LPGA only receives attention when controversy involved?

By Randall MellJuly 18, 2017, 6:54 pm

Did President Donald Trump help or hurt the U.S. Women’s Open?

At best, sparse galleries and weak TV ratings suggest his presence couldn’t overcome a weekend leaderboard devoid of American contenders.

Sports Media Watch reported the U.S. Women’s Open pulled a 0.6 overnight rating on Fox on Sunday, down 40 percent from last year, making it the lowest over-night final-round rating since at least 1996. Sports Media Watch reported that it is the first time in 15 years that the U.S. Women’s Open won’t be the most watched women’s golf event of the year. The KPMG Women’s PGA had better overnight Sunday ratings two weeks ago.

Anya Alvarez, a former LPGA pro turned writer who has played in U.S. Women’s Opens, penned a story for Good Sports on Monday examining the Trump factor.

“Some golf lovers saw it as an opportunity for women’s golf to receive more exposure,” she wrote. “Not quite. Women’s golf did not receive more exposure: It was Trump who stole the spotlight before the tournament began amid rumors that he would attend the tournament and present the trophy to the winner.

“In fact, there was no proof that more people tuned in to watch women’s golf simply because Trump would be there. Crowds actually looked considerably smaller than previous years, and several accounts from players and caddies fought the notion that somehow Trump would draw bigger crowds.”

Missy Pedersen, Brittany Lincicome’s caddie, provided Alvarez with anecdotal evidence.

“This is the 10th U.S. Open I have caddied and upon entering the merchandise tent I immediately noticed how small it is in comparison to previous years,” Pedersen said. “So I asked why? Eventually I was informed that the merchandise orders were driven by ticket sales. One can deduce that small merchandise orders equal small ticket sales. Once tournament play started there were very obvious voids in the gallery, so ticket sales did appear to be down.”

Pedersen said the small galleries left a big impression.

“So you are left to conclude that either Trump's presence had no impact or it in fact had a negative impact on women's golf,” Pedersen said.

Alvarez also outlined an “unfortunate pattern” where women’s golf seems only to receive its maximum interest when there is some sort of controversy attached, as there was when Lexi Thompson was penalized at the ANA Inspiration this past spring, when Suzann Pettersen was the focus of debate at the Solheim Cup two years ago and when Paulina Gretzky was placed on the cover of Golf Digest.

“Caring about the representation of women golfers can’t only come when it’s convenient to be outraged,” Alvarez wrote.

Notably, to Alvarez’s point, news leaking that the LPGA is imposing a stricter dress code garnered nearly as much media attention Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open as the championship did.

“While Trump stirred even non-golf fans to have an opinion about the Women’s U.S. Open this week, none of it matters in the end if women’s golf isn’t treated as a legitimate sport and not just when there is controversy to cover,” Alvarez wrote. “Now people will remember this as Trump’s U.S. Open, and the winner, Sung Hyun Park, will fall in his shadows.”

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.