Notes LPGA Debates Rule Change
The LPGA came up with lift, clean and replace a few years ago when the ball was picking up mud. That's slightly different from the PGA Tour, which allows its players to lift, clean and place the ball within one club length.
I hope our officials didn't fall in love with that rule, U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon said at the season-ending ADT Championship in November. A lot of times, you're replacing the ball right in front of your pitch march, and that affects your next shot.
Pitch marks cannot be tamped down unless they are on the green.
Barb Trammel, vice president of tournament operations for the LPGA Tour, said changing the policy to get relief from a pitch mark in the fairway might be perceived as skirting the rules.
Just to play preferred lies for that instance is not a reason do it, Trammel said.
Allowing players to put their hands on the ball is always a touchy subject. The USGA never allows that in its biggest championships. Tom Meeks, the senior director of rules and competition, is famous for calling it lift, clean and cheat.
But the tours sometimes have no choice because of wet conditions and the need to finish a tournament that week so they can move on to the next stop. Still, some players wonder why the LPGA Tour doesn't follow the PGA Tour's lead and allow the ball to be placed within one club length.
Annika Sorenstam wants to see a policy similar to the European tour, where players lift, clean and place their balls within the size of a scorecard.
That's just enough, Sorenstam said. We don't have to do a club length. We're not trying to improve our lies, we just do it to clean the ball. Mud is so unpredictable.
Votaw declined to discuss which, if any, policies were amended. He said the panel looked at alternatives to lift, clean and replace and there were issues pro and con for each.
Trammel added, When we started this, players thought it was great because we were playing more by the rules. As time goes on, we're getting more comments about going back to placing the ball. If we do make a change, it would be based on what we feel we can reasonably do within the language of the rules.
Fred Couples was on the practice range during the Target World Challenge, going through his usual routine -- hit a few balls, stop to talk sports.
The Arizona Diamondbacks had made the only big move at that point in baseball's winter meetings by signing Russ Ortiz. The Seattle Seahawks faced a must-win game against the Minnesota Vikings. He wondered if the New York Giants would win a game with Eli Manning at quarterback this year.
Then Couples paused and asked a question.
You think other athletes sit around and talk about the PGA Tour the way we do about them? he said. Like, 'Oh, I can't believe they're still playing at that course.'
Couples looked around at his silent audience, smiled and shook his head.
Then he went back to hitting balls.
The World Match Play Championship in England and the Target World Challenge each have 16-man fields and criteria for qualifying, but only the World Match Play gets world ranking points.
That's a sore spot with Colin Montgomerie, if only because he doesn't believe any match-play tournament should get world ranking points.
You go down to La Costa, there's 64 guys, you can score 60 and lose, he said. You'd have beaten the other 62 guys in the field and you can go home. But some guy scores 75 and wins, and he gets more points than you. That's not right. I don't think there should be world points for match-play tournaments in any situation.
The World Match Play at Wentworth only started getting ranking points this year because it has strict qualifications and is part of the European tour schedule.
Montgomerie is a past champion at Wentworth. He has never made it past the third round at La Costa in the World Golf Championship event. That's not the point.
I can go around at La Costa and not break par one round and win every game, he said. What, and I get 100 world points for playing rubbish? No, no. But I can also play fantastic and lose.
Ever since he turned pro in 1996, Tiger Woods wanted to build a dream house using only the money he earned in golf tournaments. He went over the $55 million mark this year -- that does not include appearance money or sponsorship deals -- and finally has his house.
Only it's not a house.
That's what the boat was, Woods said of Privacy, the name of his 155-foot yacht. Everything I buy, everything that I own, is from my earnings on Tour. That's the way I wanted it to be, that I earned it.
According to Powerboat and Motor magazine, the yacht cost $20 million.
Votaw rarely gives a scouting report on teenagers, but he couldn't help but notice the buzz in Japan over 19-year-old Ai Miyazato.
She is a delightful young woman who has captured the Japanese public's imagination in much the same way as Michelle Wie, Votaw said. The ratings for the Japan LPGA are higher by double than the Japan PGA Tour.
Votaw said this during the LPGA's season-ending ADT Championship. Later that week, Miyazato won her fifth event of the Japan LPGA, and TV ratings dwarfed the men's event in Japan that week -- the Dunlop Phoenix, where Tiger Woods led wire-to-wire for his first stroke-play title of the year.
Miyazato has not said when she will bring her game to the United States, although she has qualified for the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March.
The winter break from golf lasts 25 days from the final putt at the Target World Challenge (Dec. 12) to the opening tee shot at the Mercedes Championships (Jan. 6).
I'm a has-been, but I'm not a never-was. At least I had my moment in the sun. Ian Baker-Finch.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long
Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.
Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.
"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"
The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.
Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.
"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."
Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.
"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.
"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.
"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."
Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA
Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.
Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.
Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.
With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.
“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”
Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.
Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday:
"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."
Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return
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
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.
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.