Ko doesn't strive to be the best - just her best

By Randall MellSeptember 14, 2016, 11:11 pm

Lydia Ko seems too sweet to have a killer instinct.

This is the woman, after all, who left jumbo-sized Kiwi-made chocolate bars in the lockers of all her fellow tour pros the week she ascended to No. 1 in the world, thanking each with handwritten notes for their kindnesses during her rookie season. This is the woman who magnanimously began encouraging Ha Na Jang to win the Coates Golf Championship after her own chances went awry in the final round at the year’s start. This is also the woman who routinely waits around for winners who outplayed her down the stretch, dousing them on the 18th green in victory celebrations when so many other disappointed competitors would be storming off.

And yet Ko showed us with her win at the Evian Championship last year that she can cold heartedly crush the hopes of an entire wave of foes.

Two shots down at Sunday’s start, Ko closed with a bogey-free 8-under-par 63, winning her first major championship in a five-shot runaway.

It was Ko’s masterpiece, enabling her to become the youngest winner of a women’s major at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old.

It might have been the greatest final-round a woman has ever played to win a major.

No, Evian isn’t Oakmont or St. Andrews, but the canvas Ko painted her masterpiece upon that Sunday was almost irrelevant. It isn’t what distinguished her remarkable effort. It was the fact that her 63 was a whopping seven shots better than anyone else in contention, seven shots better than any of the last 18 players who teed off that Sunday.

As a single day of work goes, that’s Secretariat winning Belmont by 31 lengths.

That’s absurdly impressive separation.

“That’s when we started to understand Lydia Ko can step on people’s throats,” said Golf Channel analyst and LPGA veteran Paige Mackenzie.

That’s how we all saw it, but not David Leadbetter, Ko’s swing coach.

In fact, he says, Ko's greatness has never been about wanting to beat everybody else.

For her, it’s more like a great musician wanting to coax the most beautiful music she can from a violin or piano.

It’s about Ko wanting to master her craft and relishing the challenge of improving her skills.

Evian Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I don’t think she thinks about the opposition at all in terms of, 'I’ve got to do this to win,' or 'I’ve got to do that to win,'” Leadbetter said. “It’s all about her wanting to be the best she can be. If that’s good enough to win, it’s good enough to win. And, obviously, it’s been good enough on many occasions.”

Ko, 19, will be looking to win her 15th LPGA title this week at Evian. She will be looking to win her third major.

While Ko has won seven of her last 25 starts dating back to the end of last year, victories aren’t all that have helped her ride atop the Rolex world rankings for the last 47 weeks. It’s her consistent level of excellence. Nobody’s in contention more from week to week.

Ko has finished T-3 or better in 13 of her last 25 starts. She has top 10s in a staggering 20 of her last 25 starts.

“Sure, Lydia wants to play well,” Leadbetter said. “She wants to play great, but she doesn't talk about how, 'I want to be the best.’ Never. She just wants to be the best she can be, and if that achieves greatness, so be it. I think that takes pressure off her.

“A lot of times, players go out and say, 'I have to shoot 65 today.' Lydia never goes out like that. She just says, 'I’m going to play my best today. Hopefully, I drive it well, hit my irons well, putt well and have a good score.' It’s interesting how she goes about things. I think, in many respects, it helps her stay on an even keel.”

For such a young player, Ko has a rare maturity, an ability to stand back and see the big picture in life, and to understand that tour life isn’t all about her. It’s why she talks about how important being a role model is. It’s why she helps her opponents celebrate. She understands how much they sacrifice, too.

“There are going to be times when I don't play as good as I would like to, and there are going to be times when I'm holding a trophy at the end of the week,” Ko said. “But to me, I think I need to embrace it all. It's a learning experience.

“I play the best when I'm having fun, and if I'm out here for so many hours and I'm not enjoying it, it's not worth it. Trying to put a smile on my face and enjoy it, I think that's important. What’s great, about our tour, we are all so friendly with each other, so we can make jokes or talk when we're playing. Obviously, we're trying to do well at a world-class championship, but at the same time we're enjoying ourselves out here.”

Ariya Jutanugarn has won an LPGA best five times this year. Ko has won four times, but Ko leads the tour in Rolex Player of the Year points, scoring average, money winnings and Race to the CME Globe points.

Leadbetter says Ko’s tenacity, her desire to give her best on every shot, leads to her consistency.

When Joe DiMaggio was leading the New York Yankees to 10 American League pennants and nine World Series titles, he was asked what drove him to play so hard every day.

“Because there might have been somebody in the stands who had never seen me play before and might never see me again,” DiMaggio said.

Leadbetter sees that kind of special quality in Ko.

“You see this kind of thing in Jack Nicklaus and the greats,” Leadbetter said. “You never see their shoulders droop. It’s almost as if they’re trying their best on each and every shot. That’s Lydia. She never gives up.”

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.