LPGA pushes back International Crown qualifying dates

By Randall MellAugust 31, 2015, 5:49 pm

Michelle Wie began riding a hot streak at the wrong time in 2014.

Well, for the purposes of playing in the inaugural International Crown, her run of stellar play came at the wrong time. It came too late. Wie didn’t make the American team that played in that first biennial international team event because the countries and players were named months before the competition was staged, before Wie got hot and won twice.

The LPGA is hoping its new deadlines for qualifying for the 2016 UL International Crown will better accommodate players who get hot leading into the competition. On Monday, the tour announced it is moving team and player qualifying deadlines much closer to the staging of the event.

“The dates for both the countries and players to qualify for the 2016 UL International Crown were moved closer to the event in an effort to deliver the top countries and to allow the players who are playing the best golf closest to tournament time to take part,” LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement.

The second International Crown will be played July 21-24 of next year at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago. The eight countries that qualify based on the world-rankings formula will be determined on April 4, after the completion of the LPGA’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. The four players who qualify from each country will be determined by the world rankings on June 13, after the completion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

The teams for next year’s UL International Crown will be named five months later than they were for the inaugural event, and the players will be named two-and-a-half months later than last year.

The teams for the inaugural International Crown were named at the end of the 2013 season. The players were named three days before the Kraft Nabisco, the year’s first major.

The LPGA had reasons for seeking to name countries and players so much in advance. With so many international players involved, the tour sought to secure the advance scheduling of top players who were eligible. Also, early deadlines allowed more lead time to market an event with no history.

Spain won the inaugural International Crown at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari teamed for the victory. Australia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United States and Thailand also competed.

The top eight countries that qualify are determined by the combined world rankings of a country’s top four players. Once the teams are set, individual qualifying continues within the ranks of qualifying countries.

In 2014, Wie was No. 37 in the Rolex rankings when the American International Crown team was determined. She was the 10th highest ranked American at that time. Six days after the team was named, she finished runner up at the Kraft Nabisco. Two weeks after that, she won the Lotte Championship. She won the U.S. Women’s Open a month after that. Based on the new qualifying dates, Wie would have made the American team, even if the cutoff was the week before she won the U.S. Women’s Open.

The LPGA made its new qualifying dates public during a news conference Monday at Rich Harvest Farms. The tour also announced that Constellation is joining Rolex and Calamos Investments as the third ambassador-level sponsor of the event.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

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."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.