Discomfort zone: Kim tames Sawgrass for Players title

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2017, 1:14 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Uncomfortable. That’s what TPC Sawgrass makes you.

That was Pete Dye’s mission, to turn normally stoic Tour professionals into second-guessing, neurotic messes. The tee shot at the island-green 17th hole is little more than a 9-iron for the vast majority of the field and yet 69 attempts were unable to find terra firma this week. The 12th was transformed into a drivable par 4 for this week’s Players but turned out to be far too much risk for not enough reward with just 39 percent of the field taking the bait and taking a chance from the tee.

This unease hung low over the Stadium Course from the outset on Sunday, with 54-hole co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley trading bogeys at the first to set the stage for what would become a walk of attrition.

“There's no safe place, so it can certainly make you feel uncomfortable,” Adam Scott figured after what he considered a victory of sorts with his tie for sixth place. “It's a hell of a test.”

Hell. That might do it as well. All told, six players held at least a share of the lead on Sunday only to succumb to the capricious confines of TPC Sawgrass.

Holmes never recovered from his opening miscue on his way to an 84, Stanley went around in 75, Lucas Glover briefly pulled into the penthouse thanks to an outward 32 only to finish with a 70 and Louis Oosthuizen spent his day trying to battle back from a double bogey at the fourth hole.

Ian Poulter might have had the most to celebrate if not for a shanked approach shot at 18 that found a palmetto bush on his way to a closing bogey. After going 39 holes without a bogey over the weekend, a streak that ended on the 12th hole, the Englishman was done in by the most Sawgrass moment ever – a second shot that went sideways into flora.

The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Yet no matter how difficult things appear to be there’s always one who remains above the fray, in this case a quiet 21 year old from South Korea. Si Woo Kim coolly remained above all the misfortune, opening his round with birdies at Nos. 1 and 7, where he took a lead he never relinquished.

He was fearless and fortunate, relaxed and resplendent.

One man’s discomfort is another’s Sunday stroll.

Kim became the youngest Players champion and perhaps the most surprising since Craig Perks. He’d missed seven cuts this season, withdrawn from four tournaments and had posted four rounds in the 80s in the run-up to The Players.

And then there was his play on another windy day in north Florida. He missed three of his first five greens and ranked 39th in proximity with his approach shots, which is a mathematical way of saying when he did find a green he wasn’t particularly close to the hole.

Whether The Players is a major depends on who you ask and when you ask, but it certainly played like a major test this week. Like an NBA game that’s decided by a parade of free throws, this Players came down to the zero-sum game of mitigating mistakes.

For Kim it was par saves, going a perfect 10-for-10 every time he missed the putting surface. He rolled in a 7-footer at the eighth and a 5-footer at the 11th for par. He was 15-for-15 from inside 10 feet and needed just 23 putts.

Although he’d won before on the PGA Tour at last year’s Wyndham Championship, this was an entirely different animal and the baby-faced Fullerton, Calif., resident via Seoul endured the worst TPC Sawgrass had to throw at him.

“He said he felt no pressure because he’s leading. That’s when he had the least amount of pressure on himself,” said Kim’s caddie, Mark Carens. “He’s just so fearless out there that I just let him do what he does.”

Carens said it was his 24-footer for birdie at the seventh hole that seemed to steady Kim, who methodically pulled away from there, making the turn with a two-stroke advantage over Poulter and playing the relentless closing loop in a machine-like even par for a final-round 69 and a three-stroke victory.

“I was a little nervous before I played the final round,” Kim said. “However, I really could feel that my shot feeling was really good, I could just really be myself. That's why I could do well.”

Just being a “little nervous” on the Stadium Course is testament enough to Kim’s confidence, or maybe it was youthful indifference, but given the circumstances his performance was nothing short of remarkable.

No other course of a non-major variety challenges players like the Stadium Course, particularly under Sunday’s conditions with a title on the line and winds gusting to 20 mph from an entirely new direction (north) than they had all week.

“Every shot, every shot you hit virtually if you don't hit the shot you need to, you could make a number pretty quick,” said Glover, who tied for sixth after a series of closing bogeys. “I wouldn’t want to come here and play a round and expect to enjoy myself.”

For everyone with perhaps the lone exception of Kim, joy is not an emotion you would probably associate with TPC Sawgrass. Under the best of conditions it’s a reluctant companion, but Sunday’s scene was something out of a made-for-TV drama.

The last four twosomes on Day 4 played to a combined score of 26 over par, with only Kim and Poulter able to post an under-par card.

Kim, who moved into the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory, beat a world-class field; but it was even more impressive that he beat the most natural of emotions at TPC Sawgrass – being uncomfortable.

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Rory McIlroy left his victory charge too late at Wentworth as Francesco Molinari delivered a clinic in front-running to win the BMW PGA Championship by two shots with a 4-under 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who led by three shots at halfway, entered the final round tied for the lead with Molinari on 13 under par but a Sunday shootout at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

Instead, as McIlroy toiled to a 70 that was propped up by birdies on the par fives at Nos. 17 and 18, Molinari went bogey-free for a second straight day to claim the fifth victory of his career and the biggest since a World Golf Championship in Shanghai in 2010.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

The Italian only dropped two shots all week and finished on 17-under 271, with McIlroy alone in second place. Alex Noren (67) and Lucas Bjerregaard (65) were tied for third place a stroke further back.

Molinari moved into the automatic qualifying places for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

He'd previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Noren last year.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.