Notes Careful for What You Ask Q-School Update

By Associated PressNovember 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
It was six years ago when PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem brought together leaders of the industry for a conference aimed at taking advantage of golf's growing popularity. Tiger Woods had just completed one of the greatest years in golf with nine victories and three straight majors.
 
Finchem outlined some bold goals at 'Golf 20/20: Vision for the Future.' One of them was aimed at the NFL.

'We should consider as our first goal to become the No. 1 sport in fan base, surpassing the NFL by the year 2020 and reaching 177 million fans,' he said in November 2000.
 
He has 14 years left, but the goal looked more out of reach when the PGA TOUR revamped its schedule and one of the reasons was to avoid competition with the NFL. Finchem either underestimated the power of football or overestimated the mainstream popularity of golf.
 
The next commissioner who might fall into that trap is LPGA boss Carolyn Bivens.
 
During a news conference last week at Trump International, the commissioner talked about moving the LPGA into the mainstream, then defined what she considers her peer groups. She mentioned the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL -- then pausing for effect -- 'and yes, the PGA TOUR.'
 
Careful.
 
The LPGA Tour is arguably the best women's sports organization because it has succeeded on its own for more than 50 years without any outside help, the way the WNBA leans on the NBA, for example. To compare it with the PGA TOUR was not a fair fight.
 
But if that's what she wants ...
 
The total prize money on the LPGA Tour this year was about $54 million. Total prize money on the PGA TOUR was $260 million.
 
The PGA TOUR will get about $1 billion from its six-year contract with the television networks next year, along with a 15-year deal with The Golf Channel to broadcast weekday rounds. The LPGA Tour has to buy most of its television time, and some tournaments could not be found anywhere on TV.
 
There were a record 11 millionaires on the LPGA Tour this year. The PGA TOUR had 93.
 
And the list goes on.
 
Q-SCHOOL UPDATE
Five years ago, Ty Tryon became the youngest player to earn a PGA TOUR card when he made it through all three stages of Q-school at age 17.
 
Tryon would be a senior in college had he stayed an amateur, and it's safe to say he has endured a hard education. He again failed to make it past the second stage of Q-school last week, finishing last in Dade City, Fla.
 
Youth was not served in other qualifiers.
 
Casey Wittenberg, who left Oklahoma State two years ago and tried to earn his card through sponsors' exemptions, has yet to get his card. He bogeyed five of his last six holes in Panama City, Fla., and missed advancing by one shot.
 
Former PGA winners didn't have much luck. David Gossett, Len Mattiace, Neal Lancaster and Chris Smith failed to reach the final stage.
 
Among those who did well were Anthony Kim, who was medalist in McKinney, Texas; and Jason Day of Australia, who was medalist at the qualifier in Beaumont, Calif.
 
The six-round final stage starts Nov. 29 in Palm Desert, Calif.
 
MINOR REPRIEVE
Steven Bowditch attributed his dismal showing on the PGA TOUR to clinical depression. After getting a report from his doctor, the PGA TOUR is ready to give him another chance.
 
The tour has offered Bowditch a minor medical exemption, meaning he will have five tournaments next year to earn the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list ($660,898). The Australian will need to earn $649,708, for he made only two cuts in his 24 starts, finishing 76th in the Reno-Tahoe Open and 78th in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
 
It is believed to be the first time a player was granted a medical exemption without physical injury.
 
Bowditch had only two rounds in the 60s. He withdrew twice and was disqualified four times while going 0-for-14 in paychecks at the start of the year. But he appears to be gaining control of his health. He tied for seventh last week in the Australian Open.
 
His next big event will be Q-school in two weeks in California, where he will try to earn his card in case he struggles in his five events under the medical exemption.
 
LOST YEAR, BUT NO LOST CLAUSE
Mark Wilson agreed to donate a percentage of his PGA TOUR earnings this year to the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer). Wilson finished 156th on the money list, and he was to donate $9,800.
 
Instead, Wilson and his wife Amy gave $30,000, the highest donation by an athlete in the 30-year history of the MACC Fund.
 
'The greatness of Mark Wilson extends far beyond the golf course,' MACC Fund executive director John Cary said.
 
Wilson could use some greatness on the golf course next week. He goes to the final stage of Q-school, trying to earn back his card.
 
END OF THE DEBATE
Scott Verplank was asked for his thoughts on the new Ryder Cup selection process, and was told that points were only available next year in the majors.
 
Digesting this for a second, he asked, 'Is The Players Championship a major?'
 
Sorry.
 
One point for every $1,000 will be awarded at the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.
 
Another pause from Verplank.
 
'Well, I guess that confirms it then,' he said. 'There's only four majors.'
 
DIVOTS
Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and the rest of the players at the Women's British Open won't have to worry about any 'No Women Allowed' signs greeting them in the clubhouse or locker room at St. Andrews. R&A chief Peter Dawson told The Daily Telegraph last week that they will be allowed wherever the men are at the British Open. 'They can use the facilities to whatever extent they wish,' Dawson said. 'There will no restrictions. And if they want any of the rooms for special functions, they can have them.' It will be the first time the Women's British Open is held on the Old Course. ... Sophie Gustafson earned life membership on the Ladies European Tour by accumulating 20 points through 12 victories, two money titles and five Solheim Cup teams. ... Billy Casper is returning from a five-year hiatus and will play the Father-Son Challenge on Dec. 2-3 outside Orlando, Fla.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three players shot 60 on the PGA TOUR, the most in any one season, but none of those players went on to win the tournament: Pat Perez (Bob Hope Classic), Arron Oberholser (Byron Nelson Championship) and Justin Rose (Disney).
 
FINAL WORD
'To be a professional (golfer), you have to spend five years on the practice tee hitting balls. If you're a golf architect, you have to spend at least five years in the dirt and on a bulldozer.' -- Robert Trent Jones Jr., on Tiger Woods getting into the golf course design business.
 
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes