
2. North Carolina-Greensboro 334-312=646
3. Georgia State 334-319=653
4. Florida Atlantic 337-319=656
T5. Middle Tennessee State 334-324=658
T5. Florida International 334-324=658
T7. Southwest Texas State 330-332=662
T7. Bethune-Cookman 331-331=662
T9. Barry 343-331=674
T9. Daytona Beach CC 345-329=674
11. Lynn 357-332=689
12. The Citadel 360-334=694
T13. Northwood 357-341=698
T13. Southern Illinois 353-345=698
15. Nova Southeastern 355-350=705
Illinois Individual Results
2. Laurin Kanda 77-78=155 +13
T4. Michelle Carroll 78-79=157 +15
7. Renata Young 76-82=158 +16
T16. Stephanie Cheney 78-85=163 +21
T40. Megan Godfrey (Ind.) 86-84=170 +28
T47. Marla Cox 83-91=174 +32
Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday
Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.
European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.
Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.
Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.
Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.
Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.
In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit
Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.
“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.
Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).
It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.
“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.
“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”
Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.
“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”
Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.
“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”
Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.
This is how Kang remembered the conversation:
Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”
Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”
Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”
“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”
Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.
“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.
“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”
Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy
Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.
But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.
"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."
Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.
"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.
Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.
"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."
Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup
Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.
Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.
But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.
"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."
It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.
"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."