OMeara May Be Down to His Last Card
But at age 46, and struggling with his putting, O'Meara finds himself in a precarious position.
He made the cut on the number at the 84 Lumber Classic - his first cut since the British Open - but didn't hit another shot because a 36-hole Sunday meant only those closest to the top 60 played the final two rounds.
O'Meara had to settle for a tie for 69th and earned $7,560, leaving him at 134th on the money list as he takes a month break from golf.
He has only two tournaments left - Disney and Tampa - to keep his card for 2004. Otherwise, O'Meara will be forced to use his one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the career money list.
This is noteworthy because of what happened in a conference room six years ago.
O'Meara was on the PGA Tour policy board in 1997 and was among those strongly in favor of getting rid of 10-year exemptions that came with winning majors, The Players Championship and the World Series of Golf.
The tour was concerned some players were becoming ceremonial figures during the latter part of that 10-year free pass, and the board voted in November to reduce the exemption to five years starting in 1998.
Just his luck, O'Meara won the Masters and the British Open that year.
His five-year exemption runs out this year.
Timing is everything.
Corey Pavin is 146th on the money list. Unless he improves in the next two months, this will be the fifth time in the last seven years he has finished outside the top 125. Pavin, however, is exempt through 2005 because of his '95 U.S. Open victory at Shinnecock Hills.
John Daly also is exempt for two more years from winning the '95 British Open.
Mark Brooks is 177th on the money list and hasn't won since the '96 PGA Championship, which makes him exempt for three more years.
Steve Elkington - remember him? - is 181st on the money list, but he's good through 2007 because of his victory in The Players Championship the year before the exemption policy changed.
The one argument O'Meara made during the debate on the 10-year exemption was getting extra time for multiple majors. Players get a two-year exemption for winning a regular tournament, plus an extra year for each additional victory that year.
O'Meara won two majors in one year - Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Nick Price are the only others to have done that in the last 20 years - but could be down to his last card next year.
WIESY DOES IT: Michelle Wie plays more tournament golf than Greg Norman these days.
After missing the cut in the Boise Open on the Nationwide Tour, Wie returns this week to the LPGA Tour for the Safeway Classic in Portland (Begins Fri. at 8:00PM ET on The Golf Channel).
The 13-year-old from Hawaii then gets a two-week break before going to Korea for the Sports Today CJ Nine Bridges Classic, which will be her seventh and final LPGA Tour event of the year.
Including her appearance on the Canadian Tour, Wie will have played nine professional tournaments this year.
What does next year hold?
Wie has lobbied for a sponsor's exemption into the Sony Open in January, where last year she shot a 73 in the Monday qualifier and missed by seven shots.
'I've been talking to committee members,' said her father, B.J. Wie. 'They're still taking her under consideration. They told me they would make a decision in November.'
Wie can forget about playing in the other Hawaii tournaments. The Mercedes Championships on Maui is only for PGA Tour winners, while the Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay is for winners of the four majors.
'The Grand Slam will be tough,' B.J. Wie said. 'Maybe she can play in the pro-am.'
FATHER LEONARD: Justin Leonard was four shots out of the lead at the John Deere Classic when he got the phone call he wasn't expecting for another few weeks - his wife had gone into labor.
Leonard chartered a jet out of Moline, Ill., at 1 a.m. Sunday, arrived in Dallas at 3:30 a.m. and headed straight for the hospital. His daughter, Reese, was born about seven hours later, weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces.
'What an amazing process and a true miracle to witness,' Leonard said.
He is skipping the Texas Open, which he won two years ago.
SERENA AND SORENSTAM: Serena Williams and Annika Sorenstam are the most marketable female athletes in The Sports Business Daily's survey of top marketing and advertising executives.
The athletes were given five points for a first-place vote through one point for a fifth-place vote.
Williams received 34 out of 55 first-place votes and finished with 219 points, while Sorenstam got 12 first-place votes and received 156 points. Mia Hamm, who finished first when the weekly magazine last conducted this survey in 1998, had four first-place votes and received 124 points.
The only other golfer in the top 10 was Michelle Wie, the 13-year-old amateur from Hawaii, who got 19 points.
DIVOTS: Annika Sorenstam will start next season Down Under when she plays in the Australian ANZ Ladies Masters the last weekend in February. Sorenstam last won the tournament in 2002, beating Karrie Webb in a four-hole playoff. ... Brad Faxon will be making his UBS Cup debut this year. Also playing for the U.S. team are Tom Watson, Curtis Strange, Mark O'Meara, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin and Craig Stadler. Six players are 40-49, while the other six are 50 and older. The Rest of the World team will include Nick Faldo, Barry Lane and Rodger Davis. ... The LPGA Tour stop in Oklahoma has a new name (John Q. Hammons Classic) and a new location. It is leaving Tulsa CC for nearby Cedar Ridge.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Colin Montgomerie is No. 32 in the world ranking, his lowest since he first entered the ranking at No. 36 in 1991.
FINAL WORD: 'When does he change his mind - after the shirts have been selected or before?' - Nick Faldo, criticizing Bernhard Langer for suggesting he would hand over captaincy of the Ryder Cup if he makes the team.
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.
She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.
Her confidence is high.
“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”
Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.
Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.
“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”
Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.
“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”
Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.
“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”
That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.
While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.
But then . . .
“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”
In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.
She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.
With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.
At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).
Park’s back with a hot putter.
That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.
“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.
“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.
Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.
“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.
Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.
Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.
They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.
Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.
“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.
“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”
Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.
“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”
Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.
“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.
It came on St. Patrick’s Day.
“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”
Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).
One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.
“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.
Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.
Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF
PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”
She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.
That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.
With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.
Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.
Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.
Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?
“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”
Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.
“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”
Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.
“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”
About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.
“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.
Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.
While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.
“You never know,” she said.