• Lydia Ko wins Marathon Classic with closing birdie
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     | July 21,2014
     
    AP Photo

    Lydia Ko reads the line on a putt during Sunday’s final round of the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.

    SYLVANIA, Ohio — Now that she’s officially a millionaire, Lydia Ko joked she’ll have to keep a closer watch on where her paychecks go.

    “I’ll probably see that going into my mom’s account,” she said with a laugh, referring to the $210,000 she got for winning Sunday’s Marathon Classic.

    The 17-year-old broke free from a late tie with So Yeon Ryu, hitting a wedge to 4 feet for birdie on the 72nd hole to take the lead. Then she tried in vain — she’s just 5-foot-5 — to see past the large gallery at 18 as Ryu missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.

    “I couldn’t see it properly. I was behind some people,” she said after her second LPGA Tour victory that matched the two Canadian Open titles she won as an amateur. “But I kind of could tell what happened by the crowd’s reaction.”

    She became the youngest player to top $1 million in career earnings on the LPGA Tour. Ko is roughly 17 months younger than Lexi Thompson, previously the youngest. Ko has shown incredible consistency in her rookie year on tour, making the cut in all 15 tournaments she’s entered. She has six top-10 finishes in addition to her wins, with five of those being top-fives.

    Ryu had poured in a big-breaking, 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th to pull even.

    But then Ko stuck her approach at the par-5 closing hole and calmly rolled in the birdie putt for a 6-under 65 that left her at 15-under 269.

    Ryu hit a brilliant third shot to the green, but pushed her 6-footer at the 18th.

    “Absolutely I’m disappointed I missed (that) birdie putt,” she said. “Sometimes if I get something lucky, then I get something that is unlucky. I just accept it and let it go.”

    Ko was resilient, also shrugging aside a challenge from veteran Cristie Kerr, who pulled into a tie with her on the homeward nine.

    Ko, who proudly bears the flag of her native New Zealand on her golf bag, started the final round in fifth place, three shots behind co-leaders Laura Diaz and Lee-Anne Pace.

    While they foundered, she crept up the leaderboard with birdies at holes 3 and 4. She tied for the top spot with a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth, then took a solo lead for the first time after hitting her approach to 10 feet at the 10th.

    Kerr, seeking her 17th career victory, rolled in a left-to-right breaker from 15 feet at the 13th to pull even. But her approach on the 399-yard, par-4 15th missed left and settled into heavy rough. She muscled the pitch shot onto the green, but it rolled 6 feet past and she lipped out the par putt.

    Kerr, who shot a 67 to finish three shots back in third, failed to apply pressure when she could not birdie the closing two par-5s.

    “I had a good/bad week,” she said. “I didn’t play 17 and 18 well all week. If you’re going to win here you have to take advantage of those holes.”

    Ko hit a pitching wedge from 121 yards to 6 feet past the pin, then rolled in the downhill putt for a two-shot lead at the 16, but Ryu birdied four of six holes late in her round to tie.

    Playing in the pairing immediately in front of Ryu, Ko hit three perfect shots on the closing par-5, which is bisected by a large, deep valley with a creek at the bottom. Her 72-yard chip shot nestled 4 feet away and she drilled it into the heart of the hole to regain the lead.

    Ryu’s third on the final hole ended up pin-high and 6 feet away. But she pushed the putt off the right edge, the large gallery groaning as the ball rolled past.

    Ryu’s 67 left her at 270. Kelly Tan (67), Katherine Kirk (68) and Pace (71) were at 273.

    Diaz, who led almost from the start after birdieing her first five holes on Thursday, lapsed to a 75 and finished at 277.

    Ko came into the round, which was delayed an hour by fog, vowing to shoot a 65. After she did it and collected the routine over-sized cardboard check, she pondered what she might do now that she’s a millionaire.

    “I may do one of those teenage things — like getting something electronic,” she said with a grin.



    Steve Wheatcroft takes Boise Open in playoff

    BOISE, Idaho — Steve Wheatcroft rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Steven Alker and win the Albertsons Boise Open on Sunday.

    The pair battled back and forth at Hillcrest Country Club and were tied at 24 under after regulation play.

