Big Breaks Prange Wins Again on Futures Tour

By Futures Tour MediaJuly 2, 2006, 4:00 pm
Duramed Futures TourHAMMOND, Ind. -- Ashley Prange got her 'big break' back in May when she won The Golf Channel's 'Big Break V: Hawaii' TV show, but today, she added a second 2006 tournament win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour to her resume.
Prange won the $75,000 Horseshoe Casino FUTURES Golf Classic in her home state, carding rounds of 71-71-72 for a two-under-par total of 214 (-2) to edge runner-up Lori Atsedes of Ithaca, N.Y., at 215 (-1) at the water-surrounded Lost Marsh Golf Course. The fact that she passed up trying to qualify for this week's U.S. Women's Open Championship was a tactical move by Prange.
By winning the Tour's second tournament of the season in Tampa, Fla., back in March, Prange was exempt from local Open qualifying. She mailed in her check and application for the Open's sectional qualifying, but a week before the tournament and after careful consideration, she withdrew. Prange weighed the timing of this week's Indiana event with the overlapping date of the U.S. Women's Open.
In fact, 17 players missed this week's Tour event in Indiana because they competed in the Open. And six additional Tour members skipped the last two weeks of tournament play to film The Golf Channel's Big Break VI show in Los Angeles. Prange reasoned that if she planned to make a late-season charge on the Tour's money list, now was the time to do it with seven tournaments remaining and several players in the top 10 out of town.
'I knew I needed a good finish and I believed I could capitalize on a week when a lot of players were not here,' said Prange, 24, of Noblesville, Ind. 'My first and foremost goal right now is to get my LPGA Tour card by finishing in the top five on our money list.'
Prange's savvy planning and patient play this week allowed her to jump from No. 9 to No. 3 on the Tour's current money list with her winner's check of $10,500. And it gave her momentum on a tour where a little more than $1,500 separates No. 5 from No. 6 on the money list -- or to be more specific, the difference between earning a fully exempt 2007 LPGA Tour card and a pass to the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament.
It actually took the shock of missing the tournament cut during the same week that she won the Big Break V show to shake the former University of North Carolina All-American back to reality. After riding the crescendo of the popular TV show's win on a Tuesday night, Prange found herself walking around in the parking lot at the Tucson tournament on Saturday with tears in her eyes. Missing the 36-hole tournament cut was a blow to a newly elevated confidence level.
But it also was a warning to Prange that no matter what kind of perks and accolades she had been the recipient of, there was still business to take care of as a member of the Tour.
'I had to step back and be critical of myself and look at how I was preparing or not preparing for tournaments,' she said. 'Big Break V was two weeks out of my life, but to win out here takes all of the practice I've put in for my entire life. The show was an amazing experience and I'll take so much from that with me, but I still have the goal to make it to the next level and there are certain things I have to do to get there.'
A new venue for this Northwest Indiana tournament, presented by South Shore Sports Promotions, Lost Marsh posed numerous problems for the field with water hazards on all but two holes of the par-72, 6,245-yard tract that was once a waste by-products dump from nearby steel mills in Gary, Ind. The reclaimed land, which serves as an oasis in the middle of a highly industrial area and in view of the downtown Chicago skyline, demonstrated its tough side Saturday when winds blew up to 38 mph. The combination of high winds and abundant water hazards showed impatient players the gate early.
But Prange hung tough and stayed patient when the momentum seemed to swing in the favor of Atsedes, who held a two-shot lead after 12 holes in today's final round. The turning point came on No. 13. Prange pulled her drive left and hit a tree. Her ball landed in an area where she was allowed a free drop. From there, she knocked her shot to within three feet and tapped in to save par.
'That's when the momentum switched to Ashley,' said Atsedes, the veteran who owns six Tour wins. 'And I think having her dad on her bag today kept her where she needed to be.'
Prange birdied the 14th to draw even with Atsedes. And then Atsedes' approach into No. 15 kicked over the green and she failed to get up and down for par. Prange inched ahead with a one-shot lead on the 15th and never looked back.
Rookie In-Bee Park of Las Vegas fired a three-under-par final-round score of 69 to make a run at the lead, but finished third at even-par 216. Cortney Reno (74) of Grosse Ile, Mich., was at even par until she triple-bogeyed the last hole with a three-putt green to drop back into a tie for seventh at 219 (+3).
That left Prange only with the task of finishing what she started three rounds and 10 tournaments ago. She two-putted from 16 feet for par and earned her second season win.
'She got a little distracted for a while, but now Ashley's back on track,' said her dad Bob Prange, director of instruction at the Bridgewater Club in Westfield, Ind., and swing coach for his daughter. 'This validates that she has the ability to win and to win more regularly if the preparation level is correct.'
As for the younger Prange, winning at home in front of a home-state gallery was more than she had hoped for in a year that already has been full of highlights. And with a week off, followed by seven more events, Prange says she is recharged and ready to finish the 2006 season strong.
'Patience isn't one of my best virtues,' she said. 'But if I continue to work hard and prepare myself each week, I believe I'll continue to see results.'

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

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They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

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“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.