OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Jarrod Lyle followed his opening 4-under 67 with a 69 in windy conditions Friday in the Web.com Tour’s Midwest Classic, leaving the Australian seven strokes behind leader Zack Sucher in his first U.S. event since his second bout with leukemia. The 32-year-old Lyle had four birdies and two bogeys in the second round to reach 6-under 136 at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate. Sucher was 13 under after a 63. ”I’m proud and pleased at the way I’m playing,” Lyle said. I’ve been doing a lot of work at home in Australia and here in Orlando to get myself ready for now. It shows that the work I’m doing is the right work.” Lyle leads the field in greens in regulation, hitting 32 of 36. ”I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Lyle said. ”I would have been happy to make the cut on the number, but now I’m in a position where I could make a charge hopefully. Who knows what’s going to happen on the weekend. It’s just a lot of unknowns – how the body holds up, how the fatigue progresses. Now it’s just a bit of a guessing game, but everything is heading in the right direction.” Traveling with wife Briony and 2-year-old daughter Lusi, Lyle also is set to play Web.com Tour events Aug. 7-10 in Springfield, Missouri, and Aug. 14-17 in Knoxville, Tennessee. When Lyle returns to the PGA Tour for the start of the season in October, he will have 20 events to earn $283,825 and reach the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list in 2012, the year he suffered a recurrence. Lyle returned to play in November in the Australian Masters and played in the Victorian Open near his hometown in February. Jason Gore was second at 11 under after a 63, and former Kansas State player Aaron Watkins was third at 10 under after a 65.
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The teetering-on-the-edge chip from the rock wall. The what-were-you-thinking? 5-iron from the fairway bunker, over water, to set up a conceded eagle. The cold-blooded wedge shot to 5 feet for a closeout birdie. Forget the rankings – the No. 619 and No. 776 players in the world can put on quite a show, too. With his thrilling 19-hole victory Saturday over Fred Wedel at Atlanta Athletic Club, San Diego State sophomore Gunn Yang became the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the U.S. Amateur final. Not that rankings matter anymore. The 20-year-old will face Canada’s Corey Conners, 22, in Sunday’s scheduled 36-hole final. By advancing to the championship match, both players have already secured spots in the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open. In 2011, the USGA tweaked its qualification process to grant the top 50 players in the World Amateur Ranking an automatic exemption into the U.S. Amateur. It was trumpeted as a move that would improve the quality of the field, and indeed it has – since 2011, four of the six finalists have been ranked inside the top 50 worldwide. Last year was a battle between No. 2 Matt Fitzpatrick and No. 13 Oliver Goss. That’s not the case this year. Anything can happen in 18-hole match play, of course, and just about everything has over the past six days here at Atlanta Athletic Club. Of the eight quarterfinalists, none was ranked inside the top 35. Three were ranked outside the top 600. “At this point, the ranking doesn’t really matter,” said Conners, who is No. 44. “There are so many good players.” Virginia coach Bowen Sergeant has the unique perspective of playing the Am in both 2010 and ’12 – before and after the top-50 exemption rule. The biggest difference, he said, was how difficult it became to reach match play; the 36-hole stroke-play cut was four shots lower in 2012 than in ’10. “If you’re good enough to get to this point,” he said, “then you’re good enough to have one more good day of golf.” Said Wedel, a Pepperdine junior: “The rankings are just a number. A lot can change in a year.” And, apparently, in a week. Yang and Wedel may have been outside the top 600, but their shot-making during Saturday’s semifinal showdown was worthy of the top spot in the world order. With the crowd swelling to about 500, only six of their 19 holes played were halved. They were a combined 6 under for their first seven holes. On No. 10, they traded conceded birdies after both players stuffed their approaches inside a foot. All square on the par-3 17th, Wedel’s tee shot was held up in the wind, the ball landing short and right of the green and trickling back toward the water. Somehow, the ball stayed up on the rock wall, but he faced such an awkward stance that he worried about falling back into the pond. He played one of the most remarkable shots of the tournament, his chip with a turned-down sand wedge scooting over the grassy collar and nestling within 3 feet, but he shoved the putt to go 1 down heading to the last. Both players found the fairway bunker on the par-5 18th. With a 1-up advantage and his opponent in a similar predicament, Yang inexplicably attempted to go for the green from 220 yards. His 5-iron shot came out too low and never had a chance, splashing into themiddle of the pond fronting the green. “That was embarrassing,” he said afterward. Why didn’t Yang lay up? “It’s a tough shot for you or me, maybe,” said his local caddie, Richard Grice, “but (219) is not a lay-up distance. He plays aggressively. I’ve had to recalibrate my strategic thinking to his specific play.” Even more aggressive was what came next. After watching his opponent seemingly sink his chances, and about 10 yards closer, Wedel smashed a 5-iron that cleared everything and landed about 10 feet from the cup to send the match to extras. The momentum proved short-lived. After a big drive, Yang hit sand wedge from 114 yards – the same distance he had in regulation – to within 5 feet. The birdie gave him the victory in 19 holes. “I lost the (18th), but the next hole I won it. So what?” Yang said, smiling. Yang may be outside the top 750 in the world, but he is a raw product who is just now beginning to realize his awesome potential. Plagued by back issues since 2008, he finally went under the knife last May, when doctors felt his body had properly matured. Playing catch-up, he has competed in only four college events with San Diego State, and he’s been relegated to mostly local Southern California tournaments during the summer. A sterling résumé or not, Yang finished birdie-birdie-birdie here to defeat world No. 1 Ollie Schniederjans in the Round of 16. “Who is that guy?” Schniederjans asked after the round. Well, statistically speaking, he’s the 776th-ranked player in the world. By now, though, we know better than that.
