It was another busy golf weekend across the globe. Emily Kay recounts some of what you missed, including reports of a possible Tiger return date and the amazing Lydia Ko getting it done again.
Tiger’s July surprise?
Tiger Woods, for the seventh consecutive week, was nowhere to be seen on the PGA Tour. But the rehabbing world No. 1 (who will likely have lost his world rankings crown by then) may haul his TV ratings magic back to professional golf in time for the British Open in July.
An unbylined item at Golf Channel Digital reported Friday that unnamed sources expected Woods to make his latest comeback at Hoylake, the 2006 site of the 14-time major champion’s 11th grand slam title. This, despite Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg firmly stating earlier in the week that his client, who was sufficiently recovered from back surgery to begin chipping and putting, would definitely be back in action sometime "this summer."
The punters will be happy to hear that, since the co-favorite to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst -- despite the odds favoring his skipping the June event -- is also the bookmakers’ choice to hoist his fourth Claret Jug.
Lydia Ko outduels Stacy Lewis
It took all four days but Lydia Ko finally bested her Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic cohort Stacy Lewis Sunday in San Francisco. Playing together throughout the LPGA Tour’s return to the Bay Area for the first time since 2010, the duo put on a weekend shot-making clinic that threatened to come down to a two-person match play tourney until Jenny Shin tried to crash the party.
Seung-yul Noh earns first career win
Seung-yul Noh is an immensely talented 22-year-old player, and he broke through for his first career win at the Zurich Classic on Sunday at TPC Louisiana.
Following a weekend of back and forth, it all came down to the 72nd hold on Sunday. After Shin’s approach to 18 barely missed the green-side bunker and rolled onto the green, Lewis spun her shot even closer, while Ko played a beauty out of the rough. When Shin’s birdie attempt slid by the hole, Ko calmly rolled hers in to clinch her third tour victory and first as a member of the LPGA Tour.
"It was just intense the whole way," Ko, who started the day a shot shy of Lewis, told Golf Channel after firing a final-round 3-under 69 to capture a one-shot victory over Lewis and better Shin by two. "At one point I had a two-shot lead but then Stacy made a birdie, Jenny made a birdie. At the 18th hole, I knew how loud the claps were so I needed to hit it close and give myself a birdie opportunity."
Ko, who turned 17 on Thursday -- on the same day Time announced she was the only golfer to make its annual list of 100 most influential people -- jumped to No. 2 in the world with the W. In the gallery was her father, Hong, who witnessed his daughter’s play for just the second time in the U.S.
"It’s really special to have him here," said Ko, who had her dad on the bag the week before in Hawaii. "I hope he’s proud of it."
As for Lewis, whom Ko hopes to be like one day, all she could do was tip her cap to the two-time Canadian Women’s Open winner (2012, 2013).
That's Stacy Lewis' 7th second-place finish in her last 16 worldwide starts.That's some frustratingly terrific golf.— Randall Mell (@RandallMellGC) April 28, 2014
"I knew it was going to be tough today. I knew she wasn’t going to go away and Lydia played great," Lewis said after her final-round 71. "Every time I hit a shot in there, she answered.
"That shot in there on 18 was pretty unbelievable, so more credit to her," Lewis added. "I did all I could there. I made three birdies coming in and made her work for it at least."
Talk about consistency. The youngest player ever to win an LPGA event has made nine cuts in all nine starts this season after making it to the weekend in all 12 events she played in 2013. She also has three top-10 finishes that include two additional top-5 results in 2014.
Bubba serves up slices to go with that hook
The recently crowned double Masters champ who won his first green jacket with a humongous hook for the ages proved that he knows a bit about slices as well. Garbed in his Augusta couture, Bubba from Bagdad went back home to receive tributes at his childhood Osceola (Fla.) Muni track. While in town, Watson stopped by his old elementary and high schools, where he purchased and served slices of 450 pizzas to the star-struck students.
Bubba bought 450 pizzas for all the students...and is now passing out slices! pic.twitter.com/pAOzuSKLqf— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) April 24, 2014
Through his ever-flowing waterworks, the six-time PGA Tour winner also signed his autograph on a check for $35,000, which will pay for new computers for the high school.
Bubba in his old high school gym, for a pep rally in his honor. Lotsa tears...and a $35k check for new computers. pic.twitter.com/JdaBQHXckS— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) April 24, 2014
Quiet, please! Drone buzz bugs Bradley
Keegan Bradley’s pre-shot routine has annoyed more than a few golf fans wanting to twirl their 9-irons into their HDTVs when the Vermont native goes into his incessant two-step. The 2011 PGA champion recently found the ever-present buzz of a DJI Phantom Drone filming from above his work on the greens even more irritating and took dead aim at his nemesis.
Bradley, by the way, nearly made an albatross from a fairway bunker 232 yards out on the 561-yard seventh hole at TPC Louisiana on Friday at the Zurich Classic. He easily rolled his eagle putt in from three feet on his way to a second-round 6-under 66 but blew up with a 75 on Sunday to finish T8 at 13-under -- six shots behind his final-round playing partner and newly crowned first-time tour winner Seung-Yul Noh.
Poulter pokes fun at himself after skull-imploding rules gaffe in China
Ian Poulter took his anger at himself on Twitter after an improper drop and its ensuing two-shot penalty on Friday nearly cost him a weekend tee time at the Volvo China Open.
I'm such a ¥#%$¥+€ helmet, the most simple Rule that I had been given the day before, Drop in second club length. Errr wrong 2 shot penalty.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 25, 2014
The mishap occurred after Poulter knocked his drive from the 13th tee far right into the trees and he needed to take relief on a cart path before he was able to take a drop from the path. The rules allowed him two club lengths for the first portion and one from the path, but his brain cramped when he took two on the second as well.
I didn't think it would be difficult to drop a golf ball, but today I managed to make a complete $€$%^#¥= arse of it. Basic Rules. #Nobhead— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 25, 2014
After telling reporters he was "a bit thick" and his was a "schoolboy error," Poulter decided to have some fun with the whole situation. He invited his 1.6 million Twitter followers to submit their takes on his faux pas, with the funniest cartoon earning a signed Ryder Cup photo and other goodies from his IJP Design company.
What do you think? We’re still waiting on the entry from Poulter’s fellow Ryder Cupper.