Futures Tour Ready to Make History
With this much competition, it is uncertain what the 'future' will hold for each player, but the possibilities are endless. Take a look at whats in store this season:
The 2003 schedule is made up of 18 tournaments consisting of 14 events returning from last year, three inaugural tournaments and the 2003 Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament. The average purse for the 2003 season is over $66,000, up an average of $1,500 per event from last year.
Just recently, the tour named its last event to go on the schedule, the $65,000 Hunters Oak Futures Golf Classic near Baltimore, Md.. The event will be held Aug. 1-3, two weeks prior to the season-ending tournament. This is the final stretch of the race for a 2004 LPGA Tour card.
'Adding Maryland to our season schedule will enable us to gain exposure in another key market, reaffirming our tournament expansion strategy,' said Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the Futures Tour. 'The tour is committed to increasing awareness of our brand across the nation as well as our market share to complement the LPGA Tours overall goals for heightened exposure of the game at the local and national level.
'Our 2003 schedule, which includes the additions of a few ideal marketplaces, sets the stage for tremendous growth and awareness of the Futures Tour now and in years to come. We are positioning ourselves to expand to more communities that fit our goals and objectives.'
This is the first time in its history that the tour has traveled to Maryland and will be the 14th state visited on this seasons schedule. The Tour also expanded its schedule into two new markets, Tampa, Fla., and Merrillville, Ind.; the $65,000 Tampa Bays Next Generation Futures Golf Classic, April 4 ' 6, and the $65,000 Lake County Futures Golf Classic, May 22 ' 24, just 35 miles southeast of Chicago.
NEW TOURNAMENT TITLE SPONSOR CONNECTIONS
A record five new tournament title sponsors have signed on this year with local Futures Tour events. Most recently, International Outsourcing Services (IOS), a global outsourcing company, signed on to be the title sponsor of the Futures Tour stop in El Paso, Texas, May 2 ' 4. The new name of the event is the IOS Futures Golf Classic and it will have a purse of $70,000. Lima Memorial Hospital is now the title sponsor of the 10th anniversary tournament in Lima, Ohio, June 6 ' 8. The remaining three new title sponsors are Frye Chevrolet in Wichita, Kan., Bank of Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, Mich., and General Electric in Albany, N.Y.
'The 2003 season welcomes five new title sponsors and each one exemplifies the strong community and charity commitment that the Futures Tour seeks in these key sponsorships,' Calderon said. 'Their support ensures the viability of each of the tournaments and the financial success of the local charity. We are pleased to have them on board and look forward to be naming more in the future.'
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
Nine of the 14 tournament winners from the 2002 season will be returning this year; Sue Ginter-Brooker of Appleton, Wis., Lisa Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England, Linda Ishii of Los Angeles, Calif., Jaejean (Ro) Kang of Palo Alto, Calif., Joellyn Erdmann-Crooks of Little Chute, Wis., Liz Earley of St. Catharines, Ontario, Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, Mayumi Nakajima of Tokyo, Japan, and Michelle Murphy of Tacoma, Wash. Ginter-Brooker, Ishii, Earley, Jimin Kang, and Nakajima are also 2003 non-exempt members of the LPGA Tour.
DUAL TOUR CITIZENSHIP
At this time, the 2003 Futures Tour roster features 24 players with current non-exempt LPGA Tour status, including some of last years top-10 money winners Ginter-Brooker, Ishii, Michele Vinieratos of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Lisa Strom of Huntersville, N.C. Patti Rizzo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a four-time LPGA champion and the 1982 LPGA Rookie of the Year, will also compete on the Futures Tour this season. Other notable Futures Tour players on the LPGA Tour are Leigh Ann Mills of Coral Springs, Fla., Luciana Bemvenuti of Atlanta, Ga., and rookies Candy Hannemann of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Stacy Prammanasudh of Enid, Okla.
There are 77 newcomers on the Futures Tour this season and the rookie class is made up of 32 international players traveling from 15 different countries spanning the globe such as France, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, Ecuador, Mexico, Taiwan, Iceland, Canada and the Czech Republic. Last years Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament co-medalist Soo Young Moon of Keumsan, Korea, is also included in the rookie group. Moon, who earned non-exempt LPGA Tour status for the upcoming season, plans on competing on both Tours this year as a rookie. Other new players include: Caroline Goasguen of Montpellier, France, Marcela Leon Guerra of Monterrey, Mexico, and amateur Olof Maria Jonsdottir of Hafnarfijordur, Iceland.
LPGA ROOKIE CLASS
Of the total 24 LPGA Tour rookies this season, 15 players are current Futures Tour members or alumnae. Included in that number are Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Christina Kim of San Jose, Calif., two of last years LPGA Tour card winners through the Futures Tour. Ochoa recorded three victories and five other top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments last year and finished first on the Futures Tour Money List to earn her exempt LPGA card. The Mexican golf prodigy has already negotiated endorsement deals of more than $1 million per year, an extraordinary accomplishment for a player who has yet to play in an LPGA event as a LPGA Tour member.
The 18-year-old Kim, who fell $242 short of Ochoa on the Tours money list with $53,460, will be the youngest player competing on the LPGA Tour this season. Last year as a rookie on the Futures Tour, she posted 12 top-10 finishes including one win and four runner-up finishes. Also joining Ochoa and Kim on the LPGA is Miriam Nagl of Berlin, Germany, who won the final 2003 LPGA exempt card by finishing third on the Futures Tours Money List. She will enjoy her second year on the LPGA Tour, but this time as an exempt player.
Formerly known as the Tampa Bay Mini Tour, the Futures Tour, 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA,' has become the largest international developmental tour and second largest womens golf tour in the world. Since 1989, Futures Tour events have raised more than $2.65 million for charitable organizations. Throughout its 23-year history, membership has increased from approximately 150 players from North America to over 300 players from 26 different countries today. For the fifth straight season, the top-three players on the 2003 Futures Tour Money List will receive an automatic exemption for the 2004 LPGA Tour. There are more than 180 alumnae currently competing on the LPGA Tour and through 2002, they represent a total of 244 LPGA victories including 27 major championships. The Futures Tour is committed to developing the skills and dreams of women golfers, establishing role models for youth and creating the LPGA stars of tomorrow.
Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins
An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.
It was too much “socializing.”
“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”
Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.
“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”
Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.
His plan for doing that?
“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”
McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018
Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.
So much for easing into the new year.
So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.
McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.
“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”
McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.
If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.
After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.
“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.
“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”
A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.
A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.
Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.
To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.
Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.
McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.
“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.
A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.
“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”
A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.
Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open
SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.
The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.
Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.
Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.
''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''
The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.
''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''
Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.
''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.
Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.
He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.
Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.
Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.
He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.
Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”