Rank and rile: Should Ko really be No. 1?

By Randall MellFebruary 5, 2015, 3:17 am

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Does Lydia Ko really deserve the No. 1 ranking in the world?

With Ko’s ascendance this week in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, there’s quite the buzz over her arrival for Thursday’s start of the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. At 17, she’s bringing worldwide attention to the women’s game as the youngest No. 1 in the history of professional golf. She’s also turning player attention more intensely to the world rankings and whether her ascendance exposes some unfair calculation in its formula.

To be clear, Ko has won immense respect from the player and caddie ranks in her short time as a tour member. She’s also very well liked. The discussion percolating on the practice range here over Ko’s No. 1 ranking isn’t a personal attack in its nature. It also isn’t about whether Ko is good enough to be No. 1. It’s about the world rankings formula and whether she has done enough yet to deserve the top ranking.

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As one player offered up, it isn’t Ko’s fault the formula favors her.

But ...

In the two-year rolling window that the Rolex rankings measure:

• Inbee Park has won 10 times around the world, four of those victories major championships.

• Stacy Lewis has won six times, one of those a major championship.

• Ko has won five times, none of them a major championship.

When you look at the body of work laid out that way, you see why Ko’s No. 1 ranking raises questions.

What advantage does Ko have that isn’t evident in that body of work? It’s Ko’s average finishes being so far above everyone else’s average.

The Rolex rankings, like the Official World Golf Ranking for the men, award points to a player based on her finish in a tournament. The points fluctuate week to week based on strength of field with points weighted more in the last year and especially in the last 13 weeks. The major championships award 1,200 points, more than other events. This week’s Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will award 627 points.

A player’s point total is divided by the number of tournaments played within the two-year window. There’s a minimum divisor of 35.

Ko has accumulated 417.2 points in 43 tournaments. That makes her average 9.70.

Park has accumulated 532.11 points in 55 tournaments. That makes her average 9.67.

Lewis has accumulated 494.23 points in 56 tournaments. That makes her average 8.83.

Nobody has fewer tournaments as their divisor among the top 30 in the world than Ko does, but it should be noted Hall of Famer Karrie Webb also has 43 starts, same as Ko. Webb is No. 9 in the world rankings.

Asked Wednesday about Ko passing her in the rankings, Park did not complain, but she said she wasn’t surprised because of the math she knew was in play.

“She hasn’t played that many events, not as many as Stacy or me,” Park said. “So, her averages are a little bit different to us. I thought, at some point, if she keeps playing that consistent, she’s going to take over No. 1. And, yeah, it came pretty quick.”

While Ko is honored to carry the No. 1 ranking, she arrived this week trying to adjust to her new status and all the demands that come with it.

“I’m just trying to go back to my normal routine,” Ko said.

As Ko is discovering, that’s a challenge when you carry the No. 1 ranking. She made that comment from the Pure Silk Bahamas media center while on a teleconference with international media, a call set up because she is the new world No. 1.

“I’m very proud to be in that position, but at the same time, I’m trying to just kind of block it out and just be like another golfer, being on the course and just enjoying my time out here,” Ko said.

That’s a challenge, too. After news hit that Ko had become No. 1, she received congratulatory messages that would make your average 17-year-old’s head spin. Pop star Lorde, whose song “Royals” topped Billboard’s Hot 100, sent her a congratulatory tweet.

“I was like `Oh my God,’ because I’m a huge fan of hers,” Ko said. “That somebody of that status would give me a tweet like that is pretty awesome.”

Actor Don Cheadle also sent Ko a Twitter message.

“That was really cool, too,” Ko said.

Fellow players are curious how Ko will navigate with all the pressure that comes with being No. 1, including responsibilities that can seem burdensome. Yani Tseng spoke openly about being relieved when she lost the No. 1 ranking.

“It will be interesting to see how she handles it,” former No. 1 Cristie Kerr said.

Ko said she has been working with a sports psychologist, Jim Loehr, for a couple months now. She also has spoken with Lewis about what to expect as world No. 1. Lewis held the No. 1 ranking for 21 weeks last year.

“I played with her when she won her first event out here, when she was 15,” Lewis said. “So we've had a pretty cool relationship over the last few years, and she's watching what I'm doing, and I'm watching what she's doing ... I told her that her playing good golf helps us more than anything, and just to make sure that is No. 1. And to say no to some things and not feel bad about it.”

Lewis and Park appreciate how Ko’s story resonates beyond golf fans.