WINDERMERE, Fla. – I was interviewed on a radio show the other day – I’ll leave the host and station unmentioned because, frankly, it could have been any host on any station over the past few years – when the inevitable question about the game’s future was broached with stunning neglect. “Will any of these young players ever step up and become superstars?” After explaining that 25-year-old No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy is a superstar in every sense of the word and fellow 25-year-old Rickie Fowler is fresh off a year in which he claimed top-five finishes at every major, I brought up Jordan Spieth’s name. While there was no direct debate toward my assessment of him as an impending superstar, I could tell there was some blanching, as if somehow he hasn’t done enough to earn that designation. He had an opportunity to win the Masters Tournament – and didn’t. He had a chance to win the Players Championship – and didn’t. He’s won just a single PGA Tour event so far. And so why, these criticisms suggest, should we believe he’s any different than so many other talented young players over the years? That should be considered a narrowest of viewpoints on a long-term scenario. The unspoken implication, of course, is the same that’s been saddled to every other young player with potential over the past two decades: He’s no Tiger Woods. Well, guess what? Neither is anybody else. That notion alone shouldn’t take away from what Spieth, at 21, has already become, nor what he can turn into in upcoming years. To explain, let me take you back to New Year’s Day of this year. Driving a golf cart across the sloping back nine of Kapalua’s Plantation Course, the mighty Pacific Ocean serving as a backdrop during a casual practice round, Spieth revealed three main goals for the upcoming 2014 calendar year. 1) Contend at a major championship. Three months later, he accomplished this goal at the year’s first major, leading the Masters Tournament on Sunday afternoon before finishing in a share of second place behind champion Bubba Watson. 2) Make the Ryder Cup team. He not only qualified for the biennial nerve-wracker, he teamed with fellow rookie Patrick Reed to form the United States’ most formidable duo on enemy turf at Gleneagles. 3) Win multiple events. This one appeared like it would go unfulfilled until he lapped the field at last week’s Australian Open, giving him a chance – in his final start of the year at this week’s Hero World Challenge – to tick all the boxes on that New Year’s Day list. “It is the best percentage chance I’ve had the whole year,” he joked Wednesday of the 18-player field. During a year in which he’s been simultaneously commended for continually climbing leaderboards as a 21-year-old and criticized for failing to close while in contention on Sunday afternoons, Spieth heads into his final four competitive rounds with an opportunity to accomplish each of these stated goals. All of which should serve as a reminder to those who are expecting – or at least craving – the next Tiger in the form of this easygoing Texan. Unlike many of his observers, Spieth understands that his goals need to be stepping stones, each year’s list leading to greater heights. “That’s the main goal,” he insisted, “to improve each and every year a little bit, get a little better every year.” This just in: Spieth is hardly the only player – young or old – to own that lofty yet shrewd goal of trying to get better with time. In fact, you’ll hardly find a pro golfer who doesn’t list this as his No. 1 intangible goal each year. And that won’t change heading into the 2015 campaign, either. Win or lose this week, whether he ticks that final box on the list or not, Spieth’s goals entering next year will include continuing improvement along with tangible ambitions taking the next step toward what could propel him into superstar status. “Once we start getting into preparing for my first event of ’15, that’s when I will,” he said of making the next list. “Last year I went to my instructor’s [Cameron McCormick] house, and I had dinner with he and his family. He and I went up and sat down for an hour and a half or so and thought about what the right goals would be. “Hopefully we can get together and maybe up the goals a little bit.” This is how it starts, little by little, ticking all the boxes until the goals are reimagined, then ticking them again before upping the stakes. Even at 21, Spieth realizes he can’t earn that superstar designation immediately. It’s too bad not everyone can be so patient.
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Sei Young Kim made two late birdies Saturday to take a three-stroke lead in the ANA Inspiration. The long-hitting South Korean player shot a 3-under 69 to reach 10 under at Mission Hills with a round left in the first major championship of the year. Kim holed a downhill 18-footer from the fringe on the par-4 16th and made a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th. She two-putted for par from the back fringe on the par-5 18th. Stacy Lewis was second after a 68. The 30-year-old Texan, the 2011 winner for the first of her 11 LPGA Tour titles, bogeyed Nos. 15 and 17. The 22-year-old Kim won her first LPGA title in February in the Bahamas. A five-time winner on the South Korean tour, she’s making her 13th LPGA start. Top-ranked Lydia Ko shot a 74, her second straight over-par round after tying the LPGA record for consecutive rounds under par at 29 on Thursday. She was tied for 48th at 2 over. Ko made an 8-foot putt on 18 for her lone birdie of the round. She has at least one birdie in all 187 of her rounds in 49 career events on the tour. Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Ariya Jutanugarn were tied for third at 6 under. Lincicome shot a 70 after driving into the water on 18 and making a bogey. Pressel had a 71, and Jutanugarn shot 66. ANA Inspiration: Articles, videos and photos Lewis birdied six of the first 12 holes to take the lead at 9 under. She ran into trouble on the par-4 15th when her drive went to the left, with a palm tree possibly saving it from going out of bounds over the property fence that runs along Gerald Ford Drive. The ball dropped into a bunker and she left her approach in the tangled rough in front of the right greenside bunker. She flopped out and missed a 25-foot par putt. Lewis settled for a par on the 16th. After her 167-yard approach ticked the cup on the way past, she pulled her 5-foot birdie try left. Lewis three-putted the par-3 17th for her second bogey, running her 20-foot downhill birdie try 8 feet past. She had a chance to get the stroke back on 18, but missed a 6-foot birdie putt. Pressel won in 2007 to become the youngest major champion at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days. Tied with playing partner Kim at 8 under with three holes left, Pressel missed short par putts on 16 and 17. She lipped out a 4-footer on 16 and missed from 3 feet on 17. Lincicome, the 2009 winner, chipped in for birdies on Nos. 9 and 16 and made a 20-foot birdie putt on 17 before her closing bogey. Defending champion Lexi Thompson was tied for ninth at 4 under after a 71. She was 7 under with five holes left, then made three straight bogeys and closed with two pars.
