Park still tops S. Korea's embarrassment of golf riches

By Randall MellAugust 4, 2015, 6:30 pm

This newest wave of gifted young South Koreans is making an intense push to the top of the women’s game, but Inbee Park remains a step ahead of them.

More so than ever, the talent pouring out of the Korean LPGA Tour is making an impact on the game’s grandest stages. Yes, the South Koreans have been dominant for a long time, but never as dominant as they are now.

Four of the top five players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are Korean born.

Korean LPGA members Hyo Joo Kim and In Gee Chun won majors over the last 12 months before becoming LPGA members. Jin-Young Ko took the 54-hole lead into the final round of the Women’s British Open last weekend in a bid to give KLPGA members three of the last five majors.

After winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open Sunday, Park said this new wave is pushing her.

“It’s definitely a big motivation for me,” Park said. “They’re just lined up waiting to come here, to come to the LPGA and compete at the world level.

“I just can’t be too comfortable where I’m sitting right now. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself to play better and better, and play a little bit smarter and wiser. I need to do something to get better every day.”

It’s working both ways. Park’s feeling pushed, but in winning her sixth major in the last 14 played, she’s pulling these young, new South Koreans up to a different level with her.

“They do look up to her a lot,” said Brad Beecher, Park’s caddie. “You can tell, the other fathers and coaches, they’re watching her, to relay it to their daughters. You’ll spot them out there on tournament days. They aren’t even watching their own daughters. I won’t name names, but I’ve spotted a few parents doing that.”

Beecher said even Inbee has noticed fathers and mothers of other players watching her play and practice. He says Park has asked him what’s going on.

“They’re watching you,” Beecher says he told her. “You’ve got all your peers’ families looking up to you.”

Jin-Young Ko, 20, talked about looking up to Park as her idol after she took the 54-hole lead at Trump Turnberry. Ko’s caddie, Jeff Brighton, said he thinks Park’s bold Sunday charged rattled Ko. With giant leaderboards well placed at Turnberry, Ko could see Park making her move.

“I was a little bit over thinking, and then I was a little bit nervous,” Ko said.

Even with the loss, add Jin-Young Ko to this long list of youthful Korean talent crashing major championship stages and the world rankings. Ko jumped to No. 17 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

Sixteen of the top 30 players in the Rolex world rankings are Korean born. Count four South  Korean LPGA rookies among that top 30. Chun will join the LPGA as a rookie next year, and Jin-Young Ko says she hopes to join in the near future.

“They’re so talented,” American Cristie Kerr said. “They’re machines. They practice 10 hours a day.”

For a few years there, some of South Korea’s best young talent was staying home to play the KLPGA and Japan LPGA tours. Why this new push to the American-based LPGA?

“I joined the LPGA in hopes of making the Olympics team,” Sei Young Kim told

Kim isn’t alone making the move. With golf returning to the Olympics next year, the LPGA offers the best avenue to qualify. The Rolex Women’s World Rankings is used to determine who qualifies, and the LPGA offers more world-rankings points than any other women’s tour in the world.

The competition to make the South Korean Olympic team is becoming extremely intense. With a maximum of four players allowed to make the team, nobody outside the top 10 in the world rankings today would make the South Korean team. That prompted Park last week to say she believes everyone among the top 50 should be able to compete in the Olympics.

There is other motivation for South Koreans coming over to the LPGA now. With the tour’s schedule rebuilt, there’s more money to be won now than there was a few years ago, when the American-based tour’s schedule shrunk to an anemic 23 events.

While Lydia Ko doesn’t play under the South Korean flag, you can include her in the wave of Korean-born stars. Why? It isn’t just the fact that Ko was born in South Korea before moving to New Zealand when she was 6. While Ko clearly relishes being a Kiwi, she says her South Korean heritage remains very important to her, to the point where she says she considers South Korea one of her two homes.

Ko, who now has an American base in Orlando, was asked last week at the Women’s British Open where she considers her “emotional” home.

“I think I'm really lucky that I have the Korean background in me,” Ko said. “I grew up in a totally different country in New Zealand. Those two would be home. If I go to Korea or New Zealand, that's where I feel most welcomed. I love going there. Most of the time, when I'm in Orlando having a week off, my mom cooks me Korean food. That's where my Korean background comes into it. I guess it's really hard to choose just one certain country, but I'm really fortunate that I'm getting great support from both.”

While Ko isn’t typically considered South Korean when looking at the international makeup of women’s golf, her dual emotional tug adds to the embarrassment of riches that Korean golf claims.

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Still no indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2018, 12:25 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.

While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022

“With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted the Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.

Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.

Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.

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Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.

Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.

Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”

“A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”

There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.

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Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.

Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.

As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.

Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.

Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.

“It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.

Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.

“There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”

That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.

“I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.

Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.

In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.

“I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”

That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.

Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.

Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.

One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”

Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.

In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.

Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.

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Slumbers: Mickelson penalty 'not good for the game'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 11:44 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said that Phil Mickelson’s controversial penalty at the U.S. Open was not “good for the game,” but he did not say explicitly whether the ruling would have been any different at The Open.

Speaking Wednesday at his annual address, Slumbers said that he spoke with Mickelson last week about the incident. At Shinnecock Hills, Mickelson hit a moving ball in the third round but was not disqualified for a breach of etiquette. Instead, he received a two-shot penalty under Rule 14-5.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“In the event of a similar situation this week, clearly, the first thing is you understand the facts because you never get the same situation and there will be lots of reasons,” Slumbers said. “But we have looked very carefully at the rules, and I don’t think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport, and we would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.”

Rule 1-2, which includes a clause for disqualification, was not used because the infraction is covered under another rule.

“Let’s also remember that it’s a moot point for next year,” Slumbers said, “because as of the first of January 2019, there would have been a DQ option in that equivalent rule.”