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Battle at the Brickyard: Lydia vs. Lexi

By Randall MellSeptember 8, 2017, 11:40 pm

Lydia Ko moved in position Friday to shake the first real swoon of her career in spectacular fashion, but she will have to take on Lexi Thompson to do so.

Ko shot 8-under-par 64, following up her 65 in the opening round, to take the lead through the morning wave in the second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Thompson, however, answered in the afternoon. She followed up a 63 with a 66 to tie Ko for the lead at 15-under overall at Brickyard Crossing Golf Club in Indianapolis.

That sets up a showdown between two of the greatest teen phenoms in LPGA history.

Thompson, who turned 22 in February, and Ko, who turned 20 in April, will go off together in Saturday’s final round.

“I've played with Lydia quite a bit,” Thompson said. “We're usually paired with each other at least one round a week. She's super nice, a great player, obviously, very talented. So, tomorrow, I'm just going to focus on my game and see where that takes me.”

Thompson won her first LPGA title when she was 16 at the Navistar Classic, becoming the tour’s youngest winner at the time. Ko came along a year later to win the Canadian Women’s Open at 15.

Thompson is looking for her ninth LPGA title, her second this season.

Ko is looking for her 15th LPGA title, her first in more than a year. She entered this week having missed the cut in two of her last three starts, and having failed to put up a top-10 finish all summer, over her last seven starts.

“It was actually more frustrating, because I felt like there were a lot of positives, and a lot of good things going on, but I just couldn't put it all together,” Ko said. “This week, the last couple days, I've been able to hit it pretty good, and make some good putts. That's what I've kind of been lacking the last few months.”

Ko made five consecutive birdies on her second nine Friday. Though she entered this week just 47th on tour in greens in regulation - a big slip from two years ago, when she ranked second - her iron play has been sharp through two rounds. She has hit 33 of 36 greens this week.

This season started with Ko facing some challenges that were more daunting than she expected. She came into the year with a new coach, new equipment and new caddie.

Going through swing changes and dialing in yardages with 14 new PXG clubs in her bag required Ko to be more analytical about her game than is natural to her.

She was asked Friday if she finds herself thinking too much about her swing.

“I've tried to keep putting my time in on the range, to make me think less while I am playing,” Ko said. “Sometimes, those thoughts do come, but I think it's something where you have to have an on-and-off switch. If you don't hit a good shot, and you start thinking, `Hey, what's going on?’ And switch off, and just let it swing freely. I think that's really important. It's just nice to kind of be able to get into that rhythm.”

Thompson is overpowering Brickyard Crossing, which is playing to 6,599 yards on the scorecard. She averaged 300 yards per drive on Friday, which is a staggering 76 more than Ko.

Through two rounds, Thompson has made 17 birdies.

“It's not the longest golf course,” Thompson said. “I can reach the par 5s, which I think is definitely in my advantage, but you still have to hit golf shots.”

Thompson and Ko, of course, aren’t the only players with chances Saturday. Candie Kung (64) is just one shot back with Ashleigh Buhai (66) four back.

“I'm really just going to try not to even look at a leaderboard,” Thompson said. “I'm just going to try to focus on my game. It's going to take a lot of birdies, especially if it's perfect weather like it was today.”

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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