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Ko (67) out to finish season 'on a high note'

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 10:52 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko saved her strong start to the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a terrific final shot.

It moved her into early position to try to save this season, to keep it from becoming the first winless year of her young career.

Ko holed out from the bunker at the 18th hole to save par, sending a jolt through the gallery in the grandstand behind her.

“I don’t think I’ve made a par like that before,” Ko said.

With a 5-under-par 67, Ko is one shot behind Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien and Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith, both of whom are looking for their first LPGA victories.

Ko is in some strong company tied for second.

Sung Hyun Park, looking to sweep every major award available this week, also opened with a 67, as did Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher.

Ariya Jutanugarn opened with a 68.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe standings in the season-long race for a $1 million jackpot, opened with a 71.

Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng, looking to win her third consecutive event, shot 70.

Ko has already won 14 LPGA titles in her young career, but none this season, none since making the year’s start with sweeping changes, from a new coach and equipment to a new caddie and putting stroke.

“I want to finish this season on a high note,” Ko said.

Ko, 20, struggled through a rough summer, given the high bar she set as one of the game’s greatest teen phenoms. She won five times around the world last year, six times around the world the year before. She has won an LPGA title every year since she was 15 years old.

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“I can’t imagine she doesn’t lay her head on the pillow at night and think, 'What happened? Where did I go,'” LPGA Hall of Famer and Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin said. “I think part of it is just growing up. Part of it - it’s sad to say - but in golf and maybe all the through life, you come to that point where you’ve grown up just enough to know things can go wrong, and then [they] begin to.”

Ko’s changing of her equipment and swing at the same time appeared to challenge the nature of the way she has always played. Dialing in new yardages with her new PXG clubs, working into a new swing after leaving David Leadbetter last year, left her thinking more about the way she played than ever before.

“Lydia has never been analytical about any part of her game,” Gilchrist told at the start of fall. “She is probably the most natural player, who just used her feel and went out and played with it. I think the biggest thing for her is to go out again and just play without thinking too much.”

Ko, who has slipped to No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, seems to be getting back to that. She’s coming off a T-5 finish at the Toto Classic in Japan. She has two second-place finishes and a third since the start of September.

“I played pretty solid at the start of the year and had a pretty frustrating few months in the middle of my season,” Ko said.

A second-place finish at the Indy Women in Tech Champion the first week of September was a big confidence builder, Ko said.

“Obviously, I wasn’t the one holding the trophy at the end of that week, but just getting that second-place finish gave me confidence at Evian,” Ko said. “That was my best finish in my majors this year.”

Ko had a chance to win going to the 72nd hole at Evian, missing out on a playoff by a shot after closing with a bogey in the rain.

“It is good to be able to play some solid golf these past few weeks, and put myself in better positions going into the weekends and going into the final round,” Ko said. “I think the more I do that, the confidence kind of builds up. Golf is such a confidence game. If you start making birdies or putts and playing well, it builds up. That momentum kind of carries on.”

Ko finished strong Thursday at Tiburon Golf Club. She birdied the 13th, 14th and eagled the 17th, hitting a 3-wood to 15 feet.

With a misfire over the back of the final green, Ko looked as if she might throw away some of that good work. She skulled her pitch over the green and into a bunker, but that’s where she saved the round.

After holing out, she thrust both arms in the air.

“It’s definitely nice to be able to please the crowd,” Ko said.

She would relish pleasing them again come Sunday.

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

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Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst shot an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

The 52-year-old Englishman finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

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Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”