Henderson vs. Ko: A rivalry is born

By Randall MellJune 13, 2016, 3:27 am

SAMMAMISH, Wash. – Brooke Henderson won, but so did women’s golf.

Henderson’s epic duel with Lydia Ko on Sunday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will go down as one of the greatest finishes in the history of the women’s game.

Sahalee is Chinook for “High Heavenly Ground,” and the course lived up to its name with Henderson, Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn taking the women’s game to another level creating some spectacular theater. It was an instant classic.

Henderson chased down Rolex World No. 1 Ko in regulation on the back nine, then beat her with an unforgettable 7-iron to 3 feet for birdie on the first playoff hole.

“An amazing day,” Henderson said.

The LPGA hasn’t suddenly become young, but it’s suddenly become younger than it has ever been.

At 18 years, 9 months and 2 days old, Henderson is the youngest winner in the 62-year history of this championship, which carries the LPGA Championship records with it. She’s the second-youngest winner of a women’s major, behind Ko, who won the Evian Championship in September at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old.

When the newest Rolex Women’s World Rankings are released, Ko and Henderson will be No. 1-2, respectively. A couple of teenagers now reign over women’s golf.

Jutanugarn, who is only 20, missed out on the playoff after coming up inches short at the 18th of closing with three consecutive birdies. She was bidding to win her fourth consecutive start.

Henderson shot 65, Jutanugarn 66 and Ko 67.

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For three days, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship felt like a U.S. Women’s Open, with smattering of applause rewarding players for their parade of pars. But come Sunday, Sahalee was transformed. The chorus of soul-stirring roars Henderson, Ko and Jutanugarn conjured on the back nine made this sound like the women’s version of the Masters.

“This was great for the women’s game and for the LPGA,” Ko said.

Ko, trying to become just the fifth woman to win three majors in a row, took a one-shot lead into the final round. She looked unbeatable from the start, sticking a wedge to a foot at the first hole to open with a birdie. She built a three-shot lead going to the back nine, but that’s where Henderson took charge.

“I knew I would have to do something special to beat her,” Henderson said.

After smashing a 3-wood just in front of the green at the 11th, Henderson rolled in a 90-foot eagle putt.

“To have it go in was incredible,” said Henderson, a Canadian who had a legion of fellow countrymen in the gallery rooting for her. “I was just trying to nestle it up and make sure I made birdie. That was huge momentum changer for me.”

The roar there sent a quake through the grounds with Henderson moving within a shot of Ko.

“The way the noise echoed here was really cool,” Henderson said. “I'd never really experienced that before."

Henderson rolled in another monster putt at the 17th, holing a birdie from 36 feet. That tied her with Ko at 6 under overall. At the last, Henderson made a remarkable par save from 90 yards out, holing a 12-foot putt.

Unflappable with all those roars in front of her, Ko finally stumbled on the back nine. She didn’t make a bogey all day, but she missed a 4-foot birdie chance at the 17th that could have put her one shot clear of Henderson. She missed the putt right.

“I was kind of aiming right center, but it almost broke a little bit,” Ko said. “I'm not really sure if I pushed it. I didn't feel like it was a bad stroke. So maybe I misread it a little bit.”

Henderson won it in the playoff, sticking a 7-iron from 155 yards to 3 feet. She rolled the putt in after Ko missed a 15-foot birdie chance.

“It looks like our careers will probably start pretty much close to the same time and probably end at the same time,” Henderson said. “I hope we have lots of extra holes like that, or lots of times where we're contending for championships.”

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.

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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."