There will be a lot said and written in the coming weeks about what Rickie Fowler “proved” by winning The Players Championship on Sunday in dramatic fashion. There will be talk about how he proved those players who anonymously labeled him as one of the two most overrated players in golf (Ian Poulter being the other) were wrong. There will be those who will say he’s now re-established himself as one of the game’s young guns and as one of the top 10 players in the world – his Official World Golf Ranking of No. 9 backing that up. The most important thing Fowler proved is something he proved more than 18 months ago: He doesn’t want to go down as golf’s version of Anna Kournikova. You remember Kournikova: She was the first of the stunning blonde Russian tennis players who was good enough to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1997 and was briefly ranked in the top 10. But, Kournikova turned out to be a jock version of Narcissus – the famous prince who fell so in love with his reflection that the gods turned him into a flower. Instead of turning Kournikova into a flower, the tennis gods turned her into a hacker. She never won an individual title. Even so, Kournikova was the most popular female tennis player in the world for years and made millions off the court through sponsorships and modeling. Once upon a time, it appeared that Fowler could become golf’s answer to Kournikova. He had teeny-bopper good looks and a unique fashion style that quickly made him wealthy, long before he won on the PGA Tour. Of course he also had plenty of game and there were flashes – just as with Kournikova’s Wimbledon run – that proved it. In 2010, Cory Pavin made him a surprise Ryder Cup captain’s pick, and then Fowler rallied from 4 down in his singles match by birdieing the last four holes to steal a half-point from Edoardo Molinari. He finally broke through on the PGA Tour in dramatic fashion when he beat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff at Quail Hollow in 2012, flagging his second shot to the difficult par-4 18th to set up a winning birdie. Fowler was only 23 at the time and it seemed likely that the win – especially that kind of win – would be a springboard for him. But even though there were solid performances over the next 18 months, there was nothing that lived up to that win or the hype, the commercials, the screaming girls and becoming a one-name player – “Rickie!” – without the portfolio that usually accompanies that title. By the end of 2013, after Fowler had failed to win again or contend in any of that year’s majors, there were those who thought Fowler might be an image-is-everything athlete. It would have been easy for Fowler to accept that fate: He had made millions and was playing well enough that he could continue to make more than enough money as a reasonably good golfer for years to come. Fowler didn’t want that. He decided it was time to buckle down and be a golfer first and a corporate salesman later. He hired Butch Harmon as his teacher and listened to what Harmon was telling him about his swing, about his work ethic and about his ability to compete under pressure. He also cut his hair and got rid of the long-billed cap that had become his signature. RickieFowlergolf.com became secondary to Rickie Fowler the golfer. The new teacher and new approach paid off in 2014 – not with a victory but with remarkably consistent play in the majors – becoming the third player in history (the other two are named Woods and Nicklaus) to finish in the top five in all four majors in the same year. He chased McIlroy down the stretch in Liverpool at the British Open and was right in the middle of the after-dusk finish at the PGA Championship in Louisville. At 25, he had shown the world that there was substance behind the marketing campaign. The question, as 2015 dawned, was whether he was ready to take the next step. He hasn’t yet – he still needs a major title to put himself into golf’s pantheon – but the way he won The Players is about as close as you can get. It was certainly memorable. The way he played the last six holes (four birdies and an eagle) was remarkable enough. But beating Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia in the playoff by twice making birdie at No. 17 was the sort of under-pressure playing that will be talked about for years. More important than that, it is a memory that Fowler can summon the next time he’s in position to win a major, which may come very soon. Fowler insisted after his win that he had “laughed” about the player poll that ranked he and Poulter as the two most overrated players in the game. Fowler said on Friday that he was “happy” about the poll because it motivated him. Clearly, that was true. The argument can be made that no one should take an anonymous poll of any kind seriously. It’s very easy to take shots at people when you don’t have to stand behind what you’re saying. It’s to Fowler’s credit that he used the poll, however specious it might have been, to set up the best weekend of his career. It’s worth remembering that golfers peak at different times. Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth were 21 when they won their first majors; Jack Nicklaus and McIlroy were 22. Arnold Palmer was 28; Phil Mickelson was 33 and Ben Hogan was 34. At 26, Fowler still has plenty of time to win that first major and then win some more. Golf could be entering an era that will be quite different than the Woods era. Woods was a dynasty, the favorite every time he teed it up for most of 12 years. With McIlroy, Spieth, Fowler and Jason Day all ranked in the top 10 well before turning 30, and with Woods and Mickelson still around hoping for one last great moment, there is no telling what the next few years will bring. Chances are, a lot of it will be spectacular. Fowler was certainly that on Sunday.
