Nordqvist eyes three-peat at ShopRite LPGA Classic

By Associated PressJune 1, 2017, 11:57 pm

Anna Nordqvist of Sweden has owned the ShopRite LPGA Classic for the past two years and will seek her third straight win in the event beginning Friday as she competes against 143 of her fellow LPGA pros on the Donald Ross-designed Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club's Bay Course in Galloway, N.J., across Reed's Bay from Atlantic City.

Nordqvist, who already has a win this season (Founders Cup in Phoenix in March), will try to join fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam as the only three-time winner of this event. To do so she will have to beat a field that includes 13 of the top 21 in the Rolex Rankings, eight winners of tournaments from this year and 75 of the top 100 on the 2017 LPGA Tour money list.

This is only a three-day (54-hole) event (one on just three such events on the LPGA tour), but still carries a $1.5 million purse, with $225,000 and 500 Race to the Globe points going to the winner.

Last year, Nordqvist shot a final-round 64 to tie the tournament scoring record set by Sorenstam (17 under par in both 1998 and 2005) and held off Haru Nomura by one shot to defend her title.

Nordqvist, who has won seven times on the LPGA tour, is 12th on the money list with nearly $372,000 in eight events. After leading the tour in greens hit in regulation (78.6 percent) last year, she is sixth this year (77.1 percent). She has trimmed her usually busy schedule some this season to enjoy some things away from the golf course and the grind of the tour.

"Maybe there is a maturity in that strategy that allows me to enjoy the game in a different way, being out on tour and embracing opportunities instead of putting so much pressure on myself to succeed," Nordqvist said. "I don't want to be looking back in five years and asking why didn't I enjoy this more. I'm trying to enjoy the moment a little more than just trying to chase the future."

With Shanshan Feng's win at the LPGA Volvik Championship last week in Michigan, the LPGA has now gone 12 events without having a repeat winner, the second-longest such stretch to begin a season in LPGA history. In 1991, there was not a multiple tournament winner until the 16th event of the year.

Six of this year's 12 events have been won by players from South Korea, with three being captured by Americans and one winner each from Japan, China and Sweden.

The ShopRite Classic is the third in a stretch of 11 consecutive weeks of competition on the tour. The field here is well represented by the event's past winners, including Stacey Lewis (2012, 2014), Cristie Kerr (2004), Karrie Webb of Australia (2013), Angela Stanford (2003), Juli Inkster (1986, 1988) and Brittany Lincicome (2011).

The next great player from South Korea might be Sung Hyun Park, the LPGA's top rookie, who is also in the field after finishing second last week. She led after the second round and made a spirited run at Feng with a final-round 66.

"I hadn't played well in events prior to this tournament and I felt I'd lost a bit of confidence," Park said after her runner-up finish. "But I played well this time and got some confidence back. I think that was the biggest take away from this event."

Through the first 12 events, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea leads with 1,695 points. Ryu's streak of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes was snapped last week when she tied for 56th. Ryu is in the field this week and will have a fourth straight chance to replace Lydia Ko of New Zealand at No. 1 in the world.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

Getty Images

Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”