Defending Against the Youngsters

By Associated PressJuly 3, 2003, 4:00 pm
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- As Juli Inkster prepared to defend her U.S. Women's Open title, it was hard for her to comprehend that a pair of her challengers are just 13 years old.
Inkster, 43, didn't even start playing until she was 15.
'The only reason I really played golf was I got a job working at the golf course in Santa Cruz, parking carts and picking up the range one summer, and I decided maybe I'll just start,' she said. 'And really, the reason why I started, it gave me something I could do that I didn't have to compete with my older brothers.'
A star was born. Inkster has gone on to win seven major championships, more than any other active player on the LPGA Tour. She has 29 victories overall, and earned her place in the Hall of Fame in 1999.
Three years after she took up golf, Inkster played in her first Open. That was in 1978, 11 years before Michelle Wie was born.
Wie and Sydney Burlison, both 13, are the youngest among 14 teenagers playing in the Open, which started Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
'I could be a mother to all of them,' Inkster said. 'But that's what makes the Open so special. It's an open championship. You get the young, the old, the foreign, American, all mixed in, and on a great golf course.'
It will be Inkster's second visit to the 11-year-old rural course, nestled in farmland west of Portland, where the 1997 U.S. Women's Open also was held.
Alison Nicholas won that year, edging emotional favorite Nancy Lopez, who was never able to win an Open. Inkster tied for 14th at even-par 284, vexed by the 18th hole at the club's Witch Hollow course.
'I've got that all mastered now,' she said Wednesday. 'That's my domain.'
Last year, Inkster beat Annika Sorenstam by two strokes at Prairie Dunes County Club in Hutchinson, Kan., for her second Open title. She also won in 1999.
The victory put a storybook ending on a 22-year journey: Inkster burst onto the scene in 1980, winning the first of three straight U.S. Women's Amateur titles at Prairie Dunes.
At 42, she became the second-oldest player to win the Open. Babe Zaharias won in 1954 at 43.
Age has given Inkster some perspective.
'You know, I still get nervous, and you want to get off to a good start. But it's a different type of nervousness, it's not a do-or-die, `If I don't birdie this first hole, I'm not going to win this tournament,'' she said. 'It's just more the U.S. Open and the aura of the whole thing that you get nervous about.'
While Inkster, Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak are the favorites to win the Open -- they've combined to win 15 of the last 17 majors on the LPGA Tour -- it's the teenagers who are grabbing a lot of the attention.
Especially Wie, who won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links two weeks ago to become the youngest to win a USGA tournament for adults.
While Inkster has a chance to become the oldest winner of the Women's Open, Wie could become the youngest by seven years. Pak was 20 when she won in 1998 at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin.
'Everyone comes here to win. Of course, I want to win,' Wie said. 'But I just want to make par on every hole, play consistently, try not to make too many mistakes, and hopefully I'll make the top 10 or win.'
Golf wasn't even on Inkster's radar when she was 13. So the fact that so many teenagers are playing in this year's Open is a bit surprising to her.
'I look at my daughter, she's 13, and she's instant messaging everybody, that's her big thing,' Inkster said. 'So it's hard to see where a lot of these girls are at at 13.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the U.S. Women's Open
  • U.S. Women's Open Leaderboard

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.