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Hana Bank a de facto major for South Koreans

By Randall MellOctober 11, 2017, 5:54 pm

The KEB Hana Bank Championship may not be a major championship, but it feels like one for all the South Koreans teeing it up this week in the lone LPGA event played in their homeland.

It may not be an Olympic event, either, but it also has that kind of feel to it for the Koreans, with so much nationalist honor, pride and responsibility compounding the challenge.

So there you have a summary of what this week means to the Koreans, with the combination of quasi-major championship and Olympic pressure defining the nature of the test at the Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon.

Though it’s a limited field, with 78 players, the strength of the field at the top of the game adds to the prestige of the title.

Fifteeen of the top 16 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are teeing it up and 21 of the top 23. The strength of the field is also enhanced with 12 players from the formidable Korean LPGA Tour exempt into the competition.

Overall, there are 31 Koreans in the field, 10 more than from the United States, the second-most-represented nation.

Notably, there will be at least one Korean in every pairing sent out in Thursday’s first round.

How much pressure is on the Koreans?

This event has been more difficult for them to win than the U.S. Women’s Open over the last decade. They haven’t won the KEB Hana Bank Championship the last two years and have won it just four times over the last 10 years. Conversely, they’ve won seven of the last 10 U.S. Women’s Opens.

Rolex world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park gave a glimpse of the strong sense of responsibility Korean players have to their homeland. She apologized on Tuesday for her performance at the KLPGA’s Pak Invitational a few weeks ago, when she tied for 34th.



“I didn't really get the result I wanted at the time, so I was quite sorry for my Korean fans,” Park said. “I hope this week gives me an opportunity to redeem myself to my fans.”

Two-time major championship winner In Gee Chun provided another look at the stressful dynamic earlier this year.

After Chun was hospitalized this summer with a mysterious esophageal malady, her coach, Won Park, said he believed mounting pressure from back home was a factor. While Chun has recorded five second-place finishes this season, she hasn’t been able to break through for another win.

“In Gee is a superstar in Korea, but people have such high expectations,” Park told GolfChannel.com at the time. “It’s like second-places finishes weren’t good enough.”

Chun said she was only dealing with pressure common to all top players, but she spoke this week of the frustration that mounted with so many second-place finishes.

“Of course, when you don't win, there is a certain disappointment, and I was slightly depressed at times,” Chun said.

Chun has a large fan club, The Flying Dumbos, who will be following her this week. She says she will judge the week’s success by how much fun she has with them. She got the nickname “Dumbo” because of her excessive curiosity.

“This is my first time in a year since I am playing in Korea, in front of my Korean fans, and so I'm really excited,” Chun said. “I hope I can channel this kind of excitement into positive energy.”

Rolex world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, who didn’t make the Korean Olympic team last year, said trying to make that team was a gut-wrenching proposition.

“Just makes me crazy,” Ryu said last year. “With the media, it’s like if someone is going to make the team, they’re a great player. Then if somebody cannot make it, they’re a really bad player.”

Ryu ascended to world No. 1 this year while claiming two victories, including the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. This marks her 16th consecutive week atop the rankings, and she leads the Rolex Player of the Year points race, but she says she hasn’t been satisfied with her play of late. She tied for 40th at the Evian Championship in her last start and missed the cut at the Cambia Portland Classic before that.

“To be honest, I think for the last six weeks, or about a month, I haven’t had the same kind of buzz,” Ryu said. “I really hope to be able to feel that again.”

For the Koreans, winning this week will generate a major kind of buzz.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''


Full-field scores from the Sanford International


Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”