China Syndrome melts down LPGA rookie hopes

By Randall MellSeptember 15, 2011, 12:27 am

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Jessica Korda’s season might suddenly be rushing to a close.

And she’s not alone.

The LPGA rookie is among rank-and-file hit hardest by Monday’s unexpected cancellation of the Imperial Springs LPGA event in China. The tournament was scrubbed just a little more than two weeks from its scheduled start. The news means this week’s Navistar LPGA Classic could be Korda’s last start of 2011.

Korda’s 90th on the LPGA money list. The top 80 at season’s end gain Category 1 priority status for tour access next season. The higher Korda finishes on the money list, the more events she’s qualified to play in next year.

Coming to Navistar, Korda thought she was assured of at least two more starts to improve her standing. She was in the field for the now non-existent China event, which was scheduled to feature a $2 million purse.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan broke the news to players on Tuesday.

“It stinks, because you never know when you’re going to be in your last event,” Korda said.

Korda said she heard rumors of the possible cancellation of Imperial Springs on Monday. An LPGA email confirmed it on Tuesday.

“You read it, and you just get really disappointed, because you realize, all of a sudden, this could be your last week out here,” Korda said.

The news was even harder on 20-year-old rookie Amelia Lewis.

At 105th on the money list, Lewis learned Monday that she had moved up from first alternate to gain the final spot in the limited field at Imperial Springs. Her joy lasted less than 24 hours.

“On Tuesday, Mike Whan walks up to me on the driving range and tells me there’s no China event,” Lewis said. “I got to enjoy the idea of playing in China for one night.”

The LPGA featured 34 official tournaments in 2008. The Imperial Springs cancellation leaves 23 official events on this year’s schedule.

As a rookie, Lewis has gained access to only seven events this season. She’s made five cuts and earned $29,301 in money winnings.

Korda, 18, ranks 90th in money with $45,763 in 13 starts.

Back in ’08, Kris Tamulis finished 90th in money and made $117,139 in 21 starts.

Though top 80 in money gains Category 1 priority status next year, top 70 is a magic number.

“That just about gets you into every event,” Lewis said.

If Korda doesn’t crack the top 80 this week, she still has a chance to play one more event. She is third alternate for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship during the Asian swing in October, but she’s not sure she wants to fly to the other side of the planet as an alternate now that China’s off the schedule.

“I’ll make the decision whether I want to do that when we’re done with this event, and I re-evaluate with my team what is going to happen,” Korda said. “I understand part of this is my fault. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to play and didn’t make enough money to get into these last events, but I was really looking forward to playing in China. It’s just really unfortunate we can’t.”

After Navistar, there are six events remaining on the LPGA schedule, four in Asia, one in Mexico and the season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Orlando.

Whan had no recourse dealing with the cancellation. The China Golf Association didn’t inform him until Monday night. He said he felt for his players.

“I know how much it means to have that opportunity to play again, to play for a big purse, to play on a world stage,” Whan said. “I’m not here to cancel events. It’s frustrating for them. It’s frustrating for me. I told the players we will be back [in China]. It’s a market we are going to succeed in long term.”

Whan said the cancellation wasn’t due to title sponsorship issues with Imperial Springs.

“We have a four-year agreement with Imperial Springs,” Whan said. “To their credit, they built an incredible facility. They built an incredible purse. They paid for that up front. They were ready to go. It wasn’t a sponsor problem or a money problem. I think it’s possible we could be at Imperial Springs, but as you can guess a lot of things still have to be worked out.”

Why the late cancellation? There have been issues reported with the Chinese government’s involvement and the approval process. Beyond that, Whan said he’s not at liberty to discuss details.

“It’s not completely clear,” Whan said. “I think it’s something we will be able to talk about a little bit more in the future.”

For Korda and Lewis, this season’s future is short.

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Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

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Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.

Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.