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Alec Bard watched his big brother float toward the Virginia stand bag, a Steadicam only a few feet from his face. He watched his brother empty his pockets – a ball, some coins, plenty of tees – and grab his phone. And his keys. And his wallet. He watched his brother rub his eyes. And shake his head. And sigh with relief. Finally, Alec couldn’t take any more. “So,” he said, clearing his throat, tugging at the strings on his caddie bib, “am I on the bag for the Masters?” That snapped Derek out of his daze. “Of course,” he said with a smile. “Of course you are.” A likely invitation to the Masters is just one of the many perks that are headed Derek Bard’s way after a 3-and-2 victory Saturday over Kenta Konishi sent him into the finals of the U.S. Amateur. Bard, a junior at Virginia, will face NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau in the scheduled 36-hole final Sunday at Olympia Fields. “It doesn’t feel like real life,” Bard said. His journey to the finals couldn’t be more different than his opponent’s. On Saturday, at least, there was no need for a furious rally. For the first time all week, Bard didn’t trail in his match, putting away Konishi with wins on Nos. 12, 14 and 15. He closed out the match a hole later, flagging a 3-iron from 225 yards. “One of the best shots of my life,” he said. DeChambeau, meanwhile, joked that he will prepare for the championship match by figuring out how to play Nos. 17 and 18. The only times he has seen the final two holes this week were from the back of a cart. His victories have been too decisive. Including stroke play and the usual match-play concessions, DeChambeau is a whopping 18 under par on this U.S. Open layout. Bard is 4 over. U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos When asked if he has sent a message with his dominating play, DeChambeau said: “I would think so. I’ve been playing pretty well.” Heck, even Bard, ranked 51st in the world, acknowledged that he will have to play his best to have even a chance during the marathon finale. “I’m the underdog,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, it really is. I’m just going to have to have one of those days where everything falls the right way.” No player of Bard’s caliber will ever admit that he’s surprised to be one of the last men standing in a field of 312. Still, there were few reasons to believe that this would be the week of his career breakthrough. He has only one college victory, at the U.S. Collegiate last fall, but even that title was improbable. A week earlier, Bard recorded his worst finish as a Cavalier (48th) and had only three days to regroup. Then he shot 64 on the final day, overtook then-teammate Denny McCarthy (whom he may soon supplant on the U.S. Walker Cup team) and won by six. Bard’s biggest amateur win came in June against a top-notch field at the Sunnehanna, but it didn’t prove to be a springboard. Prior to this week, he had poor finishes at the Porter Cup and Western Amateur. And then there was his unfortunate history with USGA match-play events: Three tries, three exits in the Round of 32. After he broke the curse this week, with a second-round victory over Georgia’s Sepp Straka, “Everything else was a bonus,” Bard said. “The monkey was off my back.” Gaining confidence each day, he topped U.S. Walker Cupper Hunter Stewart in the Round of 16 and then flipped a 3-down deficit with eight holes to go against world No. 1 Jon Rahm. “Long odds,” he said, but the turning point in the match – actually, the turning point in Bard’s week – came on the 11th hole, where he chipped a 9-iron to about 8 feet and made the putt. He won the next hole, Rahm missed a few shorties coming home, and Bard hung tough, a 1-up winner. On the eve of his semifinal match, Bard swapped texts with Dr. Bob Rotella, a volunteer assistant coach at Virginia. Rotella’s message was simple: “Be unflappable.” The good doctor might need some different material Saturday night, because Bard won’t find a more composed opponent than DeChambeau, who has steamrolled through the match-play bracket with ruthless efficiency. After a scare on Tuesday when the USGA assessed (and then rescinded) a two-shot penalty for being late to the tee, the SMU senior has been in complete control. Following wins over NCAA player of the year Maverick McNealy and British Open star Paul Dunne, DeChambeau was matched up Saturday against USC sophomore Sean Crocker, a fiery competitor who has drawn the ire of TV commentators for his on-course etiquette. Crocker unleashed a few fist pumps, but the electric moments were brief. DeChambeau silenced him with snug approach shots and timely putts, none more so than his 6-footer on 12 that boosted his lead back to 2 up. He eventually won, 4 and 3. “He knew that he was behind and he needed to keep pressing and hitting good shots, because I wasn’t going to let down,” DeChambeau said. “Ultimately, it got to him.” That’s been a familiar theme this week. One more to go.
