H.J. Kim out-duels Lewis to win Founders Cup

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2015, 2:16 am

PHOENIX – The LPGA ought to think about setting up a satellite office in Seoul.

South Koreans are looking determined to own this year in women’s golf.

Hyo Joo Kim kept the South Korean flag firmly planted in this LPGA season Sunday holding off Stacy Lewis to win the JTBC Founders Cup.

With a 5-under-par 67 in the final round, Kim fended off bold early charges from one challenger after another on a leaderboard that was tightly bunched on the front nine at Wildfire Golf Club. Her 21-under 267 total ended up being three shots better than Lewis (68) and five better than Ilhee Lee (66), Mi Hyang Lee (68) and Pornanong Phatlum (67).

South Korean or South Korean-born players have won all six LPGA events staged this year.

Na Yeon Choi won the Coates Golf Championship in the season opener. Sei Young Kim won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic,  Lydia Ko the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Amy Yang the Honda LPGA Thailand and Inbee Park the HSBC Women’s Champions. Choi, Kim, Yang and Park are South Korean. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Kim, 19, is part of a gifted wave of young South Koreans making up what may be the strongest rookie class the tour has ever seen.

“They’re fearless,” Lewis said.

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Hyo Joo Kim was a major championship winner before even taking up LPGA membership. She won the Evian Championship last year while playing the Korean LPGA Tour, where she was the Rookie of the Year in 2013. She claimed LPGA membership at the start of this season by virtue of that Evian victory. Though she’s considered a rookie, Kim started this week No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She will move up to No. 4 this week.

“She put a lot of pressure on and was just solid all day,” Lewis said.

Kim wasn’t alone among South Koreans taking a lofty world ranking into their LPGA rookie season.

Remarkably, four rookies from South Korea started this year ranked higher than major championship winner Paula Creamer.

Ha Na Jang, who just missed a putt to force a playoff with fellow countrywoman Na Yeon Choi at the season opening Coates Golf Championship, is No. 21 in the world. Sei Young Kim is No. 22. Q Baek, who many South Koreans expect to make a big impact this year, is No. 12. They’re all proven winners in their homeland.

“I have known these players since we played the Korean ladies tour,” Kim said through a translator. “I know how good they can be. In fact, everyone on the LPGA is really good, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. I’m just trying to find my place.”

At one point on the front nine, six players were within a shot of Kim. The back nine turned into a duel between Kim and Lewis.

Kim was two shots ahead of Lewis stepping to the 10th tee, but she looked like she might open a door to Lewis there. After hitting her drive under a tree to start the back nine, Kim asked for relief from a “dangerous situation.” A large beehive hung near the top of the tree. Kim was denied relief. She appealed, but she was denied again. After punching out, Kim made bogey, allowing Lewis to move within a shot of her.

“I wasn’t frustrated,” Kim said of the ruling. “If anything, I was just scared of the bees.”

Sensing an opening, Lewis picked up her game, but Kim kept answering all the good shots Lewis made. Lewis birdied the 12th, 13th and 15th holes and didn’t pick up a shot.

“I fought like crazy,” Lewis said. “That back nine was pretty cool, the way we made birdies back and forth and on top of each other.”

Finally, at the 16th hole, Lewis narrowed the gap, but she had to hit a stellar shot to do so. After watching Kim carve her approach shot there to 7 feet, Lewis hit hers to 4 feet, making her birdie putt after Kim missed.

Kim wouldn’t waver again. In fact, she slammed the door on Lewis with a birdie at the very difficult 18th, where a tough hole location yielded just six birdies all day. Lewis made a good play from a divot in the fairway to give herself a 30-foot birdie chance, but she three-putted for bogey, giving Kim her three-shot margin of victory.

Lewis made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine.

Kim made five birdies over the final eight holes.

“In the morning, I wasn't concentrating on winning, because I was playing with Stacy Lewis,” Kim said. “I’m a rookie. I just felt that by playing with her, I would learn a lot from her. So, I was just trying to make a good impression.”

Kim did more than that.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”