“I don’t think I was that mature at 17, that’s for sure,” Park said. “I think her age, it just surprises me, how she acts on the golf course, treating all things so professionally, not like a kid.”

Lewis sees what Ko being No. 1 offers the entire sport.

“I think for golf, in general, it's a big moment, and for women's golf it's an even bigger moment,” Lewis said. “It puts us on the map. It gives everyone something to talk about. To do something that she's done [going to No. 1], four years prior to Tiger Woods, that's just crazy to even think about. Just to have that comparison, and for people to just say, `Wow.’ It's one of those things I think is going to get outside of golf, and get some recognition there, and that's what we're looking for.

“Whether she's ready for it or not, we'll find out, but she'll learn on the fly, like she's been doing the last few years.  She'll continue to learn and she'll figure it out.  I think her golf is going to be the same, it's just managing all the extra stuff.”

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Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

“Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”

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Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

“Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

“Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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Only putting is holding McIlroy back

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.

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“I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”

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Rosaforte Report: Toski lively, singing and ready to go home

By Tim RosaforteJune 22, 2018, 6:41 pm

Bob Toski sounded pretty good for a man near death last week. When we spoke on Friday, the 91-year-old teaching legend and former PGA Tour leading money winner was alive and feeling well. Especially when he was talking about giving lessons, swinging a golf club again, and going down to the piano bar at Arturo’s near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., to sing his favorite song, “Sentimental Journey."

“It’s been quite a journey,” Toski said in total bliss. “But I’m going home tomorrow.”

Going back 10 days, to June 12, Toski suffered a severe heart attack that had him on life support, in critical condition, at a hospital not far from the South Florida golf community where he’s pro emeritus at St. Andrews.

He opened 15 minutes on the phone on Friday by asking how much he owed me for the publicity he got during the U.S. Open. Typical Toski. His heart may have skipped a beat, but he hadn’t.

At no more than 120 pounds, still larger than life.

Bob Toski from his hospital bed in South Florida

“This is the mouse,” he said when asked to confirm it really was him on the phone. “The Mighty Mouse.”

We were laughing now, but there was a moment one night during “Live From the U.S. Open” when I got a message from the Boca hospital which sounded grim (hospital staff used a defibrillator on him six times during his stay). That’s when one of the friends by his side texted me and said it would be just like “Tosk” to sit up straight and ask everybody what was going on.

Essentially, that’s what happened. And now here he was on the phone, cracking off one-liners, talking about Brooks Koepka’s win at Shinnecock, giving his take on the USGA and course setup, asking how much I’d been playing, and giving his love to everybody at “The Channel.”

He invited me down for a lesson at St. Andrews and dinner at Arturos. “In a month’s time,” he said, “I’ll be ready to go.”

He sounded ready right now, singing a line from his favorite song, from his hospital bed in the happiest of voices, “Gotta set my heart at ease.”

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Spieth fades with 3-over 73: 'It's just golf'

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:10 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – After finding nothing but positives for his first five trips around the course, Jordan Spieth finally suffered a setback at TPC River Highlands.

Spieth won the Travelers Championship last year in his tournament debut, and he quickly bounced back from a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills by firing a 7-under 63 in the opening round this week to take a share of the lead. Out early during the second round with a chance to move even further into red figures amid calm conditions, he instead went the other way.

Undone by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole, Spieth was 5 over for his first 14 holes and needed an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day simply to salvage a 3-over 73. The score knocked him back to 4 under for the week and six shots behind Brian Harman.

Despite finding three fewer fairways, three fewer greens in regulation and taking five more putts than he did in the opening round, Spieth still put a positive spin on a lackluster result.

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“I actually felt like I had better control of my golf swing than I did yesterday. I really struggled with my swing yesterday and I kind of got some good breaks,” Spieth said. “It’s just golf. It’s kind of like yesterday I got three or four shots extra out of the round, and today I lost three or four based on how I felt.”

Spieth was happy with his opening-round effort, but even after finishing late in the day he still went straight to the driving range that lines the ninth fairway at TPC River Highlands – not exactly standard behavior after grabbing a share of the lead.

“So it’s not like things are on,” he said. “Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it’s not far off. It really is close.”

Spieth has lamented a lack of quality chances to win this year, which he has previously described as being within six shots of the lead heading into the final round. He’ll have some work to do to meet that mark this weekend in defense of his title, as his round hit a snag on No. 13, his fourth hole of the morning, when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his subsequent approach into the water.

“For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole I get on the tee and for whatever reason I struggle. … I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”