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Lydia Ko finally earned that first LPGA Tour win as a professional. OK, so she already had won twice on tour as an amateur, but at least this time she gets to cash that $270,000 winner's check. Not bad for a 17-year-old "rookie" on tour.
|With her victory at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, Lydia Ko jumped into second place in the season-long Race to the CME Globe standings behind leader Karrie Webb.|
As for the old man winner Sunday -- Seung-yul Noh -- who is all of 22, he might have looked shaky in the middle of the final round of the Zurich Classic, but he kept the ship on the right course to tally his first PGA Tour victory.
So where did these youngsters find the mettle to hold on to claim victory? Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: I was impressed by her ability to shake off the bogey at the 10th hole. The maturity it takes to not give up when you're having an up-and-down round shows an internal fighter who should scare other golfers when she gets in contention.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Ko was able to earn her third LPGA Tour win without her A-game. She had three bogeys through her first 10 holes, but played her last eight in 3 under par, including a birdie at the 18th, which was enough to beat Stacy Lewis by one shot. At 17, she's already showing the resilience and match toughness of a 10-year veteran.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Simply her composure at such a young age. To be battling someone she looked up to in Lewis and then to beat her coming down the stretch is not easy at any age, let alone 17.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: The speed with which her clinching putt found the bottom of the cup. Ko had a miscue by hitting her second shot on the par-5 finishing hole into the rough, but she more than made up for it by finding the putting surface and giving herself a look at birdie on her next swing that would seal the victory. Not only did she make the putt, but she did so with authority, never leaving a doubt that the Kiwi would clinch her first LPGA Tour victory as a pro.
Collins: Thumbs down. I have to say I've always been told not to throw rocks in a glass house and I'm a subscriber to Time. That being said, to call Lydia Ko one of the most "influential" people (Pioneers) is like calling Ronald McDonald one of the top 100 chefs. She just turned 17 on April 24. Does she need that kind of pressure already?
Evans: Thumbs up. However, I don't know how Time determined that her impact on the growth of the women's game could be greater than, say, Michelle Wie or Inbee Park. As a group these women have a chance to bring more interest to the game around the world, but Ko is no Se Ri Pak, who was the pioneering star for the women's game in Asia. Still, Ko is an impressive young star who will have a huge impact in the sport.
Harig: Thumbs down. It's a great honor no doubt, but it seems a bit far-fetched. Perhaps she has the ability to be very influential in her career. But now? The guess here is Ko is virtually unknown outside of the golf world. That can change of course.
Maguire: There are only five athletes on the list, which is probably a bit too many, but some are legit. Jason Collins? I'll buy that one. Cristano Ronaldo? I'm not a soccer guy, but if you're the biggest star in the world's biggest sport, it makes sense. Nothing against Ko, but at 17, I'm not sure she belongs on this list ... yet, so I'm going thumbs down. Does she have the potential to reside there for years to come? Absolutely, as we saw by her victory Sunday at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. But the honor is a bit premature.
Collins: Hitting the flagstick with his second shot at the 13th. He was dead where he was and if that shot doesn't hit the stick he's off the front of the green and maybe makes bogey. Instead, he makes birdie and cruises to his first PGA Tour victory.
Evans: Twice in the closing nine holes Sunday, Noh was able to follow up bogeys with birdies to secure his lead and ultimately a 2-shot win. And unlike a couple of his pursuers, he never had a disastrous hole. He was steady and accurate with a beautiful swing that is sure to gain attention around the tour.
Harig: The first hole. For the first time in the tournament, Noh made a bogey, and it could have easily been the point where negative thoughts clouded his mind. Instead, Noh didn't let it bother him. He simply moved on and pushed ahead to his first victory.
Maguire: When his lead got trimmed to 1 shot with three holes to play, Noh nearly dunked a 9-iron from the fairway to dispel any notion that he might choke away his first PGA Tour victory. He made birdie, which pushed him to a 2-shot lead with two holes remaining.
Collins: Anybody tells me they had Andrew Svoboda finishing second, I'm going to need to see the betting slip from Vegas or I'm going to call you a liar. In 2013 he made five cuts and had no top-25s while missing 12 cuts. This year he has missed six cuts already and of the four cuts he'd made, his best finish was 15th. Not something you look at and say, "Oh yeah ... that guy's got second place written all over him!"
Evans: I could not have picked Robert Streb out of a lineup before Sunday afternoon. Now with a tie for second in New Orleans, I'm sure I will be looking for his name on leaderboards in the future.
Harig: Andrew Svoboda. The former St. John's golfer finished tied for second and was in contention Sunday. And it was the first top-10 finish of his PGA Tour career.
Maguire: Robert Streb. His T-2 showing netted him a cool $598,400, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of his earnings so far on the year. He wasn't playing poorly this season as he hasn't missed a cut in seven starts, but it's surprising that he's had only seven starts.