LPGAs English-only policy draws criticism

By Associated PressAugust 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
NORTON, Mass. -- Imagine what could have happened to Angel Cabrera if he belonged to a tour that required its players to speak English.
 
A powerful Argentine who rose from an impoverished childhood, he won the U.S. Open last year at Oakmont by holding off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. In the hours after the trophy presentation, Cabrera made his way through a maze of media interviews in Spanish with an interpreter at his side.
 
Under a new LPGA policy effective next year, Cabrera might have been suspended. Or, he might not have played at all if an official on that tour deemed he was ineffective in English.
 
You dont have to speak English to play golf, Cabrera said Thursday in Spanish, joining a chorus of male players perplexed by the LPGA's decision to be punish women golfers for not speaking English in pro-ams, trophy presentations and media interviews.
 
K.J. Choi of South Korea recalled his rookie season on the PGA TOUR in 2000, when his English was so limited that he often got lost going to the golf course because he couldnt read street signs. He wasnt comfortable enough to speak English for five years, despite constant study.
 
Asked about the LPGAs policy, he shook his head.
 
It is a difficult situation, Choi said in English. It is good for them to help players learn English. When I learned English, I became a better player. But to suspend them? I dont think so.
 
And if the PGA TOUR had a policy like that in 2000?
 
I would have had to go home, Choi said.
 
Golfweek magazine first reported the LPGAs new English-only policy Monday, leaving the tour scrambling to explain and defend itself over the past several days as the issue has stayed on the forefront of public discussion.
 
The LPGA didnt get this much attention when Annika Sorenstam said she was retiring.
 
We have been puzzled, if not surprised, by some of the reactions, said deputy commissioner Libba Galloway, who previously was the LPGAs top attorney. We see this as a pro-international move.
 
Galloway said title sponsors offer individual endorsement deals to players' Sorenstam has a longtime deal with Kraft'and players who cant interact in pro-ams or with sponsors because of limited English are hurting themselves financially.
 
The LPGA is still working on the policy, which will be delivered to players at the end of the year. She said its professional development group is consulting with outside experts, and the LPGA will administer the evaluation itself.
 
Players wont have to be fluent, rather what Galloway described as effective.
 
You have to interact effectively with your pro-am partners. You need to be able to do media interviews. And you need to give a winners acceptance speech in English, she said. They must speak at a level that effectively accomplishes those three things.
 
Strangely absent during this debate is LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens. According to Golfweek, Bivens held a meeting with only the South Koreans last week in Portland, which led some to believe they were being singled out.
 
Galloway said Bivens was returning from the West Coast on Monday and Tuesday, and I drew the long straw to handle media inquiries.
 
The LPGA for the last three years has offered language training through a Rosetta Stone online program and has offered a cross-cultural program for its international players.
 
But there has never been a mandate until now.
 
Its not a sign that its not working, Galloway said. What were seeing is that a handful of players dont speak to the level they need to be.
 
But if only a few players struggle with English, why develop a policy equipped with a penalty?
 
Were not just looking at the LPGA as it is now, Galloway said. Were looking at the future of the LPGA. As you well know, we have a large international membership. All indications are its not going to get smaller.
 
Se Ri Pak was the only South Korean on the LPGA in 1998, when she inspired a nation with her victory in the U.S. Womens Open. Now, there are 45 players from South Korea on tour'two of them won majors this year'and 121 international players representing 26 countries.
 
International players have won 19 of 24 events this year'six by Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, seven by Asians. Most of them are capable in English, including LPGA champion Yani Tseng of Taiwan and U.S. Womens Open champion InBee Park of South Korea.
 
We believe so much in what were doing, Galloway said. If were getting any criticism, its coming from outside the organization. Its not coming from the players, and those are the people to whom it applies.
 
Padraig Harrington, who has won the last two majors, wondered if the LPGA is taking on too much. Like others, he wants to know how much English a player is supposed to learn to be effective.
 
Surely if you can say, Hello, thats English. Is that good enough? he said. Who draws the line about how many words youve got to know in English? What if you have a person who genuinely struggles with learning a new language; they have a learning disability? Thats tough to ask somebody with a learning disability, who might have found golf as the saving grace in their life, to ask them to learn a different language or else you cant play.
 
Theres a lot of different issues to that, he said. Its a big step to actually put it out there.
 
Cabrera understands the importance of speaking English, and he realizes it only hurts him. He said he has a good relationship with Woods, but because of the language barrier, it always will be limited.
 
What troubles the big Argentine is why language should affect performance inside the ropes.
 
I remember what (Roberto) de Vicenzo once said to me, Cabrera said. If you shoot under 70, everybody will understand you. If you dont, they wont want to talk to you, anyway.
 
A few months ago, Choi had finished a brief interview when a reporter tried to say, Thank you in Korean, but told him he forgot the word. Choi laughed and playfully shared this thought with his agent.
 
I taught him one word seven years ago and he still doesnt remember, he said. And he expects me to learn his entire language?
 
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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.”