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Ryu reaps rewards after big changes, Woods progressing

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

It’s easy to forget that So Yeon Ryu won the LPGA Tour’s first major championship of the year.

The strongest memory from the ANA Inspiration was the four-shot penalty assessed to Lexi Thompson with six holes to play for a violation that occurred the day before (two shots for replacing her ball in the wrong spot, two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard).

Ryu played the final 27 holes without a bogey. She made birdie on the 72nd hole that got her into a playoff, and then the 26-year-old South Korean blistered a drive down the middle that allowed her to go for the green on the par-5 18th and set up a chip-and-putt birdie to beat Thompson and claim her second major.

That was the key moment in a strong turnaround for Ryu.

Over her last nine tournaments dating to Malaysia last fall, Ryu has a victory, three runner-up finishes and a tie for third. Her worst result is a tie for seventh. Ryu has a 68.03 scoring average to lead the LPGA Tour, and her $859,936 puts her more than $370,000 ahead of Thompson.

It was the result of a decision at the end of 2015 to take one step back for a giant leap forward.

Ryu sought out Cameron McCormick, the swing coach for Jordan Spieth, and she moved from Los Angeles to Dallas last spring. She also turned to Ian Baker-Finch to help her stop thinking so much about technique in her putting.

“I knew I needed to change or I was not going to improve,” Ryu said. “I changed my coach and I changed my swing. I knew it was going to take time. But the new swing made me dedicate myself. And it was worth it.”

She noticed an immediate improvement working with McCormick, though she often reverted to her old swing when she was under pressure last year.

“When you lose confidence in your swing, you lose confidence with everything,” she said.

Ryu still finished 10th on the LPGA money list, though it was her lowest ranking in her five years on the LPGA Tour. As she became more comfortable with change, Baker-Finch helped her free her mind over putts.

Her biggest disappointment from going through changes in 2016 was failing to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Ryu fell to No. 12 last summer, making her the sixth-highest ranked Korean at the cutoff to qualify. No country was allowed more than four players.

Ryu is now No. 2 in the world, and she had a mathematical chance last week in Hawaii to replace Lydia Ko atop the ranking if she had won. But she finished sixth, so No. 1 will have to wait.

“The most important thing is to never think about the ranking,” Ryu said. “The only thing I can control is working at being a better golfer instead of the No. 1 golfer. And just enjoy it.”

Woods update

Tiger Woods is promoting his book on the 1997 Masters and he’s designing golf courses. He’s just not playing much golf.

In video from PGA Tour Entertainment, Woods said his back was progressing.

“I have good days and bad days,” Woods said. “I’ve had three back operations, and that’s the nature of the business, unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”

Woods hasn’t played since he opened with a 77 in the Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 2 and withdrew because of back spasms.

The next target dates for Woods, if he plans to play, are The Players Championship (May 11-14), the Memorial (June 1-4) and the U.S. Open (June 15-18).

Woods has not played in a major since he missed the cut in the 2015 PGA Championship.

PGA TOUR

Valero Texas Open

Site: San Antonio.

Course: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course). Yardage: 7,435. Par: 72.

Purse: $6.2 million (First place: $1,116,000).

TV: Today-Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).

Defending champion: Charley Hoffman.

Last week: Wesley Bryan won the RBC Heritage.

Notes: For the second straight week, a PGA Tour event does not have anyone from the top 10 in the world ranking. Patrick Reed at No. 15 is the highest-ranked player at the Texas Open. … Matt Kuchar is the only other player from the top 20 in the world who is playing.

Next week: Zurich Classic.

CHAMPIONS

Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Site: Ridgedale, Mo.

Courses: Buffalo Ridge Springs (Yardage: 7,026. Par: 71); Top of the Rock Par 3 (Yardage: 2,840. Par: 27).

Purse: $2.4 million (First prize: $230,000 each).

TV: Friday, noon-3 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 5-7 p.m. (Golf Channel).

Defending champions: Michael Allen and Woody Austin.

Last week: Stephen Ames won the Mitusbishi Electric Classic.

Notes: Top of the Rock is the only Par 3 course used in a PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament. The two-man teams will play fourballs on Buffalo Ridge, and two rounds on Top of the Rock by playing nine holes of fourballs and nine holes of a modified alternate shot, in which both players hit a tee shot and pick which one to use.

Next tournament: Insperity Invitational on May 5-7.

LPGA TOUR

Last week: Cristie Kerr won the LPGA Lotte Championship.

Next week: Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.