High Tide For Womens Golf

By Brian HewittJune 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- These are high times for womens golf. And, no, this column has nothing to do with drug testing.
 
Later this year the worlds best female golfers will play their British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews. In 2010 the worlds best female golfers will play their U.S. Open at Oakmont. In 2014 theyre going to Pebble Beach.
 
These are not goat tracks.
 
They are great golf courses. And Im not convinced that the Lords of Augusta, whenever they finally decide to bestow membership on a woman, wont soon after that consider hosting a major championship for women on their hallowed grounds.
 
Sneer at that notion if you must. But Masters chairman Billy Payne is a progressive and the New South is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of a lot of people in that region.
 
Another reason these are high times for womens golf are the teenagers. Womens golf, at its top level, has always skewed young.
 
But there were an unusually high number of 24 teenagers in the field here at Pine Needles Thursday when the U.S. Womens Open got underway. And then there was Alexis Thompson, who wont be a teenager until next February when she turns 13.
 
The low teenager in Round One was something of a startler. Angela Park, born in Brazil, raised in Southern California and currently living in Florida, is 18 years old.
 
She birdied the first three holes, made one bogey and carded a 3-under par 68 before a long weather delay stalled the afternoon schedule.
 
Park beat 17-year-old Michelle Wie by 14 shots. She beat 19-year-old Morgan Pressel by three shots. She beat Karrie Webb, who won this event the last time it came to Pine Needles, by 15.
 
Angela Park, who once lost in the semi-finals of the U.S. Womens Amateur to Pressel, hit 13 fairways and needed just 27 putts.
 
I didnt think it wasnt supposed to be happening, Angela Park said after her round. Ive been in contention before.
 
Should we be surprised at what Angela Park did Thursday?
 
Not really. She fired a closing 69 last Sunday to finish tied for 21st at the Wegmans LPGA. In her two starts before that she posted a solo fifth at the McDonalds LPGA and a solo sixth at the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika.
 
Her home course near Orlando, Orange Tree, is short but notoriously narrow. So narrow that the late Payne Stewart, who won our national championship twice, used to come to Orange Tree the week before U.S. Opens to get used to the tightness of the landing areas.
 
Veteran Cristie Kerr, who played in Parks threesome Thursday, considers Angela to be running away with Rookie of the Year.
 
So actually Thursday was more high times for early first round leader Angela Park. And if she keeps it up, she will be the teenager who walks away with Sundays first place check of $560,000, the winners share of the largest total purse in womens golf.
 
The larger question: Why the spike in womens golf? Why are the purses heading north while some of the best golf courses in the world are lining up to host the women?
 
Well, said David Fay, the USGAs executive director who does NOT, it should be pointed out, work for the LPGA, its my opinion that professional sports is an entertainment industry and I think theres just more value that people are ascribing to entertainers. More people are interested in golf, theres more coverage of womens golf and there are perhaps more compelling stories.
 
I dont think that this money is just falling from the sky. Its effort on the part of the LPGA to promote its product. And its the fact that the product has, in the marketplace, some real economic value.
 
And its impossible to underestimate the importance of youth at the top levels of sport, especially womens sports. If you dont believe that, ask the people who run womens gymnastics, womens tennis and womens figure skating.
 
By the way, by the time the women get to Pebble Beach in 2014 Alexis Thompson will STILL be a teenager. Meanwhile Mina Harigae, a 17-year-old amateur from California, shot a 41-31'72 Thursday before the long weather delay.
 
Theyre getting good fast, said 47-year-old Juli Inkster, a two-time U.S. Womens Open Champion. Its good for golf.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.