FIRST TIME CADDIE
The wait for Shane Comer, Na Yeon Choi’s caddie for the week, to get his first win as a professional caddie lasted all of seven days.
Before this week, Comer was a professional golfer. Now, he’s a professional caddie. He moved to Korea with his wife who is from there and had tried to qualify for the Korean PGA Tour but didn’t hit the number needed. So when Na Yeon Choi’s manager, Greg Morrison, called and said they’d like for him to come over and caddie for the week, he jumped at the chance.
“He was really standing my side, that was good this week, you know,” Choi said. “You know, like this week I don’t have any my team this week, no manager, no family. So I was talking with my caddie almost every night and then I guarantee he walked the course at least three times and he walked the course a lot and study about course and asking me a lot of question.
He even looked like a seasoned vet after Choi made the winning putt, taking the flag off of the stick for the victor.
“I was really surprised after that winning putt he took the flag hole 18. Nobody teach him. I didn’t teach him,” Choi said. “But he took the flag and I asked him after the round and another caddie in the group, Craig, he told him, like you have to grab the flag. So that’s why he got the flag. I mean, he always be my side and he tried to like give me a lot of food and drink and when I asked some question he always like respect my answers, so I think I always like that.”
A POSITIVE TAKEAWAY
Mika Miyazato didn’t win the golf tournament Sunday, but she couldn’t help but be excited about her runner-up finish – her best on the LPGA Tour since her win at the 2012 Safeway Classic Presented by Coca Cola. Miyazato was one of the best players in the game in 2012 in a year she finished 11th on the money list. But she’s struggled to find that form since, finishing 36th on the money list in 2013 and 91st in 2014.
Miyazato has 25 career top-10s but for the first year in her six-year career on the LPGA Tour, she didn’t post a top-10 in 2014. She’s now posted two in the first half of 2015 and came the closest Sunday to returning to the winner’s circle she’s been since she last was in it in Portland. Was she thinking about her winless drought out there?
“Yeah, of course,” Miyazato answered. “Not pressure for me, just calm, just played more focused in my golf game today.”
Miyazato clearly loves this tournament. Her second best finish since that win in 2012 also came here in Arkansas with a third-place finish at this tournament in 2013.
“I had a great round today so I really excited,” Miyazato said. “Stacy [Lewis] and Brittany [Lincicome], it’s nice playing with them, so I’m very disappointed but it’s still fun.”
A DRAMATIC SWING
Stacy Lewis heard the roar behind her emanating from the 16th green as she stood on the 17th tee, but she didn’t know the cause until she entered the 18th scoring area. The cause was Na Yeon Choi’s hole-out from 145 yards on the par-4, a swing that flipped the lead from a one-shot lead for Lewis to a one-shot lead for Choi.
Lewis had a 10-foot birdie putt at the 17th to tie it, but instead missed. As she approached the 18th, Lewis didn’t see a scoreboard to see the swing but knew she needed eagle at the last because she heard it someone in the crowd say it. But shockingly, she didn’t try to go for the green in two on her second shot not wanting to challenge the front bunker on the par-5, choosing instead to lay up short of the pond.
“We had about 212 to carry the bunker, and I just felt with that wind off the lie I couldn’t get it over the bunker,” Lewis said. “So I could get it on the front right part of the green but it didn’t really do me any good so I thought the best opportunity to do something was to lay up.”
That decision didn’t prove prudent as she yanked her third into the left greenside bunker, where she failed to get up and down for a bogey at the last to give Choi an easy walk up the 18th. But at the end of the day, Lewis said there was nothing to blame except her putter. She missed three putts inside 10 feet over the last three holes.
“I played some great golf this week and it’s coming around at the right time,” Lewis said. “We’ve got some big tournaments coming up here in the next few weeks.”
Still, she couldn’t hide her disappointment that she wasn’t able to defend here in her adopted hometown where her beloved Razorbacks call home. She’s been close a lot since that win here a year ago but hasn’t posted a win since despite seven top-three finishes since.
