LPGA 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup Winner

PHOENIX (AP) - Jin Young Ko channeled her inner Dustin Johnson to win for the first time in the United States.

After an even-par 72 left her five strokes back heading into the weekend at the Founders Cup, Ko talked to fellow South Korean player Jennifer Song about the top-ranked PGA Tour star.

"She told me Dustin hit so bad and he didn't get angry - put clubs in the bag and just walk," Ko said. "So, I tried like Dustin yesterday and today. I just tried no angry, no happy, just focus. "

It worked.

The 23-year-old Ko closed with bogey-free rounds of 64 and 65 at Desert Ridge to rally for a one-stroke victory Sunday. She birdied Nos. 14-16 and parred the final two to finish at 22-under 266, then won when third-round leader Yu Liu missed a 15-foot par putt on the par-4 18th.

Liu shot a 70 to tie for second with playing partner Carlota Ciganda and sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda. Ciganda closed with a 69, Jessica Korda eagled the two back-nine par 5s in a 64, and Nelly Korda shot 66.

Choosing to putt with the flagstick in the hole under golf's new rules, Ko made a 4-footer on the par-3 14th, two-putted for birdie on the par-5 15th and made it three in a row from 3½ feet on the par-4 16th.

"Lots of players thinks if there is a pin in the ball might hit the pin and come out," Ko said. "I think it's great to put the pin in because of it makes it easier for me to putt because it is a small target."

A 10-time winner on Korean tour, Ko won the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea to earn her LPGA Tour card and took the Women's Australian Open last year.

She broke through in the U.S. on Sunday in the event that honors the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour, a goal she said she thought about too much last year.

Liu Finishes Shy of First Win and More From Phoenix

LIU, CIGANDA COME UP JUST SHORT

Playing in the day’s final group, Yu Liu and Carlota Ciganda came up a heartbreaking one stroke behind Jin Young Ko at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Both players were looking for breakthrough wins – Liu for her first career LPGA Tour win and Ciganda for her first victory since she visited the winner’s circle twice in 2016. 

Liu started the final round with the lead for the first time in her young LPGA career. The second-year player played steady golf for 17 holes, making three birdies and, more importantly, keeping the mistakes at a minimum. Unfortunately, her one big mistake came at No. 18. Stepping to the tee in a tie for the lead, she left her approach just short of the green. After sending her chip past the hole, her comebacker for par just brushed the right lip, the ensuing bogey dropping her just short of that maiden win.

“On the last shot I didn't know what to expect because I don't know exactly where I stood, if I needed to make birdies or just save par and get to a playoff,” said Liu, who had fellow Chinese player Shanshan Feng waiting greenside for support. “So, I wasn't as focused as I would've liked. I think that's why I made bogey.”

Starting the day one stroke off Liu’s lead, Ciganda opened hot, carding birdies at four of the opening seven holes and pulling one stroke clear of Liu. But bogeys at holes 8 and 11 derailed her round, and a birdie at No. 14 was just not enough for the Spaniard to catch the surging Ko.

“The bogey on 11 killed me a little bit, but I tried my best,” said Ciganda. “I played aggressive, which is my nature, and made a bogey there. Then hit good shots. Just wasn't as control with my putting on the last few holes, so I didn't make any putts at the end.”


KORDA SISTERS TIE FOR SECOND 

Among Sunday’s hot rounds at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, none were hotter than those from the Korda sisters. Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda posted rounds of -6 and -8, respectively, and came just short of a victory, both finishing at 21-under 267.

Jessica, who has not competed since the 2018 CME Group Tour Championship, cared more about the opportunity to play again rather than the result.

“I'm always just so grateful to be out here, and obviously playing pain-free it shows,” said Jessica. “I'm so grateful and thankful to be back that whatever I did this week I'm just going to be happy with.”

Nelly was excited to see her sister out on the course again this week. “Obviously at the end of the day we're trying to beat each other, but I'm proud of the way she played this week her first week back, and I'm sure she is as well,” said the younger Korda.

Nelly, who was playing two groups behind Jessica on Sunday, said she was doing her best to keep up with Jessica’s pace. “I have a friend out here and right as I got on the tee on 10 she was like, ‘Oh, my God! Jess made an eagle,’” said Nelly. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Where did she make the eagle?’ I was trying to watch and I saw her at -21 and I'm like, ‘Oh, damn. Need to catch up a little.’”

Competing against Nelly, who already has a win under her belt at the 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, made Jessica a proud sibling. “It's been so great watching her. Just not being able to play, to be out here, just seeing how she carries herself and how she represents herself has been fantastic,” said Jessica. “She's one up on me this year so I got to put my butt in gear.”

In The Winners Circle - Jin Young Ko

Hometown/Resides: Seoul, Republic of Korea/Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea

Birthdate: July 7, 1995; currently 23 years, 8 months and 17 days

Qualified for LPGA Tour: Earned LPGA Tour Membership by virtue of her win at the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship

Turned Professional/Rookie Year: 2013/2018


VICTORIES

LPGA: Third career victory 

PREVIOUS LPGA WINS: 2018 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship (as a non-Member)


RACE TO THE CME GLOBE

With her win, Ko earns 500 points and is projected to move from seventh to second in the Race to the CME Globe with 1,032 points

U.S. Air Force Veteran Edward Britton of Arizona Earns PGA Master Professional Designation

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The PGA of America has announced that United States Air Force Veteran Edward Britton (retired Lt. Col./F-16 Instructor Pilot)—a PGA Teaching Professional at the PGA TOUR Superstore in Tucson, Arizona—has earned PGA Master Professional status, the highest educational designation that can be obtained by a PGA Member.

