A. Jutanugarn pushing Ko for POY honors

By Randall MellAugust 29, 2016, 1:29 am

Ariya Jutanugarn upped the ante in her bid to challenge Lydia Ko as the year’s best player in women’s golf.

With her victory Sunday at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, Jutanugarn claimed an LPGA best fifth title this season, one more than Ko.

Jutanugarn made a statement winning the Canadian Women’s Open because Ko has asserted herself so thoroughly in the event. Ko arrived in Calgary last week trying to win the championship for the fourth time in the last five years. Jutanugarn stole the thunder from Ko and Canadian favorite Brooke Henderson, the favorites coming into the week.

While Jutanugarn’s victory didn’t enable her to overtake Ko in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings or the Player of the Year and money winning races, it set up a compelling competition for those prizes going into the home stretch of the season. It ought to be a fun final three months for fans of the women’s game.

Jutanugarn and Ko win in contrasting styles.

Jutanugarn can wow the competition with her power.

Even though she doesn’t hit driver much anymore – she hasn’t hit driver since the Kingsmill Championship in May – she still impresses with her powerful lashes. In the third round on Saturday, Jutanugarn reached the 12th green hitting 2-iron and 5-iron to give herself an eagle chance. She hit her 2-iron 296 yards in the thin air in Calgary, then hit the 5-iron 230 yards.

“It’s not a fair fight,” Golf Channel course reporter Jerry Foltz said.

Jutanugarn is 13th on tour this year in driving distance without hitting many drivers. She averages 266 yards per drive using mostly 3-woods and 2-irons. Ko is 118th in driving distance, averaging 247 yards per drive.

They are both strong iron players who hit a lot of greens.

Ko is 13th on tour hitting greens in regulation, Jutanugarn is 15th. Ko is one of the best wedge players in the game, and it’s becoming a strength of Jutanugarn’s.

Ko and Inbee Park have the best short games on tour. Ko is the best putter on tour this year, leading the LPGA in putts per GIR. Park may be the best putter the women’s game has ever seen.

Jutanugarn also owns a strong short game, with a soft touch complementing her power game, and she is becoming a clutch putter. She’s eighth on tour this year in putts per GIR.

“That’s something that’s changed about Ariya this year,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, a Golf Channel analyst, said during this weekend’s telecast. “She can putt when it counts.”

Ko has been proving herself a prolific winner as a full-time LPGA member for three years now. She has shown her mastery maintaining her winning ways while honing swing changes under David Leadbetter, expanding her repertoire of shots and ball flights under his tutelage.

Jutanugarn’s talent has been there for all to see since she turned pro at 17, but she is taking the tour by storm over the last four months. She has gone to another level with Vision 54s Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott and swing coach Gary Gilchrist helping her harness gifts with an overhauled game plan.

“As a young player, Ariya could just whack it around and still play well,” Rankin said. “She’s learned she needed to develop a disciplined, gifted game.”

Rankin sees Jutanugarn still discovering what is possible.

“If she could hit the driver as well as she hits the 2-iron and 3-wood, maybe she could be unbeatable,” Rankin said.

Ko has been playing with a discipline that confounds veterans since she first won an LPGA event as a 15-year-old. She can wear out opponents with her consistent level of excellence. She’s as mentally tough as they come on tour. She’s also resilient, one of the best bounce-back players in the game.

“Lydia Ko’s greatness is kind of boring, just saying,” said Gail Graham, the two-time LPGA winner who worked as an on-course reporter for Golf Channel at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. “She’s in the middle of the fairway most of the time, gives herself a lot of [birdie] chances, just great consistency.”

With a 30-point haul in Sunday’s victory, Jutanugarn trimmed Ko’s lead to a mere five points in the Player of the Year race. A second place finish is worth 12 points with Ko claiming four points Sunday for her tie for seventh. Only top-10 finishes earn points.

Here’s the updated POY standings:

1. Ko, 241.

2. Jutanugarn, 236.

3. Brooke Henderson, 131.

Ko’s grip on the Rolex world No. 1 ranking is so strong, Jutanugarn may need two or three more victories this year to catch her.

Still, Ko and Jutanugarn have set up a compelling battle for the game’s biggest prizes the rest of the year. If one of them wins the year’s final major, the Evian Championship, it’s another large statement. Ko vs. Jutanugarn shapes up as a classic confrontation of golfing skills, one that ought to excite fans of the women’s game if they can keep mustering their best on the way to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.