“It’s tough but honestly it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in this position and few months really so you know you can’t be too upset,” Lewis said. “When somebody holes out and makes birdie on 16 and 17, you know, it’s one of those things that it’s kind of meant to be for her. But maybe this year I switch the first and second and go to U.S. Open and win so I’m going to take a lot of good things out of this week and just keep going.”
But the game is back. She had been searching over the past four events with a T13 as her best finish after she opened the season with seven top-10s in her first nine starts. She’d worked throughout the week off last week on the position at the top of her backswing and that was the difference in her play this week.
“It was the golf swing. The golf swing was definitely back and I was able to hit shots,” Lewis said. “Adrenaline got me a little bit there coming in which is good, means the club is in the right position at the top of the back swing and that really was the difference this week.”
Lewis now heads to the U.S. Women’s Open in a week, a championship she covets that she nearly won a year ago when she finished as the runner-up to Michelle Wie.
KO ROUNDING INTO FORM
Lydia Ko’s game is rounding into form just in time after she tied her career low on the LPGA with a 63 Sunday to vault into a tie for 5th at 11-under-par 202.
After her win at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, her second win of 2015, Ko’s game found a surprising string of
uncharacteristic performances. Since she opened the season with seven top-10s in her first eight starts, which
included two wins, Ko hadn’t finished better than T16 in her last four starts heading into this championship, and she recently missed the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, snapping a string of 53 made cuts in a row on the LPGA Tour.
But in her first event after losing the world No. 1 ranking, Ko posted a top-five again just in time for one of the season’s biggest events – the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think I’ve been hitting the ball really well the last couple days. Just the first day my tee shot was a little off and that created three bogeys with it, but other than that I’ve been hitting the ball really well,” Ko said. “My tee shots were good the last two days so in a way I was playing good and my score wasn’t up to that. But today I got some putts rolling and I shot in well with 3‑under the first three holes, and when you get in a good momentum like that it gives you a good confidence for the day.”
Ko is the first to admit that her nerves are on another level at major championships, and her two worst finishes of 2015 – T51 and a missed cut – both came at the season’s first two major championships. But she took a ton away from both and thinks she’s more prepared for the season’s third major.
“Yeah, I know, that like I really had one bad hole [at KPMG] and I kind of got it carried on for the next couple holes and that was really my mistake,” Ko said. “And I thought I tried to get my mind together. Then, you know, I was only one shot, you know, from making the cut. So I think learning is that one hole is one hole. There are some birdies out there. I had a good time off, you know, I enjoyed New York, and I watched a Broadway show.”
Ko has a charity outing Monday and then she’ll take a couple days off and then she’ll start to prepare for Lancaster Country Club, the site of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open.
KEY NUMBERS TO KNOW
2 - Number of wins for Na Yeon Choi in 2015. She also won the Cates Golf Championship
5 - Runner-up finishes for Stacy Lewis since her last LPGA win, which came here in Arkansas in 2014.
7 - Number of top-3 finishes for Stacy Lewis since her last win
9 - Number of LPGA career wins for Na Yeon Choi
27 – It has now been 27 events since Stacy Lewis’ last win, which came here in Arkansas last year. That’s the longest stretch she’s gone without a win since her first career victory at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She’s since won 10 more tournaments since that win.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You know, I did definitely didn’t play perfect golf this week especially on those last eight holes. So I know what I need to work on the U.S. Open. I know kind of what happened when the pressure was on, came up and out of putts a little bit. So I’m going to work on that, on the golf swing but I really like where everything is right now.”
- Stacy Lewis describing how she feels heading into the U.S. Women’s Open
Show me the eagles
Two total eagles were made on Saturday (Gaby Lopez and Na Yeon Choi) at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G and players raised $2,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project as part of the season-long
Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends.
In all there have been 138 eagles recorded in 2015, raising $138,000.
Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.