Ko one round away from No. 1 ranking, history

By Randall MellJanuary 31, 2015, 12:47 am

OCALA, Fla. – Lydia Ko is walking, breathing history.

For a 17-year-old, she has already made an awful lot of it, and she’s threatening to make some more here after taking the third-round lead at the Coates Golf Championship.

Ko claimed the richest payday ever in women’s golf at the LPGA’s 2014 season finale back in November, winning the $1 million jackpot as the season-long CME points champion and the $500,000 first-place check as the CME Group Tour Championship winner. With a wild back nine Friday at Golden Ocala, Ko is now in position to win the LPGA’s 2015 season opener.

If Ko wins Saturday, she’ll vault to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, becoming the youngest No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf. Ko can also take the No. 1 ranking with a solo second-place finish, as long as current No. 1 Inbee Park finishes in a three-way tie for third or worse.

This is the same precocious Kiwi who at 15 became the youngest winner of an LPGA event.

As swiftly as Ko’s star is ascending in the women’s game, she never seems in a hurry. She refused to assume anything as the 54-hole leader.

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“There are so many great players, one to four shots, you just never know what's going to happen,” she said. “I'm just going to concentrate on my game, just stay really positive, and if somebody else shoots a much better score than I do, I can't really do much about it. Just going to focus, and, hopefully, I'll go out and shoot a good score tomorrow.”

And about becoming the youngest No. 1 ever?

“Like I always say, the rankings come after the results of each tournament,” Ko said. “So, it would be great, and it would be a huge honor to be in that position, but we've still got another long 18 holes to go, and you just never know what's going to happen in those holes.”

With a 7-under-par 65 that included five consecutive birdies on the back nine, Ko overtook second-round leader Ha Na Jang, a South Korean star making her LPGA rookie debut.

At 14-under 202, Ko is a shot ahead of Jang (71), two ahead of Na Yeon Choi (66) and four ahead of Stacy Lewis (70).

Ko came out hot, but she really caught fire after opening her back nine with back-to-back bogeys. The normally cool, unflappable teen said she wasn’t feeling so cool after missing a couple 3-footers at the 10th and 11th holes to fall four behind Jang.

“I was kind of shocked,” Ko said. “It kind of got me fired up. I kind of jammed my putter in my bag, and I said, `OK, you’ve got to start working again.’”

Ko bounced back with five consecutive birdies. Her ball striking was brilliant. She missed just one fairway all day. She missed just two greens. She hit a hybrid to 3 feet at the 13th. She was knocking shots in tight throughout the back nine. She also had 11 one putts.

Though she’s in just her second year of LPGA membership after running away with Rookie of the Year honors last year, Ko already seems like a veteran. Fellow LPGA pros have been playing beside her for four years now.

“She’s 10 years younger than me, but actually she seems so much more mature,” Choi said. “Like she’s at least 25.”

Except when it’s time for dessert when they’re out for dinner.

“Then she’s 17, wanting chocolate and ice cream,” Choi said.

Choi has also noticed differences in Ko’s game already this year.

“She hits it farther,” Choi said. “She’s physically stronger."

Both Ko and Choi live in Orlando. In the offseason, Choi said she played a match with Ko at Isleworth.

“Of course, she beat me,” she said.

Ko is looking to beat everybody again Saturday to make more history.

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OB tee shot, bunker trouble dooms Rahm to MC

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:24 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The key to surviving Carnoustie is avoiding the bunkers.

Jon Rahm found three bunkers to close out the front nine Friday, the start of a triple bogey-double-bogey run that led to a second-round 78 and missed cut at The Open.

“All of them were as bad a lie as they could have been,” he said. “Besides that, things didn’t happen. I can’t give an explanation, really. I don’t know.”

Rahm’s troubles started on the seventh hole, a par 4 with a steady left-to-right wind. Out of bounds loomed left, and Rahm, who primarily plays a cut shot, hadn’t missed left all week. This time, his ball didn’t curve, and the OB tee shot led to a triple.

“Whenever I start missing shots to the left,” he said, “it’s really hard for me to play.”  

After a career-best fourth-place finish at the Masters, Rahm has now missed the cut in consecutive majors.

“Right now I’m not in any mental state to think about what happened, to be honest,” he said.

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Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

Bernhard Langer did not.

The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.