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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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.