Norman Says Bring On the Ladies
A couple of years ago, Norman was roundly criticized for saying that the Sony Opens decision to invite Michelle Wie was a marketing ploy. Was this an indication that he feels no women should play in any mens event? No way, says Greg.
He tackled the subject last week at his own personal event, the Franklin-Templeton Shootout. Had Norman and the tournament organizers ever thought about inviting a woman ' or women ' to be among the 24 players included in the field?
Norman was quite exuberant about the issue ' We have, actually. Weve talked about it. And Im all for that, he said.
The Franklin-Templeton has room for nine exemptions in its field, along with the three top available players from the current money list, the top 10 players available from the career money list, and the defending pair. Greg was unclear whether he would use one of his nine exemptions to invite a woman. And thats where this issue gets a little tricky.
Norman, you see, believes women should get to play with the men only when they qualify, either by getting a Q-School card or qualifying for the event. He doesnt specify what should happen to an event where there are such a large number of exemptions ' his own, by the way. But the fact that he feels women should be allowed to play at all is eye-opening.
Ive always been consistent in saying Im not a big fan of handing out special exemptions, Greg explained. And why not? Its a bit of a PR marketing deal - I think thats unfair on the membership of organizations. Because youve got to look out for your constituents. And thats priority Number 1.
And so Im being consistent in saying Im not a supporter of it (inviting women) that way. But Ive always been consistent saying if they could qualify, come on out there and play with us.
Normans event, naturally, is not a tour event. Greg would like for it to become one some day, though Tim Finchems actions last week led Norman to believe that his event has slipped further and further away from that goal.
But - Norman believes a woman has every right to come try to qualify for a tour event. And she has every right to play if she qualifies.
If they qualify ' like whats happening at the British Open ' if they want to come and qualify through the regular routine and regular system, if theyre good enough to play against us through qualifying, great! he said. I think what the R&A has done is fantastic ' it is an open championship.
But Michelle Wie? I hope she does do it. Because we need to put a little bit of life back into the game of golf on a global basis. And if its Michelle Wie pulling in the golfers, great! And if she has the ability to go qualify on the PGA Tour or the British Open or qualify for whatever ' great!
It sounds a little confusing, admittedly. But Norman being so enthusiastic about a woman teeing it up is huge ' even if he places a rather large asterisk in front of it.
We have talked about it, he reiterates.
But you have to make sure again the right steps are put in place. Youve got to make sure the sponsors are happy with it. Its not just me saying, OK, thats a great idea. Its a domino effect all the way through. And youve got to make sure that doesnt happen, a ripple effect somewhere else.
So we make sure we canvass everybody. It is an open conversation point. And it is something we have discussed in the past. And well continue discussing it as well.
I predict that Norman will extend an invitation to Wie, Annika Sorenstam or Paula Creamer. And I think he will do so in the next couple of years. Sorenstam is averaging only 264 yards per drive, good enough for third on the LPGA, very short by mens standards but long enough to at least be in the ball game at Gregs event if she can stay in the fairway. Wie would probably average around 270.
And Franklin-Templeton? The sponsor would undoubtedly be overjoyed. If Greg gives his OK ' and thats still a rather large if at the moment ' expect to see a female in the near future.
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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."