Apr 27

Lydia Ko defends Swinging Skirts LPGA in playoff over Pressel

Lydia Ko gave herself a great birthday present: a successful title defense.

Ko won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic for the second consecutive year on Sunday, making a birdie on the second playoff hole to defeat a game Morgan Pressel and win her seventh LPGA Tour title. 

Both players finished regulation at 8-under 280, with Ko shooting 70 and Pressel firing 72 to send the tournament to overtime. Ko made a birdie on the par-5 closing hole to set the water mark, with Pressel missing a birdie bid to end the tournament. 

The playoff format called for the players to continue playing the 18th until there was a winner. Ko and Pressel made par on the first go-round. The second time, Pressel stuck her third shot to 10 feet, while Ko was closer to 5 feet. When Pressel couldn't make her birdie putt, Ko cashed in to lock up the victory.

Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old former world No. 1 amateur, faltered to 74 on Sunday to finish tied for third.

It wasn't a bad week for Ko, who turned 18 on Friday. This is her second LPGA win of the year and it marks the second time in her career she has successfully defended a title, following her back-to-back wins in the Canadian Women's Open as an amateur. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 27

Justin Rose inspired by Steph Curry to Zurich Classic win

At one point on Sunday in the resumption of the third round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Justin Rose had made six consecutive pars -- no good on a soft and vulnerable TPC Louisiana. 

Frustrated, Rose turned to his caddie Mark Fulcher for some counsel.

"I started off hot, had gone cold and [Fulcher] said, 'Come on, just remember Steph Curry. He went cold but he kept wanting the ball. He kept shooting threes. He kept believing in himself','" Rose said to CBS. 

The Golden State Warriors guard had gone cold late in Thursday's playoff Game 3 against the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the likely NBA MVP made an incredible three-pointer to send the game to overtime, eventually leading to a Warriors 123-119 win.

The inspiration worked. Sure enough, Rose made a 12-foot birdie on that hole, the 10th, and the next as part of a 7-under 65 in the third round.

The strong play continued in Round 4, which began almost immediately after wrapping up Round 3 as the PGA Tour chose to keep the players in the same groups for the final round. Rose forced himself to remain aggressive for the final two holes, shooting 6-under 66. The frantic Sunday was good enough to hang on for a one-shot win over Cameron Tringale.

Rose, who finished T-2 at the Masters, has clearly found his form -- even if it took a little inspiration to rediscover it on Sunday.

“Great athletes you look up to, that’s what they do,” Rose said. “In the big moments they want the ball. And they make big shots and big putts and that’s luckily today what I inspired myself to do.”

Curiously, Rose is now bound for where Curry plays. He's headed to the Bay Area as a favorite in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 26

Brooke Henderson can get LPGA membership with Swinging Skirts win

Sunday is the most important day in the young career of 17-year-old Brooke Henderson.

The Canadian former world No. 1 amateur carries a one-shot lead into the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Were she to survive at Lake Merced Golf Club and pick up her first LPGA win, it would give her a foundation from which to launch a long career. 

"If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it," Henderson said Saturday evening.

Henderson has no LPGA status, denied the opportunity to play in the tour's Q-School last December. Commissioner Mike Whan declined to give Henderson a waiver that would have allowed her to play despite being younger than the tour's age floor of 18. Whan has been consistent in refusing to grant that exception unless a player has already won an LPGA event.

If Henderson wins on Sunday, she would earn a two-year exemption but would still need to petition Whan for that exemption. He'd likely grant it.

There's a lot on the line for Henderson, but she feels carrying the Canadian golf banner has prepared her for Sunday pressure.

"Back home in Canada I have received a lot of pressure from Canada for the last couple years," she said. "If you have pressure it means you're doing something right. I try and use it to my advantage and try and use it to help me get better. "

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 26

Get ready for a marathon Sunday at the Zurich Classic

It's going to be a long Sunday for the weekend field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 

After weather delays limited third-round play on Saturday at TPC Louisiana, the field resumes play with the hopes of completing the tournament before sundown. Of course, a short fog day has already pushed back the festivities further, but the chase is now on in earnest.

Jason Day stands out from the field, which is otherwise very tightly bunched. However, on this Pete Dye-designed track and in favorable, quiet weather conditions, a lot of ground can be made up quickly.

While Day is looking for his second PGA Tour win of the year, the likes of two-time heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton, Honda Classic playoff loser Daniel Berger and Brendon de Jonge are looking for their breakthrough victory. 

Though there's an expectation that play will finish on Sunday, there's the possibility that rain could hamper progress for a fourth day in a row. Were play to spill over into Monday, that would pose a problem for a number of players -- and contenders -- in New Orleans, as they'll head immediately after to San Francisco for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, which begins on Wednesday.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 25

Ben Crane made a creative par at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Tee box, fairway, then green. That's usually the ideal way to play a golf hole. Not for Ben Crane, though, at least on one hole on Friday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

In Round 1, Crane played the 476-yard, par-4 sixth at TPC Louisiana as designer Pete Dye intended, and it left him some 250 yards to the hole for his second shot. He made par, yes, but, in Round 2, he wanted an easier way to make 4.

