Stupples returns from TV gig to play LPGA Lotte

By Associated PressApril 15, 2014, 7:24 pm

Karen Stupples habitually waved to the cheering gallery two weeks ago in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Only this time, the English player was working as an on-course announcer for Golf Channel and the cheers were for the players walking behind her on the 18th hole.

''Crossing the bridge, you have the gallery on the right and Poppie's Pond on the left, and everybody is clapping,'' Stupples said. ''My gut instinct was to wave. So, that was weird.''

It won't be weird this week in Hawaii when the 40-year-old Englishwoman returns to play in the LPGA Lotte Championship. Her enthusiasm for the game recharged by her new broadcasting job, she's making her first tour start since late August.

''I still love the game of golf,'' Stupples said. ''I thought I had lost that. I really did. A couple of years ago it was a real struggle for me to want to play golf or remembering why I loved it in the first place. Now, I've remembered why. It's not about putting the score on the scorecard, but it turned into that.''

She did put some memorable numbers on scorecards 10 years ago when she won her two LPGA tour titles. In the 2004 opener in Tucson, Ariz., she shot 63 in the first and fourth rounds and broke the tour's 72-hole record with a 258 total. In the Women's British Open at Sunningdale that summer, she began the final round eagle-double eagle en route to a 64 and a five-stroke victory.

''What appealed to me is that she is a major champion and also has been playing a full schedule on the LPGA tour,'' said Jack Graham, Golf Channel vice president of live tournaments. ''She wanted to make the commitment to put in the work to learn the ropes in televised golf and is doing a very good job at that.''

Stupples won a Ladies European Tour event in 2009 in Wales and helped Europe win the 2011 Solheim Cup, but struggled to contend the last few years. Last season on the LPGA tour, she made seven cuts in 18 starts and her season best was a tie for 38th.

''When I was playing poorly, I was worried about the score and the money and everything else,'' Stupples said. ''When I stopped having that worry because of the (TV) job, it enabled me to remember it's about how I hit the ball, what I'm doing with the ball, how I'm maneuvering around the course – the chess game that is golf.''

Following the top players and leaders as an announcer has helped her own game.

''You see that they make mistakes,'' Stupples said. ''It's very easy to think that when you're making mistakes back in the pack that you're the only one making them. You think the leaders can't possibly be making them. They're making mistakes, too, but they're just managing their games better.''

She first worked as a broadcaster on BBC's radio coverage of the 2007 British Open.

''It was so much fun. I loved it,'' Stupples said. ''It was just great hanging out with everybody and talking golf, being in the discussion and debate in the media center. I thought, 'This is something I would really love to try to get into.'''

She worked some more big events for the BBC and asked Golf Channel last year at the Hawaii event if she could follow lead on-course commentator Jerry Foltz.

''I put ears on and tailed him around and watched what he did,'' Stupples said.

Then, after missing the cut in Toledo, Ohio, she got a full trial following top-ranked Inbee Park – and nailed it.

''I got to do my first interview that week,'' Stupples said. ''That was the most nerve-wracking thing in my life. I'd always been the one being interviewed.''

The former Florida State player also has done studio work for Golf Channel.

''She's an absolute natural,'' Foltz said. ''There's an art to the job. It's more than just calling golf shots.''

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”