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – When the irons are flying true and the putts are rolling in, Patrick Reed isn’t short on swagger. This is the man, after all, who styles his wardrobe after Tiger Woods and brashly made a top-5 claim that he still can’t shake more than two years later. He already has an iconic Ryder Cup moment to his credit, and he stockpiled four PGA Tour wins before turning 25. Reed doesn’t back down from a challenge, and his confidence rarely wanes. It’s a combination of factors that has quietly helped him compile a stellar season – with one notable omission. Reed has yet to win this year, and he has now gone more than 18 months without a victory. It’s a surprising run for a player who once reeled off three wins in a seven-month span, and it’s a gap that has coincided with peers like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth racking up trophies by the handful. But Reed has an enticing opportunity to end that drought this week at The Barclays, where he holds a two-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Emiliano Grillo at the halfway point. “I feel like I’ve been trending in the right direction,” Reed said after a second-round 68. “I feel like the game’s been solid. I just need to get it all clicking.” For Reed, the key has been dialing up the consistency. While that philosophy has netted nine top-10 finishes this season, second only to Johnson’s total of 12, it hasn’t resulted in a tournament victory – yet. The Barclays: Articles, photos and videos “It just seems like these events I finish top 10, it’s either one round here or there, or it’s three or four parts of my game are working on the first day, then three of the four are working the next day,” he said. “It’s just kind of a mixture. It’s not just one thing I can pinpoint.” The various aspects of his game appear to be in sync through two rounds at Bethpage Black, where Reed played his first 25 holes without dropping a shot. After starting the day with a share of the lead, he raced to the top of the standings with birdies on four of his first seven holes, stretching his lead to three before a bogey on No. 18. Reed entered this week on the Ryder Cup bubble, needing a strong performance to cement an automatic spot at Hazeltine. It’s an extra element of pressure, but Reed has never shied away from some raised stakes. He did, after all, earn his PGA Tour status one Monday qualifier at a time back in 2012, and two years ago he used his Ryder Cup debut to become an icon of patriotism on foreign soil, shushing Scottish crowds with one made putt after another. “All you’ve got to do is light the fire a little with him,” said Spieth, who teamed with Reed at Gleneagles. “If he plays golf with some, whether it be motivation or just feeling like he’s been a little off and needs to just do that little bit extra, he always brings it.” Rather than focus on the larger goals, Reed has opted this week to dial down to core components. Forget the standings, toss out the projections. Just play some good golf and see what it yields. “Really I’m going into this week trying to win a golf tournament,” he said. “At the end of the day, if I go and I take care of me, and do what I need to do this week, then Ryder Cup will take care of itself.” Bumped to the second tier of American golf recently by a handful of more prolific winners, Reed now has a chance to remind everyone that the talent and confidence are not misaligned. It’s an opportunity to break out in a big way this week on Long Island, and with another high-stakes event looming just a few weeks away, the timing couldn’t be better. “As long as he’s building momentum and he’s bringing what we had at the last Ryder Cup,” Spieth said. “I’ll be certainly pleased with that.”
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – More of the grand doors in golf are opening to women. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is making sure of that. Olympia Fields Country Club’s North Course is hosting the event this week in suburban Chicago. It’s the first time the club will be home to a professional women’s major. Sahalee hosted its first women’s major last year, and the PGA just announced Hazeltine will host in 2019. The nature of these iconic courses, with the history they have built hosting men’s majors, matters immensely to the best female players in the world. “It gives us validation, playing these great courses,” seven time major championship winner Juli Inkster said. “It’s important to the women’s game, the recognition that comes playing great courses.” Walter Hagen won the seventh of his 11 major championships at Olympia Fields. The course was designed by Willie Park Jr., the two-time Open champion. Olympia Fields has hosted two U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, five Western Opens, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Senior Open. “The history is important,” Inkster said. “You walk on to these major championship sites and you want to know who won there. You want to put your name with theirs. There’s validation being among the great players who have won on the great courses.” KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos The women played the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2010, with Paula Creamer winning. They also played it there in 1992, with Patty Sheehan winning. They’ll play the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in 2021. “It’s important to play these great courses, not only for the women to test their games, but for the fans who tune in to watch,” Hall of Famer Beth Daniel said. “People tune in not just to see the LPGA, but because they know the course. It makes the telecasts more interesting for everyone. “And as a player, I know I was super inspired playing a great golf course.” The women hope the PGA’s determination to go to iconic venues will lead the USGA to take the U.S. Women’s Open to more of the traditional sites in its men’s rotation. Why not Pebble Beach? Or Shinnecock? Or Merion? “It’s frustrating, at times,” said two-time major champion Stacy Lewis, who won the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews four years ago. “Why can’t we have a U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach? Why aren’t we playing some of these other great courses? It’s not about ability. We can play these courses.” The Ricoh Women’s British Open is showing that with regularity. No major championship has swung the doors to iconic venues more open to women than the Brits. The Women’s British Open has been going regularly to the courses in men’s Open rotation since it became a major in 2001. Lorena Ochoa won at the Old Course at St. Andrews the first time the Women’s British Open was played there in ’07. Inbee Park won at Turnberry in 2015. Mo Martin won at Royal Birkdale in 2014. Yani Tseng won at