So Crane decided he would aim not down the fairway, but over some trees to the left of the tee box. His ball landed on the 12th hole, leaving Crane a better angle and just 163 yards into the hole. From there, Crane hit the green and two-putted for an easy par.

Just remember: Where there's a will -- and a line -- there's a way.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 25

17-year-old Brooke Henderson takes Swinging Skirts LPGA lead

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who turned 18 on Friday, made last year's Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic site of her first LPGA win as a pro. 

Now Canadian prodigy Brooke Henderson is hoping to enjoy her own pro breakthrough at 17 in just her 10th LPGA start.

Henderson, who has no status on the LPGA Tour and was denied the right to play in Q-school last year because of her age, shot 7-under 65 on Friday in Round 2 at Lake Merced Golf Club. It was good enough to give her a two-shot lead over Na Yeon Choi at 9 under par halfway through the tournament.

An eagle at the reachable par-5 14th coupled with six birdies led to a tournament-record score. The question, however, is if Henderson is ready to parlay that into a win.

"I think I'm ready. Yeah, 17 is young," Henderson said. "As you've seen with Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson and even Jessica Korda, there are a lot of great names that have been able to do it. I'm hoping that I'm one of them."

For her part, Ko is in contention to defend her title. She shot 72 on Friday, which leaves her four shots back of Henderson.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 24

Freddie Jacobson’s record three-putt avoidance streak ends in NOLA

When Freddie Jacobson teed off in Round 2 of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, it had been 30 rounds since the Swede had three-putted a green. However, Jacobson's PGA Tour record streak didn't last long on Friday at TPC Louisiana.

On his first hole, the 10th at the Pete Dye-designed track, Jacobson three-putted from 34 feet, leading to a bogey that ended a streak of 542 holes without a three-jack.

Jacobson had not three-putted since the second round of the Humana Challenge on Jan. 23. At the RBC Heritage last week, he surpassed the Tour's previous three-putt avoidance record, held by Luke Donald at 483 holes. Tracking of that statistic dates back to 2003.

In the end, he closed with 1-under 71 to get to the weekend at 5-under 139 and within striking distance of the lead heading into the weekend.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 24

Tiger Woods will compete in The Players Championship

We now know when Tiger Woods will play next on the PGA Tour.

Woods announced on Twitter on Friday that he'll compete in two weeks at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

This will be Woods' first appearance at The Players since 2013, when he won the event for the second time (2001). Woods didn't play in the event last year as he was recovering from a microdiscectomy procedure on his back on March 31. 

The 14-time major champion finished T-17 at the Masters two weeks ago, which marked his first tournament after taking two months off to find his game. Jack Nicklaus said he spoke with Woods at Augusta National, relaying that Woods indicated to him that he'll play in his Memorial Tournament in early June. Woods is a five-time champion of the event.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 23

Marc Leishman returns after wife’s health scare

Marc Leishman returned to the PGA Tour on Thursday, shooting 2-over 74 in the first round of Zurich Classic of New Orleans. However, the Australian came back with a new perspective, relieved his wife will survive a major health scare.

Leishman withdrew from the Masters two weeks ago, citing his wife Audrey's condition. The severity of the situation, however, was unclear. As it turns out, Audrey was facing both acute respiratory distress syndrome and toxic shock syndrome. At one point, her doctors gave her just a five percent chance of surviving. 

"It wasn't looking good for her survival," Leishman said, according to the Australian Associated Press. "It was shattering. The toxic shock syndrome started shutting down all of her organs."

Initially, Audrey believed she was dealing with the flu, but on March 31 decided to go to the hospital. Fortunately for Audrey, doctors were able to flip her onto her stomach to help drain fluid that had built up in her lungs. She was in a medically induced coma for four days.

"The only thing in our favor was she was fit, goes to the gym all the time, is young and has two young kids and a real will to live," Leishman said. "Thankfully in the end, that's what got her through."

Leishman lost 10 lbs in just a few days, doing what he could to remain supportive and lend whatever help he could to his ailing wife. 

As Audrey recovers and regains strength, she is grateful for the doctors who saved her life and the outpouring of support.

"I never really allowed myself to ask why it happened I have instead chosen to focus on the fact that I survived and the amount of love and support everyone has shown us," she said. "It has been so overwhelming and humbling to see how many people are in our corner and supported us."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 23

Nicklaus: Tiger Woods told me he’s in for the Memorial

Tiger Woods hasn't said yet publicly when he'll play again, noting after the Masters that he would take some further time away from the PGA Tour following a two-month stint to again find his game.

However, according to six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus, the former world No. 1 told him at Augusta National that he'll be playing in Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in June.

“It’s as much conversation as I’ve ever had with Tiger,” Nicklaus said Wednesday at a tournament-related luncheon in Columbus, Ohio. “We talked about a lot of things. It was good. And he said, ‘Hey, (I’ll) see you in May. I’ll be at the Memorial.’ It’ll be nice to have Tiger back.”

The Memorial will be played June 4-7. Woods missed the tournament last year as he was recovering from a March back procedure.

However, Woods is expected to play at least once before the week at Muirfield Village. He is expected to play in The Players Championship in two weeks.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.