Park wins psychological edge over Ko, Lewis

By Randall MellMarch 8, 2015, 4:42 pm

Inbee Park won the battle royale in Singapore.

She held off 17-year-old sensation Lydia Ko and American star Stacy Lewis in their dynamic final-round grouping Sunday and that made winning the HSBC Women’s Champions all the sweeter.

Make no mistake, for Park, there was special satisfaction looking her toughest foes in the eyes and beating them straight up, deeper meaning in beating her rivals like that, too.

There was new psychological turf claimed, borders re-staked and memories built for future empowerment.

“I think it definitely gives me a little bit more confidence playing with Lydia and Stacy at the same time,” Park said in her news conference afterward. “It's probably like a dream pairing. We get this a lot in the first and second rounds, but it's tough to actually have that in the final round. I had to play better than them in the final round to win.

“It's not the pairing I really look forward to playing in the final round. It’s very difficult and probably the toughest pairing that I probably have all year.”

Ko arrived in Singapore red hot, coming off back-to-back victories at the Women’s Australian Open and New Zealand Women’s Open. Park took Ko’s best shots early Sunday but didn’t rattle, crack or even blink.

Two shots ahead at day’s start, Park watched Ko make birdies at the fourth and fifth holes to tie her for the lead. She watched Lewis get within one shot of her with a birdie at the fourth hole.

“I was kind of expecting Lydia and Stacy to make birdies, and I kind of expected them to play well today,” Park said. “I was just telling myself, I'm not making any birdies but I'm not making any bogeys. I'm not making any mistakes, so that's a good sign.”

Remarkably, Park didn’t make a bogey all week.

With her wire-to-wire victory, and without a dropped shot over the entire 72-hole event, Park was a rock, both an immovable object atop the leaderboard and an irresistible force rolling across the difficult Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course.

“No bogeys around here, on a course where you can hit a good shot and you can get bad luck,” Ko said. “That's pretty phenomenal.”

How phenomenal?

Ko made three bogeys in the final round alone, and Lewis had six through four rounds. Nobody beside Park had fewer than three bogeys all week.

“I don't think I can even believe myself that I didn't make any bogeys for 72 holes,” Park said.

With her final-round 2-under-par 70, Park ended the week at 15 under overall, two shots better than the runner-up Ko and four better than the third-place Lewis. It was Park’s first victory this year, her 11th worldwide title over the last 25 months.

Six weeks ago, Ko took the No. 1 ranking from Park. While Park won’t get it back with Sunday’s victory, she narrows the gap on Ko. She moves to within .95 points of Ko in their average world ranking, which will put the No. 1 spot up for grabs when they tee it up together again in two weeks at the LPGA’s return to the United States, the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix.

Typically, Park makes her largest impression with her putter, but she won in Singapore with superior ball striking. She hit every green but one in regulation over the weekend and all 18 greens in regulation on Sunday.

“I don't think anybody else played better long game than me this week, that's for sure,” Park said.

Park missed just six greens in regulation (66 of 72) the entire week in Singapore. Ko missed five greens on Sunday alone; Lewis missed nine on Sunday.

Hands down, Park is the best putter in the women’s game, having led the LPGA in putts per GIR three times in her career and twice in the last three seasons. What has to be catching the eye of her foes is how much her ball striking has improved under the eye of her coach and husband, Gi Hyeob Nam. Park told us at year’s start she was a little frustrated with her putting last year - even though she ranked third on tour in putts per GIR - because she thought she hit the ball so much better last year than she did in her record-setting 2013 campaign that she gave herself so many more good birdie chances last year.

To be sure, Park’s ball striking made an impression on her peers. Ko uncharacteristically battled her driver Sunday, fighting a pull or hook. She also missed two short putts for par, a 5-footer at the eighth hole and a 3-footer at the 12th hole. If the intensity required winning in back-to-back weeks took something out of Ko, she wasn’t saying so.

“I'm going to work a little bit more over the next week to get a little bit more consistent in my long game,” Ko said. “I think that will give me a little room, so my putter doesn't have to work so hard.”

Lewis battled her driver, too, forcing her to scramble impressively to stay in the hunt. She made a crazy good par at the 12th after her ball wedged in the top of a palm tree, forcing her caddie to climb a cart to go up and identify it.

Given the overall consistency of Ko, Park and Lewis, nobody should be surprised to see these three dueling again soon, though not necessarily all three together in the final Sunday pairing again. That was so unusual, such a treat to fans of the women’s game.

“This is just early, we have so many tournaments to come,” Park said.

So many more trophies and world-ranking points to be won, and so much more psychological turf to be claimed.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”