Song to Make Professional Debut in Lakeland
Making her professional debut in the tours first event in Lakeland will be teenager Naree Song, who at 17, will be the youngest tour member in 2004.
Song, now of Orlando, Fla., won the 2001 Kosaido Thailand Ladies Open as an amateur. Better known as Naree Song Wongluekiet -- one of the two Thai-Korean twin sisters who began playing LPGA Tour events by age 12 -- Naree will attempt to earn her LPGA Tour status this season to join sister Aree, who is playing the LPGA Tour.
The sisters each received special permission to play on their respective professional tours this year as 17-year-olds until their 18th birthday on May 1. Typically, the legal starting age for members of the LPGA and the Futures Tour is 18.
Duke University senior Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand will join the developmental tour following the NCAA Womens Golf Championship this spring.
Also joining the Futures Tour in 2004 will be: Becky Lucidi of Poway, Calif., the 2002 U.S. Womens Amateur Champion and a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. She is a former college teammate Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden, who won the individual title at the 2003 NCAA Womens Golf Championship as a member of the Southern Cal national champion team. Parmlid is both a non-exempt LPGA Tour and Futures Tour rookie.
Tri-medalists from the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament last November will also be among this years membership. They are: Summer Sirmons of Cuthbert, Ga., who played at the University of Georgia; Courtney Wood of Brentwood, Tenn., presently an amateur completing her senior season at Vanderbilt University; and Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea, the 2001 Korean Womens Amateur Champion.
The Futures Tours 24th season will feature an 18-tournament schedule that spans 15 states and begins in Florida, moves to the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, New England, then travels down the Eastern Seaboard to culminate Aug. 27-29, at the season-ending York Newspaper Company Futures Classic in York, Penn.
Once again, Futures Tour members will compete for five fully exempt LPGA Tour cards, which will be awarded to the top five players on the Futures Tour Money List at the conclusion of the York tournament. The cards will entitle top Futures players to compete as full members on the 2005 LPGA Tour.
In addition, Futures Tour members ranked sixth through 15th in season earnings at the conclusion of the York event will automatically advance into the LPGAs Final Qualifying Tournament in December. Last year, a total of 29 Futures Tour players earned LPGA Tour status, further demonstrating the tours designation as 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA.'
The Tour will compete for more than $1.2 million, with five tournaments increasing purse size by up to $10,000. Eight tournaments will offer purses of $70,000, giving the tour a record 10 of 18 tournaments at $70,000 or higher. Two tournaments -- the Isleta Casino & Resort Futures Gold Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., and the York tournament -- will offer a $75,000 purse.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."