Carnoustie in 2011. Lewis beamed walking across the Swilcan Bridge after making birdie at the Road Hole on her way to winning at St. Andrews on that magical Sunday of hers four years ago. “I love history,” Lewis said. “I was on cloud nine being there that whole week, taking in the town. I don’t know how you top winning at the Home of Golf. Only a few players have won majors there, even in the men’s game, and to be one of those is a huge honor I’ll never forget.” Lewis was an important player’s voice in the LPGA Championship morphing into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The major has elevated tenfold, thanks to the PGA’s cache and its resolve to find traditional venues to host the championship. KPMG was a corporate sponsor to Lewis when the company decided to become title sponsor of this championship. KPMG global chairman John Veihmeyer said his company probably wouldn’t be involved if not for Lewis. Her fingerprints are on this event. “One of the things we told KPMG and the PGA is that we wanted to play on courses we haven’t traditionally been on,” Lewis said. While Sahalee’s history is relatively new as a major championship course, there was a majestic quality to the venue that added grandeur that the LPGA Championship was severely lacking. Westchester added that, too, in the championship’s start in 2015. Lewis relished getting chances at St. Andrews and Oakmont and is eager to see what else opens up for the women. “You step on the property at these great courses, and you can feel the history,” Lewis said. “You can feel what kind of golf you’re going to get to play. These are the kind of places we should be playing.” Paula Creamer was bold enough to call out Augusta National two years ago, wondering aloud why they can’t host a Women’s Masters. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to,” Creamer said. Why aren’t women playing majors on more of the greatest American courses? Is it as simple as the fact that men’s events are more lucrative than women’s? Or is it that some of theses venues just don’t want the women? Or maybe it’s that they fear losing their place in the U.S. Open or PGA Championship rotations if they host the women? “I think it is probably more about their spot in the men’s rotation, but maybe a little bit about just not wanting the women,” Inkster said. “That’s maybe still the thinking of the old school.” Inkster believes the women deserve a harder look from the men who are guarding the gates to so many of golf’s historic venues. “The women’s game has changed so much,” Inkster said. “If you haven’t watched the women’s game lately, you would be surprised by the play, how powerful women are today.” Cristie Kerr, a two-time major champion, likes how the women have gained more opportunities on iconic venues since she joined the LPGA in 1997. “The world’s evolving to be more inclusive at these great courses,” Kerr said. “It shows we’re in a modern era where we can showcase the women’s games on these famous courses. “It was a huge deal playing Oakmont. The men have more history than us, but playing Oakmont, Olympia Fields and courses like that help us build our own history.” Inkster is encouraged where women’s golf is headed. While serving as a course reporter for Fox’s coverage of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills two weeks ago, Inkster was approached by USGA executive director Mike Davis. “Mike said ‘What would you think about having a U.S. Women’s Open at Erin Hills?’” Inkster said. “If that would ever happen, I don’t know, but I told him any course we can play that the guys have played adds to the recognition and validation. “I’d love to play Pebble Beach as a U.S. Women’s Open. Merion would set up great for a U.S. Women’s Open. It’s not long, it’s not beasty. You have to play smart. You have to keep it in the fairway.” Hollis Stacy, the four-time major championship winner and world Golf Hall of Famer, says there’s progress in how these elite venues are seeing opportunities for the larger game by hosting women. “The LPGA, the USGA and the PGA see how much the women’s game has evolved globally,” Stacy said. “They’re seeing the opportunity to drive numbers up even more globally, to make money. It see it as a coming of age for the LPGA as a brand that’s viable globally.” Lewis believes LPGA pros can pave the way for improving the comfort level of women at clubs around the world. “I think when we play at these great courses, it changes the norm, what everyone thinks is the norm,” Lewis said. “It’s like the way only guys get to play golf on Saturdays at some places. Why can’t women play golf on Saturdays? “We can change the perception about women playing at these prestigious clubs. We need to be the ones who start that change. It’s gotten better, with women becoming members of clubs, but it’s still about making women more comfortable playing there. That’s what we’re trying to change.”
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It’s funny how team golf works. While Americans and Europeans have become marginalized in this modern era of the women’s game, the Solheim Cup has never been more relevant. While Asians dominate the game as a whole, the Solheim Cup has ascended to new prominence as compelling theater. American Lexi Thompson will be the only top-10 player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in this year’s Solheim Cup, but the nature of the intensifying rivalry between the United States and Europe in the biennial international team event makes that a mere footnote. The Solheim Cup spotlights the one and only true rivalry today in the women’s game. If the Solheim Cup wasn’t already a grudge match, it officially became so two years ago, when Norway’s Suzann Pettersen practically ignited an international incident over Europe’s lack of a concession in a fourball match in Germany. The furor set off a debate pitting the Rules of Golf against sportsmanship, with hard lines drawn over whether Pettersen violated the spirit of the game in her refusal to concede a putt that American Alison Lee thought was conceded. It left Lee in tears at the end of the match, and Pettersen in tears at the end of the day as the backlash on social media hit with brutish force. Pettersen ended up throwing herself on the mercy of fandom, issuing a public apology on Instagram and then following up with an apology in a special Golf Channel interview. “I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition,” Pettersen wrote in her lengthy apology. “I was trying my hardest for my team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself.” Going to Ireland six years ago, the Solheim Cup’s fire appeared to be going out, with the Americans making the Europeans look overmatched after winning three consecutive events, but that seems like ancient history on the eve of this Ricoh Women’s British