What an interesting 24 hours of golf Sunday was. Here's a quick spin through it:
--In the wee hours of Sunday morning here in the United States, golf's latest teen phenom, Lydia Ko won the ISPS Handa Women's New Zealand Open by a shot. The precocious 15-year-old kicked off 2013 by becoming the youngest player ever to win on the Ladies European Tour, and by winning her third pro event – even though she's still an amateur (and a middle-school student, for that matter).
Ko, who was born in South Korea but lives in New Zealand, burst onto the scene in a big way last year when she won the New South Wales Open in Australia at age 14 to become the youngest player, male or female, ever to win a pro tour event. And in the span of a few weeks last summer, she won the U.S. Amateur and the CN Canadian Women's Open to become the youngest player ever to win on the LPGA Tour. Her future seems unlimited.
--About the time we were having breakfast, South Africa's Richard Sterne wrapped up a seven-shot victory in Joburg Open a week after he finished second in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Admittedly the field in Johannesburg wasn't the strongest as the event followed the European Tour's popular Middle East Swing, but his victory was noteworthy nonetheless.
Sterne rose to No. 29 in the world when he won the 2008 Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open in back-to-back weeks, but he fell out of the top 1,000 after arthritis in his back forced him to miss most of 2010 and 2011. At one point, he wondered whether he'd even play golf again, but he's now climbed so high in the rankings again that he's qualified for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
--At snack time, Rocco Mediate birdied the final hole of the Allianz Championship to win his Champions Tour debut. The personable Mediate, perhaps best known for losing that Monday playoff to Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open, became the 16th player in Champions Tour history to win his first start. En route to his victory, Mediate shot a course-record 61 at the Broken Sound Club on Saturday.
--Then, the main event – a spectacularly gorgeous final round on the Monterey Peninsula, where Brandt Snedeker one-upped Sterne. After finishing second to Tiger Woods two weeks ago at Torrey Pines and second to Phil Mickelson last week in Phoenix, Snedeker wasn't to be denied at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. With Woods sitting this one out and Mickelson struggling, Snedeker took charge over the weekend and won by two over youngster Chris Kirk.
For all the recent talk of Woods and Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, no one has been hotter than Snedeker in events that matter over the past six months. Snedeker won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup last fall after coming in second, sixth and tied for 37th in the first three playoff events. His FedExCup windfall obviously hasn't diminished his drive to excel, as he opened 2013 by finishing third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and tied for 23rd at the Humana Challenge. He's now up to a career-high fourth in the world rankings.
To me, the most interesting thing about Snedeker's success is his equipment – specifically, that he's still playing the same gear he used last year. With all the high-profile equipment changes that always happen at the beginning of a season, he decided that if it wasn't broke, he wasn't going to fix it – even though he plays one of the most unique collections of clubs in all of golf.
How's this for a mixed bag? Snedeker plays a TaylorMade Burner Superfast 2.0 driver, a Tour Edge Exotics CB4 3-wood and a Ping Anser hybrid. His irons and wedges are Bridgestone J40 Cavity Backs, except for his 60-degree wedge, which is a wide-soled Titleist Vokey Design. And his putter is an Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie. If you're counting, that's six different brands among his 14 clubs.
In this post, we will formally conclude our tee-to-green coverage of Davis Love III's neck surgery by passing along the news that the 20-time PGA Tour winner is up and around, and even putting already. In fact, on Saturday – one day after his neck surgery – Love tweeted out photos of his new addition and his first putting contest with Tucker Anderson, the son of 2010 PGA of America Instructor of the Year Todd Anderson.
No doubt Love will need a little while to get used to the device in his neck – I say this from experience, as my wife had a three-pronged metal plate that looks like a demented gardening tool embedded in her wrist a few years ago – but soon enough he'll forget it's there and his neck should be better than ever.
Love can also look to reigning LPGA Tour Player of the Year Stacy Lewis for inspiration. Lewis, of course, suffered from scoliosis in her youth and wore a back brace for seven years. When that didn't correct the curve in her back, she underwent surgery in which a titanium rod and five screws were implanted in her spine.
In fact, she was one of the first of Love's peers to reach out to him after his surgery. On Saturday, she tweeted him: ''Welcome to the club!''
After being seriously injured in a crash during the Alpine World Championships, skier Lindsey Vonn flew home to the United States on Friday in a private jet provided by Tiger Woods, according to TMZ.com.
The gossip website ran a photo it said was of Vonn on crutches boarding the plane. There was no indication of where the plane was headed, though speculation was its destination was Colorado, where Vonn lives.
Vonn, by far America's most prominent and successful ski racer these days, was airlifted to a hospital last Tuesday after she crashed during a Super G event, tearing two ligaments in her right knee and fracturing her shin.
Woods and Vonn have been rumored to be dating for several months, though neither has said anything about a possible romantic relationship between the two recently divorced superstars. Last December, Vonn told The Denver Post that she met Woods after her brother taught Woods' children how to ski in Vail, Colo., and they are ''just friends.''
In January, the Salzburg Times newspaper reported that Woods and Vonn are dating, and said that Woods stopped in Salzburg on his way to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in mid-January at the same time Vonn was in Salzburg. The paper also showed photos of Woods, wearing a Nike sweatshirt and New York Yankees baseball cap, on what it called a ''short visit'' to Salzburg.
Meanwhile, Vonn soon will have surgery on her right knee, and says she hopes to return to competition in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Woods is next scheduled to play at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships in Marana, Ariz., the week after next.