Solutions to LPGA Problems

By Brian HewittNovember 24, 2008, 5:00 pm
2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' Tough season-ending week for the LPGA. Some of the problems were of its own making. Others were outside the control of an organization that is, at best, star-crossed right now and, at worst, in deep trouble if the world economy doesnt rebound by 2010.
For starters, the shadow of ADTs departure as an LPGA title sponsor for its championship, cast a pall over the entire event.
Then there was the failure of the LPGAs two marquee players ' Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa ' to advance to the weekend.
There was nothing embattled commissioner Carolyn Bivens could do about that. But there were plenty of people who thought Bivens could, and should, have stepped in to prevent Sorenstam from undergoing the ignominy of drug-testing after her final round Friday.
Saturdays story revolved around the gritty struggles of rising star Paula Creamer. Creamer fought a stomach ailment throughout the third round and toughed her way into Sundays final eight. Then it was revealed that she had to spend the night in a nearby hospital.
She made it back Sunday. But Ji-Yai Shin won the golf tournament. And if you are of the myopic persuasion that golf is relevant only when it piques the interest of ESPNs SportsCenter, you werent impressed.
In the face of all of this, there actually are at least a couple of reasons for the LPGA to feel better about itself right now.
For starters, there was the report late last week in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Donald Trump has begun talking again with ADT officials in an attempt to restore the popular ADT Championship, and its compelling format, to Trump International as early as 2010.
The LPGA, which is suffering across the board from decreased leverage at bargaining tables, should do its best to baby-sit any agreement reached by The Donald and ADT. The LPGAs harsh critics ' and they are legion ' will cynically regard this development by suggesting that the LPGA just stay out of the way: Allow Trump to do the deal and let him tell the LPGA if and when a renewal happens.
The other development that got lost in the shuffle of the controversy that surrounded Sorenstams drug test late Friday was the fierce integrity displayed by LPGA general counsel Jill Pilgrim in explaining the importance of maintaining her tours random drug-testing protocol.
Pilgrim was close to defiant when she met with reporters moments after Sorenstams test. Im busy, she said. The group of reporters, gathered to question her, fired right back, saying they, too, were busy.
But the more you listened to Pilgrim, the more you realized that the LPGA had little choice when Sorenstams name and number came up for drug-testing. The LPGAs legal liability, if it had caved to pressure to give Sorenstam a pass, would have been huge.
Any player who had previously tested positive ' only to later find out that another player had been let off the hook ' would have had a huge and potentially-crippling potential lawsuit against the LPGA.
Pilgrim, whose background includes drug testing administration in the high levels of track and field, was acutely aware of the potential for trouble here. And to hers, and the LPGAs credit, she wasnt about to breach the protocol even at the expense of angering Sorenstam, the justifiably miffed icon, playing in her last event before stepping away.
Sorenstam was upset and puzzled because she had been tested just last month. The results were negative; she was clean. Pilgrim, meanwhile, confirmed there had been players whose name and number for testing had come up two days in a row on more than one occasion in this, the first year of drug testing on the LPGA.
Australian Katherine Hull, who played in the final group Saturday, was detained for drug-testing Friday and didnt leave the grounds until 7:30 p.m. She was not able to hit practice balls after her Friday round. Given those circumstances, few were surprised when she bogeyed four of her first six holes Saturday and failed to advance to Sundays final round.
Clearly, something needs to be done about repeat testing. The concept of random-testing is sound. But there should be a provision exempting a player who has recently passed from being randomly selected again for a period of, say, four weeks.
Then theres the humiliating process of the testing itself. It was described, in detail, by a source who had spoken to one of the players. I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, it is an extremely dehumanizing procedure.
Drug-testing should stay. The baby is OK. But the LPGA needs to throw out the bath water.
Finally, while were at the business of solving the LPGAs problems, especially as they relate to ADT, the million-dollar first prize, as official money, has got to go. The amount is fine. But the fact that all of it counts as official money skews the money list. Give the winner the million bucks but make half of it official money and the other half a bonus.
The FedEx Cup first-place money doesnt count as official money, nor will all the money earned by the winner of the first Race to Dubai. The LPGA needs to take a cue from the men, in the future, when large, season-ending sums are being doled out to its players.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard ' ADT Championship
  • Full Coverage ' ADT Championship
  • Getty Images

    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

    Getty Images

    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

    Getty Images

    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

    Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.