Monday, April 27

Lydia Ko: 'Great Birthday Week Again'


FOR LYDIA KO, BEING 18 isn't much different than 17 in at least one respect. She wins golf tournaments.

On Sunday, two days after celebrating her 18th birthday, Ko beat Morgan Pressel on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff for a repeat victory in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club. Ko canned a 5-foot birdie putt after Pressel missed from slightly farther away.

We've seen this before. As LPGA.com reported, five of Ko's seven LPGA wins have been in come-from-behind fashion.

''At the start of the day, I didn't know how it was going to go,'' Ko said. ''It's been a great birthday week again.''

"I had plenty of chances out there today," Pressel said, "so I can't be too disappointed. I gave it my all."

Ko closed with a 70. Pressel had a 72. Brooke Henderson, just 17, shot a final-round 74 and missed the playoff by a shot.

In addition to her seven LPGA titles, Ko has posted some other impressive numbers, according to LPGA .com. She has five wins in her last 25 starts. She also leads all three LPGA major categories: Money List, Rolex Player of the Year and Race to CME Globe.

And in case you didn't already know, Ko is world No. 1 in women's golf for 13 weeks running.

Friday, April 24

Erik Compton Featured During National Donate Life Month



PGA TOUR PROFESSIONAL ERIK COMPTON stars in the above PSA for National Donate Life Month (April). Featuring Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, the PSA raises awareness about organ donation and also shows active, healthy athletes who have received organ transplants as well as Los Angeles news anchor and kidney donor Phillip Palmer.

To learn more, visit donatelife.net.

VIDEO: Laura Baugh on Early Pressures


REMEMBER LAURA BAUGH? IN 1971, at the age of 16, Baugh won the U.S. Women's Amateur at Atlanta Country Club. Golf Digest named Baugh the most beautiful golfer in 1972. She joined the LPGA Tour in 1973 and was rookie of the year. The Florida native recorded 10 runner-up finishes in a winless career.

Baugh talked to Golf Channel's Morning Drive about the pressures of being a teen phenom and what advice she might give to Lydia Ko, who turned 18 today and has already racked up six victories on the LPGA Tour.

Thursday, April 23

Golf on TV: Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, Zurich Classic, Legends of Golf, Volvo China Open

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

LPGA TOUR

Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic
Dates: April 23-26
Venue: Lake Merced Golf Club, San Francisco, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         6-9 p.m. (Live)
Friday              6-9 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          6-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            6-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Ko leads a strong field: World No. 1 Lydia Ko headlines a field that includes each of the top-10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

Ko defends: Lydia Ko finished one stroke ahead of Stacy Lewis for her third career LPGA Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Hyo Joo Kim, Shanshan Feng, Brittany Lincicome, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson.

* * *

PGA TOUR

Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Dates: April 23-26
Venue: TPC Louisiana, Avondale, La.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)

On CBS TV (Eastern)
Saturday 3-6 p.m.
Sunday 3-6 p.m.

Broadcast Notes

Noh defends: Seung-Yul Noh won by two strokes over Robert Streb and Andrew Svoboda for his first career PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Erik Compton, Justin Thomas and Jamie Donaldson.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge
Dates: April 24-26
Venue: Buffalo Ridge (Springs Course); Top of the Rock, Ridgedale, Mo.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Friday              Noon-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 1-3 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-6 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes

Tournament format: Two-man teams will compete in two divisions: the Champions division (54-hole tournament) and the Legends Division (45-hole tournament for players age 65+). Teams will compete in a better-ball format at Buffalo Ridge and will play nine holes each of alternate shot and better-ball at Top of the Rock. Each division will play one round on each course over the first two days, and the final round will be played at Top of the Rock.

Nicklaus, Player team up in the Legends division: World Golf Hall-of-Famers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will team up in the Legends division. Over the course of their respective careers, the pair combined to win 29 Champions Tour titles.

Funk, Sluman defend: Fred Funk and Jeff Sluman finished one shot ahead of Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen last year.

Champions Division teams: Andy North/Tom Watson, Jeff Sluman/Tom Lehman, Peter Jacobsen/D.A. Weibring, Brad Bryant/Bart Bryant, John Cook/Joey Sindelar, Ben Crenshaw/Jerry Pate, Fred Funk/Eduardo Romero, Sandy Lyle/Ian Woosnam, Lee Janzen/Rocco Mediate, Corey Pavin/Duffy Waldorf, Olin Browne/Steve Pate.

Legends Division teams: Jack Nicklaus/Gary Player, David Graham/Tony Jacklin, Chi Chi Rodriguez/Bob Murphy, Mike Hill/Lee Trevino.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Volvo China Open
Dates: April 22-26
Venue: Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club, Shanghai, China

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Wednesday     10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Live)
Thursday         2:30 a.m.-5:30 a.m. (Live) / 9 a.m.-2 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              12:30-2:30 a.m. (Tape delay) / 2:30-5:30 a.m. (Live) / 9 a.m.-Noon (Replay)
Saturday         6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)
Sunday            6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)

Broadcast Notes

Levy defends: Alexander Levy won by four shots over Tommy Fleetwood for his first career European Tour win.

Headlining the field: Peter Uihlein, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Mikko Ilonen, Tommy Fleetwood, Alexander Levy, Ross Fisher, Alex Noren, Gary Stal, Matteo Manassero and Oliver Wilson.

