Kerr Pressel Give Americans Major Success

By Associated PressJuly 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- They are such good friends that Cristie Kerr picked Morgan Pressel to be one of her bridesmaids when she married in December, and they have much in common.
 
Both groomed their golf games in south Florida, heading straight from high school to the LPGA Tour. Kerr did so 10 years ago, when teens on the tour was not in vogue. Both bare their emotions inside the ropes, shouting instructions at their golf balls in a tone better suited for Fort Bragg.
 
Lately, they have combined to give Americans major success not seen on the LPGA Tour in seven lean years.
 
Pressel became the youngest major champion in LPGA history in April when, at age 18, she played without a bogey over the final 24 holes on a fast, difficult Mission Hills course. Her one-shot victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship was the first by an American since 1999.
 
Kerr's major was a long time coming.
 
She was 0-for-41 in Grand Slam events until winning the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday at Pine Needles, where she made three clutch par putts and a decisive birdie putt from 18 feet on the 14th hole to beat Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the No. 1 player in women's golf.
 
It was the first time Americans won multiple majors in an LPGA season since 2000, when 40-year-old Juli Inkster won the LPGA Championship and 37-year-old Meg Mallon captured the final edition of the du Maurier Classic.
 
There weren't many young Americans equipped to take up the baton then.
 
There appears to be no shortage now.
 
'Every year, more and more cute young amateur girls with ribbons in their hair are coming up,' Kerr said. 'It's terrific.'
 
It's not just 12-year-old Alexis Thompson, who became the youngest qualifier of the Women's Open, or 17-year-old Mina Harigae, who showed up at Pine Needles having won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
 
Take a look at the U.S. Solheim Cup team standings. Seven of the top 10 players are under 30.
 
But a closer look at the leaderboard at Pine Needles, or the last month in majors on the LPGA Tour, shows Americans are nowhere near dominating golf the way they did a decade ago.
 
For the first time in U.S. Women's Open history, there were more foreign-born players than Americans in the field. When the second round finally ended Saturday, as many South Koreans as Americans made the cut ' 24 apiece.
 
Six South Koreans finished in the top 10, compared to two Americans ' Kerr and Pressel. Leading the way was Se Ri Pak, the godmother of golf in her country. Pak was the only South Korean on the LPGA Tour in 1998 when she won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open as a rookie. Now there are 44.
 
That list doesn't include Brazilian-born Angela Park, the first-round leader at the McDonald's LPGA Championship who made it through 36 holes atop the leaderboard at Pine Needles and tied for second.
 
In-Bee Park, a former U.S. Junior Girls champion, was among five players who finished under par at Pine Needles.
 
One shot behind in sixth place was Ji-Yai Shin, who has been crushing her competition on the Korean LPGA and was one shot out of the lead on the back nine Sunday. It was only her third time on the LPGA Tour, but she has been tested off the golf course. Shin's mother was killed in an accident while taking a younger brother and sister to a birthday party. Shin spent a year sleeping in the hospital to be with them while they recovered. Now No. 11 in the world ranking, Shin looks as though she belongs there.
 
Jee Young Lee played the first two rounds with Juli Inkster and showed plenty of pop in her swing. She won the LPGA Tour event in South Korea in 2005, one year after turning pro.
 
And don't forget what happened three weeks ago at the LPGA Championship.
 
The 54-hole leader was Na On Min, an 18-year-old who was playing in her first major and only her sixth tournament as a professional. She made three straight birdies on the back nine to finish alone in third.
 
Ochoa, of course, continues to be the class of the LPGA Tour, even though she hasn't won a major. She already has won three times this year to rise to No. 1 in the world. Although her drought is now 0-for-23 in the majors, Ochoa wasn't worried. Few players under such pressure to win a major have handled defeat with such peace and dignity.
 
'That's the way I am,' she said. 'There are times when I will really either just be sad or upset. It really hurts when I don't win. But at the same time, it's just life. I'm going to go home now and have a good time with my family, my friends. They came here, and I have no reason to be upset and cry in my room.'
 
The aberration last week was Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who probably should have won the first two majors but settled for the LPGA Championship. She was 7 over through the first six holes and played the next 30 in even par to miss the cut by one.
 
Ditto for Karrie Webb of Australia, who was closing in on Ochoa's No. 1 ranking a month ago, but shot 83 at Pine Needles.
 
Americans no longer dominate the LPGA Tour and probably never will again. The LPGA Tour is too successful and attracts the best players from every corner of the globe. It's no longer a fair fight. Pressel and Kerr did their part, winning two of the first three majors this year.
 
What they could use are some reinforcements with ribbons in their hair.
 
Related Links:
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”