LPGA Skins Rebirth Could Be Short-Lived
Organizers say Conagra Foods has pulled out as a title sponsor, and while that doesn't affect the traditional Skins Game played over Thanksgiving weekend in California or the seniors event in Hawaii, it doesn't bode well for the women.
'We are meeting with several prospective sponsors to find an umbrella for the three Skins Games,' said Michael Stearns of IMG, which runs the tournaments.
Karrie Webb won the LPGA Skins Game in January at Wailea Golf Resort with a record 12 skins worth $270,000. It was the first Skins Game for the women since 1998, when Laura Davies won in Texas.
Davies returned as defending champion, along with Annika Sorenstam and Laura Diaz.
Sorenstam will become the first woman to play in the Skins Game in November, going up against Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson.
Webb might have to do without.
'We're disappointed Conagra is not coming back,' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said last week at the Solheim Cup.
Then again, it's not like the women were given a fair shake.
While the competition was Jan. 26 in Hawaii, the broadcast was not shown until July.
The senior men played Jan. 25 on the same course. Twelve holes were broadcast that Saturday, and the other six were shown Sunday.
'We weren't entirely happy with the way it ultimately played itself out with the tape delay,' Votaw said. 'Hopefully, it will come back. If it doesn't happen, I'm sorry that Karrie won't be able to defend.'
Although Webb might lose the chance to defend one title, another opportunity awaits.
The LPGA Tour is announcing this week the return in 2005 of the Women's World Cup to be staged in South Africa.
Webb and Rachel Teske of Australia won the Women's World Cup in 2000 when it was played in Malaysia, although that tournament lasted only one year before funding ran out.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR UPDATE: Vijay Singh picked up his third victory at the John Deere Classic, which throws him into the race of PGA Tour player of the year.
Not that he cares.
Singh is only interested in what he can control, which is winning the money title. He leads Davis Love III by nearly $200,000, with Tiger Woods in third place about $475,000 behind.
There are two $6 million tournaments left, so it's still up for grabs.
'My goal is to win the money list,' Singh said. 'Player of the year is not up to me. I can play the best golf, but somebody has to choose who the player of the year is. I can control the money list.
'I have another three events to go. If I can win one more time, I think I've got it sealed.'
Singh finally takes a break this week after a rugged stretch - seven straight tournaments, dating to the Buick Open, in which the only time he finished out of the top 10 was the PGA Championship.
He clearly is giving himself plenty of chances.
Singh has played in 23 tournaments, eight more than Woods and five more than Love.
The big Fijian is averaging $247,935 per event. Woods is averaging $348,583 per tournament.
PAYBACK: Annika Sorenstam has ignored criticism of her decision to compete against the men at Colonial.
That doesn't mean she forgets.
Angela Stanford wrote an opinion piece for Sports Illustrated before the Colonial, saying Sorenstam was being naive to suggest that her appearance was only a personal challenge.
'If she plays well, people will think she's too good for the rest of us,' Stanford wrote. 'If she misses the cut, then people will decide that the only reason she dominates our tour is because the rest of us stink.'
Sorenstam was pleasantly surprised when she drew Stanford in a Sunday singles match at the Solheim Cup. She quickly built a 2-up lead and closed her out, 3 and 2.
'I don't forget these types of things,' Sorenstam said. 'I had a conversation with her about that this summer. Funny how these pairings work out sometimes.'
SPECIAL ACE: Kevin Erickson of Green Bay, Wis., had a round to remember at the Special Olympics Golf tournament - a record round and his first ace.
Erickson, 20, used a pitching wedge for a hole-in-one on the 101-yard 6th hole on the South Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He wound up shooting 76 on the 4,942-yard course.
'I just hit and said we will see where this goes,' he said. 'It bounced, spun sideways and went in.'
Erickson's mother, who caddied for him, said he started cancer treatment three years ago, and golf was the only sport he was allowed to play.
'His health is good now,' Holly Dudley said. 'He has one more checkup to go and then he will hit the two-year mark. If he did not have golf, I do not think he would have recovered as well as he did.'
The tournament is for 158 golfers with mental retardation from 26 Special Olympics programs across the country.
DIVOTS: Pumpkin Ridge, scheduled to host the U.S. Senior Open in 2006, instead will have the U.S. Women's Amateur. The USGA is looking for a new location for the Senior Open, because another Champions Tour major - the Tradition - moved to the same Portland neighborhood this year. ... Vijay Singh's victory at the John Deere Classic made him the fifth player with at least three victories this year, the most on the PGA Tour since there were six three-time winners in 1982. ... The season-ending Volvo Masters on the European tour has changed its field to include the top 60 players on the money list. The purse has been increased to 3.5 million euros. ... Outback Steakhouse will be the title sponsor of the Champions Tour event in Tampa, Fla., for the next three years. ... Len Mattiace played 126 holes in one day on the TPC at Sawgrass last week, raising about $50,000 for The First Tee.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Five of the 28 matches at the Solheim Cup reached the 18th hole, the fewest since 1990 when only one match went the distance.
FINAL WORD: 'We watch the credits on movies and pick names from there. My favorite one is 'Grip,' but I don't know if Amanda is going to go for that.' - Justin Leonard on what to name his first child. His wife gave birth to baby girl this week.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”