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S.H. Park shows emotion we've never seen before

By Randall MellJuly 2, 2018, 12:13 am

KILDEER, Ill. – Sung Hyun Park’s mask broke in the end.

It was a glorious unveiling.

The tough veneer that makes her look as if she would be comfortable disarming ticking bombs, racing into burning buildings or talking suicidal folks off ledges melted away after her last 8-foot birdie putt dropped Sunday to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club.

She was so overwhelmed, she cried.

It’s the first time she could remember tears of joy soaking any of her victories.

“Actually, this is my first time feeling this kind of emotion, being this emotional,” Park said. “I was really happy. I couldn’t help that.”

Park showed us all she isn’t some golf machine.

Beneath that unrelenting, steely stare, there’s a 24-year-old woman who struggles with all the pressures that come with being one of South Korea’s superstars.

The victory was sweet release from those pressures.

“It’s been a really tough year for me,” Park said. “I think all the work I've done has paid off today. That's what really made me cry.”

Park, 24, made history last year.

She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award and Rookie of the Year Award in the same season.

She also ascended to No. 1 last year.

Not a bad debut.

But that seemed like ancient history late this spring and early this summer, when she missed four cuts. Yeah, there was a victory wedged amid all of those at the Volunteers of America Texas Classic in May, but the relief didn’t last with three of those missed cuts following her victory.

“I don’t think the confidence is was where it was, where it can be,” said David Jones, her caddie.

It didn’t help that Park missed the cut in her title defense at the U.S. Women’s Open last month and squandered a chance to win the ANA Inspiration back in April, after taking a share of the 36-hole lead there.

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“A lot of pressure builds up,” Jones said. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.

“The intensity and pressure from media and everything else, because you win the U.S. Open, it’s kind of expected that you should win again. When you’ve had four missed cuts in the last six tournaments, all of a sudden it starts to snip away at you. That’s what it was.”

So with Park battling fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in Sunday’s sudden-death playoff at Kemper Lakes, we saw emotion we haven’t seen before from Park.

We actually saw fist pumps.

Park liked the release that came with those.

“I think if I play better in the future, you’ll see a lot of fist [pumps],” she said.

Kemper Lakes offered a brutish test. The searing heat, reaching into the 90s, with a heat index nearing 110 degrees on Saturday, added to the exhaustive nature of the test, the sense of relief winning.

And the pressure never let up Sunday playing the final round with Ryu and Brooke Henderson, both major championship winners.

“She’s the best natural athlete I’ve ever seen,” Jones said.

Park showed she had all the shots on Sunday, including those required to erase the few mistakes she made. She didn’t make a bogey over her final 30 holes.

She erased her biggest mistake of the week at the 16th in regulation, after her approach came up short and kicked back into the edge of the hazard there, ending up half submerged in deep grass.

After Jones waded into the water to scrutinize the lie, he handed her a 58-degree wedge. She blasted out as if it were a bunker shot, watching her ball nestle a couple feet from the hole to help her save par.

Park was two shots down with two to go but watched Ryu hit into the water at the 17th to make double bogey, opening the door for her and Hataoka in a playoff.

Ultimately, Park won when they returned to the 16th for the second hole of the sudden-death playoff, making that 8-footer for birdie at Ryu missed a 15-foot chance.

“My second major in two years,” Park said. “I still can’t believe what I’ve done.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”