Notes British Open Solheim Cup US Drought

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
The final stage of qualifying for the British Open will be held next Monday and Tuesday at four courses near Royal Liverpool, filling most of the 156-man field for a championship that is shifting focus from an open competition to a global one.
Gone are the days when tour pros from around the world had to travel to Britain the weekend before the Open and walk the fairways alongside players who had dreams, but not pedigree.
Now, there are 25 ways for a tour pro to get into the British Open without leaving home.
That includes four exemptions for top finishers at the Mizuno Open in Japan, two from a special money list in Japan, two from a special money list on the PGA Tour, and the highest finisher not already eligible at three PGA Tour events leading up to the British Open. Spots also are given to the Japan Open and Canadian Open champions.
When the dust settles, only about 56 spots are awarded to those who compete in 36-hole qualifiers -- 44 of those going to 'International Final Qualifying' held in Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States.
'We feel we have a good balance, in particular a good international balance,' R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. 'Our exemption criteria covers overseas tours that the U.S. Open doesn't. We believe we're reaching out to the players.'
The U.S. Open now has overseas qualifying in Japan (three spots available) and Europe (eight spots). Michael Campbell came out of the European qualifier before winning last year at Pinehurst No. 2, and he might not have come to America to try for a spot in the field.
USGA executive director David Fay considered adding more spots overseas, but didn't want the U.S. Open to become a closed shop.
'You run up against numbers,' Fay said last week at Newport Country Club. 'They (British Open) get 2,100 or 2,200 entries. We're pushing 9,000 entries. We want to retain the openness of the Open. We have more than half the field come through qualifying.'
Almost half, anyway. The U.S. Open field included 76 players who had to qualify, including 26 who went through 18-hole local qualifying and 36-hole sectional qualifying. That amounts to 49 percent of its field.
The British Open will end up with only 56 players from 36-hole qualifiers, or 36 percent of the field.
'We think we run the most democratic golf tournament in the world,' Fay said. 'If you have the ability, you can give it a shot.'
There's room for only a dozen of those dreamers next week at local final qualifying in England, although Dawson is comfortable with how the British Open establishes its field. It's the oldest championship in golf, one known worldwide simply as 'The Open.'
'We think there are a lot of very good golfers in far-flung parts of the world,' Dawson said. 'They may not be known because they don't play in the States, but we like the Open to be an international event.'
When the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks caused the Ryder Cup to be postponed and moved to even-numbered years, the Solheim Cup felt its best option was to move away from the men's event to odd-numbered years.
Now there's another scheduling conflict.
The Solheim Cup already has been set for Sept. 14-16 in Sweden, typically a slow part of the golf season.
But then the PGA Tour revamped and tightened its schedule around the new FedEx Cup, which will end Sept. 14-16 with the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
Should the LPGA Tour consider moving the matches back a week? Not this time.
'We did look at it,' said Chris Higgs, chief operations officer for the LPGA Tour. 'The good and bad thing about the Swedes is they are so well prepared. As soon as it was announced in 2003, they were asking us to confirm dates.'
Higgs said too many plans were in place for Sept. 14-16 for the Solheim Cup to change the dates now. He noted that because of the time difference, the Solheim Cup will be over before the final round of the Tour Championship begins.
Still, one of the tournaments will lose coverage it might have otherwise had.
Higgs said the Solheim Cup likely will move in 2009, when it is played at Rich Harvest Farm outside Chicago. One date the LPGA Tour is considering is the week after the PGA Championship, which is the week before the FedEx Cup playoff system begins.
The LPGA Tour is perhaps the most global circuit in golf, a point proven in the majors.
Annika Sorenstam's playoff victory Monday in the U.S. Women's Open made it eight consecutive majors won by international players, extending the longest U.S. drought in history. The last American winner was Meg Mallon at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open.
And there's no evidence the streak will end anytime soon.
Americans have won only four of the last 25 majors, a short list that includes the 43-year-old Mallon, 46-year-old Juli Inkster and Hilary Lunke, who hasn't had a top 20 on the LPGA Tour since winning the '03 U.S. Women's Open.
The best hope appears to be Michelle Wie, a senior-to-be in high school who has finished in the top five at five of the last six majors.
Sahalee Country Club had the 2010 PGA Championship taken away from it when PGA of America officials wanted to lock up Whistling Straits in a long-term deal. And while PGA officials promised Sahalee another 'championship,' the Seattle club appears to be going in another direction.
USGA executive director David Fay confirmed that Sahalee is interested in hosting a U.S. Senior Open. The first opening on the schedule for a U.S. Senior Open would be 2010, which might be a more than a little coincidental.
Not only did Fay say that he likes the Pacific Northwest, 'there's a well-known player with roots in Seattle who is getting to the age he might be able to play.'
Fred Couples would be eligible for his first Senior Open in 2010.
Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie are the only players to finish in the top 10 at all three LPGA Tour majors this year. ... Watching the final group inside the ropes in the final round of the Women's Open was Sandra Gal, a 21-year-old German who attends Florida. She missed the cut in her first Women's Open, then stuck around to watch how the leaders went about their business. ... USGA executive director David Fay says he has suggested that the British Open use Oakland Hills for its U.S. qualifier next year. ... The top three players for LPGA Tour player of the year are separated by nine points -- Lorena Ochoa (148), Sorenstam (140) and Karrie Webb (139).
Annika Sorenstam made only three bogeys on the back nine during five rounds of the U.S. Women's Open.
'I'm seeing a different part of the golf course again, and this part is a lot prettier.' -- Annika Sorenstam, on hitting more fairways.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''