Open. The Euros won with a dramatic late Sunday finish in Ireland in 2011, then punished the Americans in a record rout in Colorado in 2013, but the Euros watched the Americans beat them in a record Sunday comeback in Germany in 2015. The embers are already stoked for Iowa with the heat promising to rise when the matches are re-engaged in two weeks. There is more at stake than a major championship at Kingsbarns in St. Andrews this week. There are Solheim Cup roster spots to be won with double points in play. It’s the week’s electric subplot with qualifying concluding when the last putt is holed. Current U.S. and European team Solheim Cup standings Clearly, Pettersen will be the top storyline going to Iowa. She insists the debacle in Germany is far behind her. “I think the media was the one who kind of dragged that incident on and on and on, much more than what we players and whoever was involved did,” Pettersen said. “I feel like everyone that was involved kind of cleared that up fairly quickly in the aftermath and all moved on.” European captain Annika Sorenstam hopes so with record Solheim Cup galleries expected at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. “I would say that everybody has moved on,” Sorenstam said. “If there is somebody that wants to move on, that’s Suzann. I think we’ll all keep this in mind. “Everybody learns from mistakes or incidents, I think we all learn from those. It just shows you that when you get together, how passionate, how when the adrenaline is pumping and just the competitiveness is so high, it’s just amazing how some of these situations happen that we all, looking back at it, go, ‘How can this happen?’ It was not intentional. I think we are ready to move on and focus on the good parts, and just let the golf showcase itself.” While Pettersen has played 13 times in the United States since that Solheim Cup incident, she knows the controversy will be revisited with Iowa’s approach. “You do get reminded by media and some random fan here and there, but it was tough at the time,” Pettersen said. “It was a tough loss I think for the European side, that we actually lost the big lead we had going into the finals. I think people kind of forget. It was actually a massive comeback for the Americans to win it.” Who’s going to help Pettersen make new memories in Des Moines? That’s among the big Solheim Cup questions to be answered at Kingsbarns. Really, who is going to be left off the American and European rosters is as big a storyline as who is going to make the teams. Half of the European team that lost in Germany two years ago isn’t certain of making the team Sorenstam will take to Iowa. Four Americans who helped the United States make that epic comeback at St. Leon Rot may not be on this year’s team, including stalwarts Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel. With the struggling Ladies European Tour dealing with economic woes, Solheim Cup qualifying has been severely handcuffed. Five events have been scrapped from the schedule this year, including the Ladies European Masters, which was scheduled for September. England’s Georgia Hall leads the LET Solheim Cup points list, but she has played in just four LET events outside the majors this year. She went two months without competing in a tournament before getting into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on a sponsor’s exemption. England’s Florentyna Parker is second on the LET points list. She won the Mediterranean Ladies Open in April but is in a similar position to Hall. They are virtual locks to make the European team on points. But as unknown commodities internationally, there’s a question whether Sorenstam will have to hide them in her lineup roster or whether they are poised to offer a jolt of important new help. “I’m very, very impressed with Georgia,” Sorenstam said. “She is just very technically sound. I just like her attitude.” Sorenstam also welcomes Parker’s winning momentum with her victory this spring at the Mediterranean Open. The challenge, Sorenstam said, is getting to know these young players quickly. “We have tried to get some of these LET players to get playing opportunities, whether it’s Symetra Tour or whether it’s getting invites to LPGA events,” Sorenstam said. “Because some of these players – it’s not a secret – Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker are leading in the LET points, but if they wouldn’t have played on the LPGA, they wouldn’t have had any tournament experience coming into August. And that’s just the reality of it, but luckily they have. That’s why Florentyna has been flying around the world – Korea, Thailand – just trying to get playing opportunities, and Georgia has played in the U.S. a few times.” For the Euros, there will be four players guaranteed spots from atop the LET points list come Sunday’s conclusion of the Women’s British Open. Hall, Parker, England’s Mel Reid and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda currently hold those spots. There will also be four players from atop the European Solheim Cup world rankings list. Pettersen, England’s Charley Hull, France’s Karine Icher and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff hold those spots. That will leave Sorenstam with some tough choices as her four captain’s picks. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist is a lock as one of those. She may now be Europe’s best player. Because of her withdrawal from the Ladies Scottish Open with illness last week, Nordqvist won’t get the minimum LET starts to qualify on points or world rankings. She has to make it as a captain’s pick. That leaves Solheim Cup veterans Sandra Gal and Caroline Masson of Germany, Azahara Munoz of Spain and Catriona Matthew of Scotland possibly fighting for the other three captain’s picks. On the American side, eight players will make it on points. Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda and Danielle Kang appear secure. Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang hold the final two spots, but even if they don’t make it on points, they’re looking like they could be locks to make it on the U.S. world rankings list. The two highest ranked Americans not qualified on the points list will make it off the world rankings list. Brittany Lincicome (No. 42) and Lizette Salas (No. 45) hold those spots. Wie is No. 35 and Lang No. 37. Though Nelly Korda is 27th on the U.S. points list, American captain Juli Inkster has made no secret she is high on her list of potential captain’s picks. Solheim Cup veteran Angela Stanford joins Mo Martin, Austin Ernst, Marina Alex and Angel Yin as possible captain’s picks. “I hate to disappoint anybody, but I’m going to take the players that are playing hot right now,” Inkster said. The Women’s British Open is the last chance for players to earn points and impress Inkster and Sorenstam.
