Whan defends fifth major 'risk,' new Slam definition

By Randall MellAugust 4, 2015, 2:20 pm

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan says his designation that the Evian Championship would become the fifth major in women’s golf was good for the sport, and that there was a noble risk in making it a major, a risk that necessarily required that his tour create definitions for a Grand Slam and a Super Grand Slam.

Whan made an appearance on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive on Tuesday to defend the tour’s declaration that Inbee Park won the career Grand Slam by claiming the Ricoh Women’s British Open title on Sunday, giving her four of the five existing major titles in women’s golf. Golf Channel and the Associated Press recognizes a Grand Slam as a “sweep” of existing majors. Park has yet to win the Evian Championship as a major.

Whan says the LPGA recognizes winning four of five majors as a Grand Slam and will recognize winning all five as a Super Grand Slam. He defended the new designation saying all major sports make controversial changes that may meet initial resistance but make games better, like the designated hitter in baseball, the 3-point line and shot clock in basketball and moving the goalposts back in football.

“Sports can be paralyzed by the fear of change, because a lot of sports don’t change because, A –The backlash they’ll get in being able to make historical comparisons; And B – How will we be able to compare Babe Ruth to a player of today?” Whan said. “The reality of today is if you get paralyzed by that [fear] and don’t change, shame on you, because sports that get better are willing to take risks.”

Whan says breaking the tradition of four majors and declaring Evian a fifth major was designed to give women another big stage.

“At the end of the day, I don’t love the fact that the LPGA only gets all your attention a few big weeks a year,” Whan said. “I wish that wasn’t the case. I’m not crying foul. I get it. I understand viewership . . . We added a fifth major to make sure the 150 best female golfers on the planet got that kind of exposure. Was it going to make comparisons a little messier? Of course it was. Do other sports do that? Of course they do. We needed to make sure the world continued to watch.”

Whan said only winners of Evian after it was designated a major in 2013 will be recognized as having won it as a major. Park won it in 2012.

Whan said this new five-major dynamic requires changing historical context.

“We at the LPGA needed to create some definitions for achievement where we could make comparisons, historically, over the course of a career,” Whan said. “We realize it got weirder with five, and I realize a lot of fans have a different debate about five or not. When I was a fan before I was a commissioner, I would have said stay with four. I get it. It’s understandable. When you become a commissioner, your responsibility changes. My responsibility is to give these women the greatest possible stages I can.

“What happens with a fifth major? One more time a week, the entire world pays attention to women’s golf. It’s true, and as a result we have created this four versus five, but I think it’s a pretty simple answer.”

The simple answer, he said, is the LPGA will consider winning four majors still to be a Grand Slam and five to be a Super Grand Slam.

The LPGA’s definition of Grand Slam means a player could win the Grand Slam without winning the oldest and most prestigious championship in women’s golf, the U.S. Women’s Open. What does Whan think of that?

“I respect how people feel about the U.S. Women’s Open,” Whan said. “I share that feeling. It is an unbelievable event.

“I can’t believe other people believe that raising that trophy at Turnberry was somehow easier than raising the trophy at [Sebonack] when Inbee Park won the U.S. Women’s Open there? For me to say somebody wins four majors but she doesn’t win the U.S. Women’s Open, that she somehow has an asterisk on her major career? I find that, offensive is the wrong word, but I find that unfair.”

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x