Wie women's hottest player, but not in International Crown

By Randall MellJune 26, 2014, 3:26 pm

Michelle Wie’s victory Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open comes with a lot of perks, but a berth on the American team for the International Crown next month isn’t one of them.

Given the dominant run she is on this year, Wie’s participation could bring enormous attention to the new international team event, an Olympic-style competition that will pit eight nations against each other July 24-27 at Caves Valley outside Baltimore, Md.

The eight nations who earned berths were set on Nov. 21, before the last event of the 2013 season. Qualifying to see which four individuals made each team was set on March 31, with the release of the Rolex world rankings following the conclusion of the Kia Classic.

The top four Americans who made the team (and their rankings at the time) were: Stacy Lewis (No. 3), Paula Creamer (No. 8), Lexi Thompson (No. 9) and Cristie Kerr (No. 12). Wie was No. 38 in the world at that time, making her just the 10th-highest ranked American in the world.

Wie moved to No. 7 in the world with her U.S. Women’s Open victory, making her the third-highest ranked American woman today, behind Lewis (No. 1) and Thompson (No. 5). The only way Wie could still make the International Crown is as an alternate, but she’s the sixth alternate for the United States.

It begs a question: Why did the LPGA end individual qualifying so early in the year, almost four months out in front of the event? If qualifying had ended after the U.S. Women’s Open, the most important event of the LPGA season, the drama surrounding qualifying would have added spice to earlier events, and allowed somebody like Wie to make the team with a hot run.

Give Dottie Pepper credit, she questioned the early qualification way back on Jan. 22 in an article for ESPNW.

“This simply is too early and does not assure that those playing the best golf will be representing their countries when the Crown rolls around,” Pepper wrote. “This is like Tom Watson having to finalize his Ryder Cup team, which doesn't compete until late September, somewhere around Memorial Day.”

So why did qualifying end so early?

“It’s a good question,” Heather Daly-Donofrio, LPGA senior vice president of tour operations, told GolfChannel.com. “With the International Crown a new event, without team captains, and with the four players determining everything themselves, we wanted to give players a level of comfort with the logistics, with planning their schedules, given the global nature of the event.

“In wanting to make sure the inaugural event was the best it could be, we thought making the cutoff early would help players get comfortable preparing for the event, and help educate players and fans about the event. There are so many unknowns in putting on a first-time global event like this, in juggling eight teams, getting uniforms and everything else ready.”

Daly-Donofrio said the qualifying times would be addressed once the inaugural event concludes and is evaluated by tour staff.

“Once you’ve gone through the event the first time, you have a better understanding what lead times are needed,” Daly-Donofrio said. “After the event, we will discuss any tweaks we think are needed.”

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.