Masters highlights growing pains of global golf

By Doug FergusonApril 13, 2011, 2:16 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Masters champion Charl Schwartzel first showed his potential on a big stage last year in the World Golf Championship at Doral when he went toe-to-toe with Ernie Els until losing ground at the end.

As the two South Africans shook hands on the 18th green, Els took note of the $850,000 that Schwartzel received as runner-up and said to his protege, “Congratulations. That’s your Tour card for the U.S.”

Schwartzel became a PGA Tour member this year, as did U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. For all the talk about Americans being without a major for the first time in 17 years, their tour remains as strong as ever.


Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel reacts to winning the Masters Tournament. (Getty Images)
With few exceptions – including Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the top two players in the world ranking – the PGA Tour continues to attract the best from all over the world.


That much appears to be lost on the commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

“The internationals now hold the power in golf,” Gareth Tindall said Tuesday in announcing a new World Golf Championship for South Africa. “For how long, we don’t know.”

Part of Tindall was speaking from national pride, and rightfully so.

South Africans historically have had to travel the most and the greatest distance to develop their games on a worldwide scale. Yet they now have won two of the last three majors, and they have five major champions in the last nine years, a list that includes Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman.

All of them are PGA Tour members now, but it’s important to remember where they started. So when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says it’s good for golf that other tours are strong, that’s because it makes his tour even stronger.

There is speculation that a new WGC for South Africa was the product of a compromise.

The global schedule in golf is getting so crowded that the South African Open was placed during the same week as the Presidents Cup in Australia. This became a problem when five South Africans occupied the first six spots in the Presidents Cup standing – all five placing among the top 10 in their national open, with Els as the defending champion.

That led to threats the South Africans wouldn’t play the Presidents Cup.

Some questions remained unanswered.

The Presidents Cup announced its dates – Nov. 17-20 – more than a year before the South African Open said it would be played the same time. Why would the South African Open take that spot on the schedule unless it knew it could use that to its advantage in trying to land a World Golf Championship?

Els was furious in January when he learned of the conflict. Why wouldn’t South Africa have spoken to him first?

The date clash was resolved last week at the Masters when Sunshine Tour officials agreed to move the South African Open one week later, swapping dates with another South African event.

It also picked up a World Golf Championship, although some critical details have yet to be filled in. One is the sponsorship of a tournament with a $10 million purse. The other is when it would be played.

The International Federation of PGA Tours met last week at the Masters to sort out this mess.

“The sense was that a World Golf Championship event in South Africa would be a good thing if it could be worked out in terms of sponsorship and a date, and we gave them the OK to look into it,” said Ed Moorhouse, the PGA Tour’s co-chief operating officer. “There’s no secret it’s a pretty busy time of the year. We still have a lot of elements that need to be worked out, not the least of which is the date.”

Tindall said he was looking at the first week of December, which presents only more problems. That’s the date of Chevron World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts in California, not to mention the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

“They will have to move it, unfortunately for them,” Tindall said, referring to the Chevron. He said Woods’ event moved opposite the Nedbank last year without anyone speaking to South African officials, “so I suppose it’s a bit of payback time.”

Most new tournaments try to attract Woods. Tindall sounds like he’s doing all he can to keep Woods away.

Greg McLaughlin, who runs the Chevron World Challenge, said he would consider a date change, though the options are limited.

“It’s a very ideal date for us, the first weekend in December, and it works well for the network, our sponsor and all the players,” he said. “We’d look at other options, but there’s really not many options around that time frame.”

This is where golf has to be careful.

It’s great to see the game moving around the world, especially with so many great players coming from so many countries. Sunday at the Masters was a snapshot of modern golf – players from every continent where golf is played atop the leaderboard at some point during the final round at Augusta National.

But it won’t work without cooperation.

The last two months of the year are busier than ever. Europe concludes its season in Asia with the Race to Dubai, Australia is in the prime of its season, Japan has some of its biggest events, and the World Cup is held every other year in China. Is there room for two World Golf Championships a month apart separated by 7,000 miles on opposite sides of the hemisphere?

Schwartzel said last week that while America is big, “the world is bigger.”

But the more golf grows around the world, the more crowded it gets.

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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.