During his time in the military, Britton had the privilege of leading Arnold Palmer on a training mission in an F-16. Palmer’s influence proved integral, as it led Britton to his own pursuit of PGA Membership.

There are currently 371 PGA Professionals that have earned PGA Master Professional status. Britton, a PGA Member for 24 years, received his PGA Master Professional certification in Teaching and Coaching.

The PGA Master Professional Program (MPP 2.0) is available to any of the PGA of America’s nearly 29,000 PGA Professionals who have achieved advanced certification through the PGA Certified Professional Program, which was launched in 2004. The curriculum is comprised of an extensive project based on the specific certification previously acquired by the PGA Professional. Upon approval of the project and successful completion of a presentation, a PGA Member will earn the prestigious PGA Master Professional status. To be eligible, the program requires a minimum of eight years of PGA Membership.

After a distinguished 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force—where he served as a pilot and trained service members on how to fly everything from helicopters to the F-16 Fighting Falcon—Britton hung up his pilot boots in 1991, and put on his golf shoes, dedicating himself to the game.

Jessica Korda, Mo Martin, Jeongeun Lee6
7:44 a.m. – 10th Tee

Jessica Korda makes her return to competitive golf and 2019 debut at this week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup. The 14th ranked player in the world was forced to withdraw from the season’s earlier events, and miss defending her title in Thailand, as she continued to rehab an ongoing forearm injury. This week, Korda makes her eighth start in Phoenix where she has three top 10 finishes. She will play the opening rounds alongside major champion Mo Martin and rookie Jeongeun Lee6. This week, Martin is making her fourth start of the year and looks to record her first top 10 of the season in the desert, where she is competing for the eighth time. Lee6 is off to a hot start in her rookie season. The Korean hasn’t finished outside the top 11 in her first two starts of the year.


Laura Davies, Carlota Ciganda, Inbee Park
7:55 a.m. – 10th Tee

Hall of Famer Laura Davies made a run at history last year in Phoenix, recording a runner-up finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. While she struggled to record another top 10 on Tour in 2018, she dominated the senior ranks with victories at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and Senior LPGA Championship. This week, Davies is making her third start of the year. She missed the cut in her prior two starts in Australia. Davies will play alongside Carlota Ciganda and defending champion Inbee Park. Ciganda is making her fourth start of the year and looks to continue the momentum she found in recent weeks with a third-place finish in Thailand. Park is making just her second start of the year after finishing 14th in her 2019 debut in Thailand. The Hall of Famer and putting savant was disappointed with her putting in her first start of the year after averaging 31 putts for the week.

Korda Aims to Continue Early Success and More from Phoenix

Nelly Korda comes into the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup with four top 10s this season and a win at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Her keys to early success? Keeping it simple.

“I've been doing quite well, so I'm just going to take it week by week, shot by shot,” said the third-year LPGA player. “That's something my coach and I have really worked on. He keeps reminding me of that all the time.”

Though keeping her goals a secret, Korda has had an impressive start to the 2019 season. She currently ranks No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and tops the LPGA Tour’s Official Money List, Rolex Player of the Year and Race to the CME Globe standings. This will be the third time the 20-year-old competes at the Founders Cup, with her best finish of T19 coming in 2017. Korda hopes with her mind set on the fundamentals of her game, this year she will walk away with a better result.

“Every week I go into a tournament wanting to win, so obviously that's the No. 1 goal,” said Korda. “I just want to stay consistent and have fun this week.”

Creamer Withdraws from Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Tuesday, Paula Creamer withdrew from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Creamer posted a brief statement on Instagram announcing her decision to withdraw from the event. She didn’t share a reason for missing this week’s tournament, but was optimistic about making a quick return to the Tour.

"Unfortunately I have had to withdraw from The Founders Tournament this week," Creamer said on social media. "I am optimistic that I will return to competitive play soon. I want to thank everyone for all the words of encouragement and support."

Twelve months ago, Creamer made her return to competitive golf at the Founders Cup after undergoing wrist surgery during the off-season. In 2018, the 10-time LPGA champion struggled to record a single top 10 on the year. The veteran has made three starts in 2019, her best finish coming in a T68 at the Honda LPGA Thailand.


A Morning with The Founders at The Founders Cup

The stories were endless and hilarious.

A group of a dozen media members covering the Bank of Hope Founders Cup were invited to a breakfast with LPGA Founders Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork, and LPGA Girls Golf founder Sandy LaBauve.

Smith and Spork are still so sharp, even at 88 and 90 years old respectively. LaBauve is a major reason why LPGA*USGA Girls Golf has grown leaps and bounds.

As I walked in, Smith gave me her patented fist-pound to say hello and signed her “Have Clubs, Will Travel” book. She wrote “Fore! Bret, your friend in golf Marilynn Smith”.

Spork said hello and handed me her book “From Green to Tee."

Then, we were off.

They explained the beginnings. There were 13 tournaments and they played for a total of $50,000. How times have changed, right? The LPGA is playing 34 times in 2018 for a total purse of over $68 million.

Marilynn told a classic story about the early days and how they used to promote the tournaments. One time, they went to a boxing match in the town they played. Smith is queasy when it comes to blood, but Spork doesn’t mind. So, after the fight, she went into the ring and grabbed the microphone to talk about the U.S. Open that was coming to Prince George’s Golf Course.

Another time, Spork went to a circus and got in a car with midgets in order to spread the word about the LPGA.

“We ran meetings, wrote thank you letters, carried a typewriter and had our own committees to run the tournaments,” explained Smith. “We would go to a pay phone and call the AP and other media outlets and hope would get in the newspaper.”

“We blew our own horn,” said Spork.