    Wheatcroft watched as Alker’s 30-foot birdie try stopped a couple feet short of the cup and then stepped up and made his putt.

    “This is unbelievable. I’m just speechless,” said the 36-year old from Jacksonville, Florida, who won for the second time in his career. “I’ve been playing so badly this year that I thought I might be done. I lost all belief.”

    Wheatcroft rediscovered his game at last week’s Utah championship where he finished tied for 21st after opening with rounds of 65-66.

    “There’s something about this place,” said Wheatcroft, runner-up to Luke Guthrie here in 2012.

    “It started to sink in a few weeks ago that if I didn’t start playing better I’d have to find something else to do. I knew I had to keep fighting and I had some good tournaments ahead of me. I really thought I was going to win this week.”

    Wheatcroft started the final day two shots back of Alker, who broke the tournament’s 54-hole record with a 20-under 195 total.

    Rookie Justin Thomas put a charge on late and posted a 65 to reach 22 under, good for third place.

    Indiana rookie Chase Wright (66), No. 2 money winner Andrew Putnam (66) and second-round co-leader Zack Sucher (70) finished tied for fourth, five off the pace.

    The victory for Wheatcroft vaulted him from No. 89 to No. 11 on the money list and guaranteed him a return trip to the PGA Tour in 2015.

    “I’ve had an awful year and now I’ve had two good weeks and now it’s a good year,” Wheatcroft said. “With a baby on the way you worry about where the money is going to come from. That check is going to pay for a lot of diapers.”



    Mark Rypien wins American Century title

    STATELINE, Nev. — Mark Rypien beat out Jeremy Roenick and Annika Sorenstam to win the weather-delayed American Century Celebrity Golf Championship on Sunday.

    Rypien took the title for the first time since winning the inaugural event in 1990.

    Lightning storms delayed play for more than three hours.

    Rypien ran away from Roenick and Sorenstam, putting up big Stableford points on his back nine, going 5 under for a record-breaking third-round total of 33 points and 76 throughout the three-day event at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

    After finishing in second place in the past two years, Rypien broke through with a win in the 25th anniversary of the tournament.

    “In 25 years from now I’ll be 76. Do you think I could do that when I’m 76?” Rypien said. “It was a little bit of an advantage just from that standpoint that I’m accustomed to playing in inclement weather with golf and football and then that was kind of the way it was today. It was kind of uncomfortable for everybody, but I felt fine.”

    Rypien won $125,000 from the $600,000 purse. Sorenstam and Roenick will each get $57,500 for tying for second in the event.

    Roenick and Sorenstam tied for second with three-round totals of 65. It was the retired LPGA star’s first appearance in the event and although she has already been invited back, she is unsure if she will play the event again next year, despite her strong finish.

    “I was hoping for a few more points,” Sorenstam said. “I don’t know if 76 would have been reachable for me the way I played today, but maybe a few more and I would have felt very comfortable and pleased.”

    Chad Pfeifer, who lost his left leg above the knee serving in Iraq, started the day in second place, earned only 17 points and tied for fifth with former baseball star John Smoltz, who had the second-highest total of the day along with Sorenstam (23).

    In honor of Pfeifer’s effort in the event, American Century donated $25,000 to the Troops First Foundation in his name.

    “I truly thought after (Saturday) that Chad was going to be the player to beat,” Rypien said. “After he double-bogeyed two and then came back with birdies on three and four, I said to myself, `This is who I have to beat.”’

    Actor Jack Wagner, also a former champion of the event, made a strong push Sunday with 22 points to finish fourth, his 19th top-10 finish in the event.

    Roenick and Rypien were tied for the lead with 64 Stableford points through 15 holes when play was suspended due to lighting. It’s the second day in a row weather delayed play, a short delay Saturday was also due to lightning.

    But following the delay, Rypien distanced himself from the rest of the field. He earned 12 points on the final three holes, starting with an eagle on 16 and birdied 17 and 18, recovering from a shot into the trees on 18.

    Roenick struggled after the rain delay, bogeying 17 and doubling 18 after hitting his approach into the water. It was Roenick’s sixth top-10 finish in the past six years and his best in the event.

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