Wednesday, April 22

Golf Voices from the Past: Byron Nelson on Ralph Guldahl

HALL OF FAMER BYRON NELSON PENNED his autobiography, Byron Nelson: How I Played the Game, in the early 1990s. Nelson included a chapter titled "Golfers I've Known Over the Years," which covered a wide range of amateurs and professionals. One of them was Ralph Guldahl and this odd anecdote about the major champion.
Though Ralph [Guldahl] was one of the slowest players on the tour, from 1936 to 1938 he was also a great player, winning the Western Open three times and the U.S. Open twice .... I believe the most unusual thing I ever saw a player do was in the U.S. Open in '37 at Oakland Hills in Birmingham, Michigan. Ralph was on the eighteenth green in the final round. He had the tournament won, all he had to do was hit his putt. He was all lined up and ready when he stopped, backed away, and took a comb out to comb his hair. I think he suddenly realized that they'd be wanting to take pictures and he wanted to make sure he looked good, but it was a little strange for someone to do that during the most important tournament we have. He finished with his hair, two-putted, and that was that. I don't recall if the press said anything about how nice his hair looked.
Ralph Guldahl went on to win the 1938 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills by six shots, one of six players with consecutive victories in the national championship. (The others were Willie Anderson, John McDermott, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange.) In addition, Guldahl's three Western Open titles were in consecutive years. The Texan also won the 1939 Masters.

Then Guldahl lost his game, lost interest in the game (and life on tour), or probably both. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.

More Voices:
Frank Beard
Dave Hill

Tuesday, April 21

Farewell Tour: Watson and Faldo's Last Open

NOT SINCE SAM SNEAD HAS A TOUR golfer played so well for so long. I'm talking about 65-year-old Tom Watson. At the RBC Heritage last week, Watson made his 501st cut on the PGA Tour after shooting a 69 in the second round.

A five-time British Open champion and winner of eight majors, Watson will make his final appearance in the Open this summer at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. He nearly won the Open in 2009 at the ancient golf age of 59. The affable Stewart Cink was improbably cast as the villain. I'll never forget watching that tournament.

The R&A rewarded Watson with a special exemption to play in the British Open through 2015, which is the 40th anniversary of his first Open victory at Carnoustie. So the time has come to retire from majors, even for Watson, who has hinted that the 2016 Masters may be his last.

"The distance is ebbing away in this old body," Watson said recently. "That's something I have to deal with and understand there's going to be a time when I have to hang it up."

He added, "The handwriting is on the wall as far as me competing out here against the kids."

Nick Faldo, who will turn 58 during this year's British Open, will also hang it up at St. Andrews. Sir Nick owns three Open titles -- 1987 (Muirfield), 1990 (St. Andrews) and 1992 (Muirfield).

In another touch of symmetry, this year will be the 25th anniversary of Faldo's win at the Old Course.

"The Open and St Andrews will forever hold a significant place in my heart .... It all means a huge amount to me," Faldo said in The Guardian. "I look forward to celebrating all that golf has given me as I cross that storied bridge and the wonderful memories I share with many people."

Wouldn't it be great if Watson ... no, that would be too much to ask, downright delusional.

Maybe the best hope is that this modern-day Old Tom can make the cut one more time and prolong what will be a difficult goodbye.

Monday, April 20

Jim Furyk: 'This Is My Favorite Event'


MAYBE IT HAD TO HAPPEN this way.

Jim Furyk, who was 0 for 9 converting 54-hole leads into victories, charged hard on Sunday in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. The 44-year-old veteran posted a 63 for an 18-under total that put him in a sudden-death playoff with Kevin Kisner.

Then Furyk closed out his 17th PGA Tour win by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, the par-3 17th. He dropped his putter and punched the air. It had been 100 events and four and a half years between victories.

"[T]here was a lot of pent-up frustration," Furyk said.

Kisner also charged to the finish, shooting a 64, and then birdied the first playoff hole.

"I had a chance," Kisner said, "but man, I'm just proud of the way I handled it down the stretch."

Furyk won this same event five years ago. Narrow, short (by tour standards) and tricky, Harbour Town suits his game and attitude.

"I can't think of a more fitting place to kind of break that streak and get another win under my belt. This is my favorite event. I love being here. And outside of winning another major championship, this is the perfect place to do it."

Friday, April 17

Graeme McDowell: 'I Needed Something Like This'

By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

Golf news from Brian Keogh's
Irish Golf Desk.
MASTERS CHAMPION JORDAN SPIETH MAY HAVE suffered an Augusta National hangover as he opened with a 74 but 2013 winner Graeme McDowell felt liberated at Hilton Head as a super 66 gave him a share of the first round lead in the RBC Heritage.

Struggling to find any kind of consistency this year and coming off another disappointing putting week at the Masters, where he was 52nd, McDowell drew on the positives of his win at Harbour Town Golf Links two years ago as made six birdies in a five under effort to grab a share of the first round lead with American Matt Every.

It wasn't just his putting form that pleased McDowell, who has fallen from 15th to 31st in the world since the end of last year and struggled to find his form since he tied for ninth in his season-opening event in Dubai in February.

The Portrush man has also found it tough to hit his reliable cut shot. But he welcomed its return was warmly as he would a  long-lost friend at tight and tricky Harbour Town, where the 35-year old is seeking his first Top-10 in his sixth PGA Tour start of the year.

He confessed that his putting was what pleased him most after another confidence-sapping week on the greens at Augusta National, where his hit-the-back-of-the-hole style does not pay off.

"The blade felt pretty hot," McDowell told Sky Sports.

"After how bad my speed was last week, I was really comfortable with my speed coming here. I blew everything through the break last week at Augusta but this week I am a lot more dialed in. The putter is hot so let’s hope it remains that way at the weekend."

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.