Komania nation divided on turning pro, following Wie

By Jason SobelFebruary 17, 2013, 6:36 pm

Welcome to Komania. Population: Me.

OK, that’s not completely true. From my perch high atop the Lydia Ko bandwagon, I’m still surrounded by others, although many supporters voluntarily jumped overboard following the 15-year-old’s final-round 76 that left her in “only” third place at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

That just leaves more room for the rest of us. Her performance makes seven top-10 results in 13 career starts in professional events for the amateur, which should be enough to make her the first golfer since Tiger Woods to have the suffix “-mania” attached to her name, even if it does sound like an Eastern European nation.

What’s not to like about Ko? She has a gorgeous swing and drains more than her fair share of putts. As if that’s not enough, she handles herself like a player twice her age. When she won last week in New Zealand, she cried tears of joy. When she lost this week in Australia, there were no tears, only congratulatory smiles for playing partner Jiyai Shin.

Shin tops 15-year-old Ko in LPGA opener

Great kid. Great potential. Great story.

Like most stories these days, though, it’s not enough to simply watch this one develop and see where it takes us. We must speculate and deliberate what the future holds.

In the case of Ko, this leads to two pressing questions: 1. When will she turn professional? and 2. Will she become the next Michelle Wie?

Let’s first address the first one. After finishing four shots behind Shin in the LPGA season-opener, Ko said, “I’ve got a couple of years until I turn pro, so I guess within that period hopefully I’ll be able to get a little bit better.”

That hasn’t stopped the masses from questioning her logic and debating whether she’s making the correct decision. In those 13 starts, Ko would have already banked more than a half-million dollars, which has some critics blasting her for leaving money on the table.

If that sounds more than a little callous, it should. Here’s all I need to know about her decision: I wouldn’t want Ko offering career advice to me, so I’ll refrain from offering any to her. Instead, I’ll just respect whatever she chooses.

The truth is, it’s unnerving how many people wish to push their opinions on her.

A quick admission: I didn’t know much about 15-year-old girls back when I was a 15-year-old boy, which could explain all those weekend nights reorganizing my baseball card collection. Now that I’m, well, slightly older than 15, I know even less. From what I hear, they enjoy texting and talking about boys and for the right price, some of ‘em may sell you a few boxes of samoas or thin mints.

That lack of knowledge makes me completely unqualified to definitively say what this specific 15-year-old should or shouldn’t do with her life.

Two things I do know are that Ko isn’t the average 15-year-old girl and when she does turn professional, that half-million will feel like child’s play. She will be showered with sponsorship endorsement deals that will likely exceed any earnings she can receive through tournament winnings. Call that a problem within the game, but it’s also the nature of the beast.

And so whether Ko becomes a play-for-pay competitor tomorrow or next year or the year after or not until after she attends college, she’ll likely come out of it a very heavily compensated professional – even before she ever hits her first shot.

All of which leads to that second question.

Wie is 23 years old, and already nabbed two career LPGA victories before graduating Stanford University last year. And yet, her name is somehow synonymous with wasted youth. She was dubbed a failure before she was given an opportunity to succeed; she is largely considered an afterthought rather than one of the better players in the world.

That, of course, is because Wie was the poster child for the hyped athlete whose reputation exceeded her performance level. Multi-million-dollar contracts for a teenager will do that. So, too, will a media contingent desperate for the next superstar.

Despite a thought that will make the masses wince, Ko could do a lot worse than ending up like Wie. Which is to say, a well-rounded college graduate who is among the best in her chosen field with enough money in the bank to last her a few lifetimes.

When asked this week about advice for Ko, Wie rode the fence: “I have no advice for her. Turning pro or not turning pro, going to college, not going to college, it’s a very personal decision. It’s not something someone can say: `I think you should turn pro. I think you should stay an amateur. I think you should do this or that.’ It’s her life; it’s her career. When I turned pro, I really wanted to turn pro. That was a very personal decision for me. I really wanted to do that, and I have no regrets. I hope she makes the right decision for her. Whatever decision she makes, it has to really just be on her and what she wants to do.”

For now, Komania stands as a nation divided. Divided about Ko’s decision to turn professional or remain an amateur. Divided about whether she will become the next Michelle Wie. Divided about just how much of a bad thing that would be.

As for me, I’m not leaving my perch anytime soon. Ko has a major “it” factor and whether it materializes into her becoming an all-time great or struggling to live up to her 15-year-old self, I’m content to sit back and let the story develop in front of me.

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x