The Year of the Woman -- But Which One

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2002, 5:00 pm
Tiger Woods became the first player in 30 years to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, and even he concedes that 2002 in golf was the year of the woman.
The only question: Which one?
No one played better than Annika Sorenstam.
She had the most dominant season on the LPGA Tour in nearly 40 years by winning 13 times around the world, including a major. The 32-year-old Swede finished out of the top 10 only three times and shattered her own scoring record.
'She performed at the highest level for the longest period of time,' Woods said. 'If you look at her numbers ... that's when you appreciate what she's done. And that's what makes her year a very, very special year.'
No one made more headlines than Martha Burk.
Her crusade for a female member at Augusta National has led to the messiest controversy in the 68-year-history of the Masters, one that threatens to overshadow Woods' bid for a third consecutive green jacket in April.
Because of Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations, the Masters dropped its television sponsors and is bracing for protesters outside the green gates of Augusta National.
'It's inevitable there is going to be ... a woman member,' Burk said.
If that's the case, club chairman Hootie Johnson says it will be on Augusta's timetable, 'and not at the point of a bayonet.'
The only woman who successfully crashed an all-male party was Suzy Whaley.
The 36-year-old club pro from Connecticut became the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event when her victory in a PGA sectional tournament -- even though she played from a shorter set of tees -- made her eligible for the Greater Hartford Open.
'I'm going to do it the best I possible can, and that's going to have to be good enough,' said Whaley, who will have to play from the championship tees.
The women stated their case in more conventional manners.
Juli Inkster, who won her first U.S. Amateur at Prairie Dunes as a 20-year-old newlywed, returned to Kansas as a 42-year-old mother of two daughters and captured the U.S. Open. She also helped the Americans win the Solheim Cup.
Karrie Webb became the first woman to complete the Super Slam by winning the British Open. Se Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship and Sorenstam the Nabisco Championship, as the LPGA's best four players split the majors.
Sorenstam's 13 victories worldwide were the most since Mickey Wright won 13 times on the LPGA Tour in 1963. The 32-year-old Swede never went more than three tournaments without winning, and earned more than $2.6 million.
'That's incredible,' Meg Mallon said. 'You wouldn't say that about Tiger. Golf just doesn't allow that anymore. It's pretty exciting to see in this era.'
Woods was no slouch.
He won the Masters and U.S. Open by three strokes, the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to capture the first two majors. The next stop was Muirfield, just like it was 30 years ago, only that's where his bid for the calendar Grand Slam ended in horrific fashion.
In raging winds, Woods had an outrageous third round -- an 81, his worst as a professional. Ernie Els won the silver claret jug in the first British Open that required a sudden-death playoff when four extra holes wasn't enough.
The most thrilling finish in a major took place at Hazeltine, where Woods closed with four straight birdies only to see former car stereo salesman Rich Beem hold him off by one stroke to win the PGA Championship.
Woods finished with six victories worldwide and another sweep of the major awards.
'Nobody really can put into perspective what he's done,' Davis Love III said. 'He's had three or four of the best years ever, and that's why you don't pay much attention to it.'
There were a few surprises on the PGA Tour.
A record 18 players won for the first time on tour, two of them in the World Golf Championships. Another was Craig Perks in The Players Championship with the wildest finish of the year. He chipped in for eagle on No. 16, made a 30-foot birdie on the island-green 17th and chipped in for par on the final hole.
Europe was considered a surprise winner in the Ryder Cup, even though it has won six of the last nine matches. The biggest shock was Phillip Price at No. 119 in the world beating second-ranked Phil Mickelson, and Paul McGinley making crucial putts on the final two holes to clinch victory at The Belfry.
'Out of the shadows come heroes,' European captain Sam Torrance said. 'And that's where Paul McGinley and Phillip Price came.'
Hale Irwin proved to be an ageless wonder on the Senior PGA Tour, at 57 becoming the first player to surpass $3 million in one year on the 50-and-over circuit.
Another ageless wonder hit his last ceremonial drive at Augusta National. Sam Snead, blessed with the sweetest swing in golf, died six weeks later at 89. Golf lost another giant when Paul Runyan, a two-time PGA champion known as 'Little Poison' died at 93.
The Masters bid an emotional farewell to Arnold Palmer, who played in his 48th and final tournament.
'This tournament won't be the same without Arnie,' Ben Crenshaw said.
Controversy at Augusta National was not limited to its all-male membership. Johnson was criticized for his brusque handling of former champions, sending letters to some aging champions urging them not to play.
'I didn't want to get a letter,' Palmer joked when announcing he was playing in his last Masters.
The course also went through its largest redesign in history, a project that added nearly 300 yards and eliminated all but the longest hitters from serious contention.
Still, the chairman's boldest move was his response to Burk's letter.
Johnson issued a blistering statement that Augusta National would not be bullied into inviting a female member.
Burk went on the attack, applying pressure to corporate members of the club, tournament sponsors and even Woods, criticizing the world's No. 1 player for not taking a stronger stand against discrimination.
'If others had taken that view, he'd be a caddie at Augusta,' Burk said.
Johnson finally ended his silence in a Nov. 4 interview, in which he said the Masters would be played no matter what, and there was no chance of a female member by April.
'We will prevail because we're right,' he said.
The stalemate figures to carry into 2003, which again might be the year of the women -- those protesting outside Augusta National at the Masters.
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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

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.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

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).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.