Justin Rose takes down another classic venue. Rory McIlroy blows another chance to win. And we’ve got a monster week ahead in the golf world. All that and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble. Justin Rose is a big game hunter. Take a look at some of courses he’s bagged as part of his nine PGA Tour victories: Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion, Congressional and now Colonial. He’s also won an additional seven events on the European Tour (on courses including Valderrama and Royal Aberdeen) and a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. So, is that a Hall of Fame resume? Well, golf writers no longer have an official say. That will ultimately be up to a 16-member selection committee. Said committee is going to have to make some tough decisions down the line. Just taking into consider what they’ve done to this point in their careers, there are some legitimate borderline contenders. Among the more established one-major winners: Rose, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott. Among the multiple major champs: Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson. Speaking specifically of Rose, you have to take into strong consideration the caliber of venues at which he’s won. And while the field in Rio a few years ago wasn’t major-caliber, winning gold may prove to be the defining moment of his career. Hall of Fame? We’ll see how high the committee’s standards are. 1. Over the last decade at Colonial Country Club, everything from 9 under par to 21 under par has proved victorious. This year it was closer, much closer, to the latter. Rose made 25 birdies and five bogeys for a 20-under total. Had he not bogeyed the 72nd hole, he would have tied the tournament scoring record. Five of the last six events, including the Zurich team competition, have been won at 17 under or lower. For those of you who prefer higher scores, fear not. The U.S. Open is in a few weeks and the average winning score of its predecessor, the FedEx St. Jude Classic, over the eight years is 11 under. Only one player in the last decade has shot lower than 16 under at the Memorial Tournament (this week’s event). That, however, would be Rose (18 under, 2010). 2. Second sucks. Brooks Koepka concurs with Tiger Woods. Koepka earned his sixth runner-up finish since May 2016, finishing three shots behind Rose in Fort Worth. Koepka wasn’t quite as abrasive as Woods was in the late-90s, just referring to the close calls as “annoying.” He does, however, have a U.S. Open victory – and a win in the Dunlop Phoenix – during that stretch. Given his good form, he could become the first player since Curtis Strange, in 1989, to defend his national championship title. 3. Kevin Na opened in 62 and closed in 61, and finished six shots back of Rose. Middle rounds of 73-70 at par-70 Colonial cost him any chance of a second PGA Tour title. That’s now one career victory in 367 Tour starts. At least he has nearly $26 million in earnings to comfort him. 4. Before we leave Colonial, let’s remember … we don’t have to. Thanks to Charles Schwab and Co., stepping in as sponsor, beginning next year, this event – and this venue – will remain on the Tour schedule for the foreseeable future. 5. And, before we get dive into what McIlroy didn’t do at the BMW PGA Championship, let’s pay off the man who got the job done. Francesco Molinari earned the biggest victory of his career by beating McIlroy head-to-head on Sunday at Wentworth Club. The two began the final round tied for the lead. Molinari closed in 68, McIlroy in 70. The 35-year-old Italian played his final 44 holes bogey-free and only made two all week to capture the European Tour’s version of The Players. It’s Molinari’s fifth career European Tour win. 6. McIlroy could have five wins this season. Alas, he has but one (Arnold Palmer Invitational). McIlroy was once again in prime position to add to his trophy case. He played so well through two rounds that defending champion and playing competitor Alex Noren joked about quitting the game. But Saturday was erratic and Sunday was unproductive, and, in the end, he was left with a solo second-place finish. “I should have closed it out,” he said. Just as he should have done at the Masters, and in Dubai, and in Abu Dhabi. 7. European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn began last week by naming Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell as his assistants. But he had to be even happier with the way the week ended. Rose won on the PGA Tour. Molinari emerged on the European Tour. And McIlroy is thisclose to being dominant Rory again. Molinari was on the victorious 2010 and 2012 European teams. His half-point against Tiger Woods in singles in ’12 helped the away team complete the Miracle at Medinah. 8. Did someone say Tiger Woods? He’s in action this week at the Memorial Tournament. Given his history at this event (five wins) and his impressive weekend showing in his most recent start (The Players), the expectations will be high at Muirfield Village. But when aren’t they? Tiger will get the lion’s share of attention, but the field also includes McIlroy, Rose, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. And, of course, host Jack Nicklaus will hold court in the media center. Expect lots of good headlines. 9. The women, meanwhile, will be competing in the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek … weather permitting. Mother Nature has not been kind to the LPGA this year and with Subtropical Storm Alberto moving through the Gulf of Mexico and into Alabama, it’s going to be another rainy occasion. This section is usually reserved for something wacky that happened in the past seven days. But this week we spotlight the heroics of Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana. Seaman took three bullets in helping stop a school shooting. Seaman survived. Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reported that Seaman’s aunt, Tracy Hubly, was serving as caddie for her husband, Chris Starkjohann, at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Said Hubly, “You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school. It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does.” Another school shooting. What the hell? This week’s award winners … Dude is major: Paul Broadhurst won the Senior PGA Championship, defeating Tim Petrovic by four shots at Harbor Shores. The 52-year-old Englishman closed in 63 to earn his fourth career PGA Tour Champions title and his second senior major (2016 Senior Open Championship). Happy birthday to Minjee: Minjee Lee birdied the final hole for a one-stroke win at the LPGA Volvik Championship. She turned 22 on Sunday and collected her fourth career tour victory, at an event in which she finished runner-up a year ago. Hale(y) to the victors!: The University of Arizona won the NCAA Women’s DI Championship when Haley Moore made birdie in a sudden-death playoff to give the Wildcats a 3-2 victory over Alabama in the finals. Arizona needed an eagle by Bianca Pagdanganan and then a playoff win over Baylor just to make the match-play field. Now, they are a three-time national champion. Live up to that, fellas: The man now take the stage at Karsten Creek. You can watch the action live on Golf Channel: Monday: Final day of stroke play to determine individual champion and match-play field Tuesday: Quarterfinals (11AM ET) and Semifinals (4PM) Wednesday: Finals (4PM)