Notes LPGA to Revive Match Play Format
The HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship will be played June 30-July 3 at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., with a $2 million purse for the 64-player field and $500,000 for the winner.
Only the U.S. Women's Open, which paid $560,000 last year, has a larger first-place check.
Because the women's world rankings will not start until next year, the field will be determined by the top 60 on the LPGA Tour money list going into the U.S. Women's Open. The other four spots would go to the Women's Open champion if not already qualified, a leading Japanese tour player and two sponsor's exemptions.
HSBC also is title sponsor of the World Match Play Championship in England, where 1 million pounds is the largest first-place prize in golf among official tournaments.
``This is a good one for us,'' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. ``IMG was very helpful in getting that done. Obviously, HSBC does the Match Play event in London, and they wanted to expand into the United States. The greater New York metropolitan area was important for them.''
The weekend will be televised by CBS Sports, giving the LPGA Tour seven tournaments on network television.
Unlike the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa that is spread out over five days, the women will have 32 matches Thursday, 16 matches Friday, eight matches Saturday, the semifinals Sunday morning and the 18-hole final Sunday afternoon. The men play a 36-hole final, while every match in the 16-man field in England is 36 holes.
The last time the LPGA had match play was the Orlando Mixed Doubles in 1954.
U.S. Open merchandise is so popular that the USGA figured it wouldn't hurt to stock the shelves early - in the case of Torrey Pines, four years early.
Shirts and hats with the 2008 U.S. Open logo went on sale last June. During the Buick Invitational last week, 40 percent of the items for sale in the pro shop - and 40 percent of the receipts - were U.S. Open merchandise.
``There was so much hype in San Diego,'' said Susan Casagranda, general manager at Torrey Pines.
It will be the first U.S. Open in southern California since 1948 at Riviera. Mary Lopuszynski, in her 10th year as merchandising director for the USGA, said logo items also went on sale as soon as it became available for the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Bethpage ('09) and Pebble Beach ('10) can also expect early sales once the logos are designed.
``It's reached a point where people are excited about,'' she said. ``We wanted to make the merchandise available.''
HALL OF FAME
By his record alone, Vijay Singh is the most qualified player on the World Golf Hall of Fame ballot that is in the mail - 25 victories on the PGA Tour, three majors, two money titles, and No. 1 in the world.
The question is whether Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins, two players overlooked the last few years, will continue to pick up enough votes to be elected.
David Toms was shocked to learn neither was already in.
``If I had the same credentials and I wasn't voted in somewhere in my life, I would feel slighted,'' Toms said.
Strange has 17 victories and back-to-back U.S. Open titles, along with three PGA Tour money titles, five Ryder Cup teams and twice winning PGA player of the year. He was the top American player of his era.
Wadkins has 21 victories, including the PGA Championship, and played on eight Ryder Cup teams.
``Maybe you have to win five majors and 25 times the way this is going,'' Toms said.
Strange was the leading vote-getter last year among those who did not get the required 65 percent for election.
``Some people worry about it and some don't. I'm in the second category,'' Strange said. ``It would be great thing. But it's out of my control, simple as that.''
Val Skinner, a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour who became a leading fund-raiser for breast cancer research, won the Charlie Bartlett Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for unselfish contributions to society.
Skinner, 44, has helped raise more than $2.5 million for breast cancer research. Her annual Life Pro-Am (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) has generated $500,000 each of the last five years, a record for a one-day golf charity event for the cause.
Skinner will be honored April 6 in Augusta, Ga.
LOPEZ ON LPGA
Nancy Lopez gave the LPGA Tour its biggest boost in the 1970s, and she is hopeful that the tour finds a suitable replacement for commissioner Ty Votaw by the end of the year when he steps down.
``It's nice he gave us some warning,'' Lopez said. ``I hope they take their time and find someone to help the LPGA move forward. I'm sure the tour will be strong after he's gone, but they need someone to step into some big shoes.''
Lopez said it would be great for LPGA to have its first female commissioner, but only if it's the right one.
``She's got to be smart, feminine and a consensus-builder,'' Lopez said. ``Women have the world in the palm of their hand if they act like ladies.''
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.