Players Rebuff Stephensons Remarks
'She has her own opinion. I just don't like the fact she picked on Asians and I'm Asian,' Park said. 'She should come and play with me. I have great emotions. She made her points and if that's how she feels, well. ... Everybody has their own opinions and Jan stated her own and that's what was published.'
Stephenson's comments appear in an article in the November edition of 'Golf Magazine,' due out Tuesday.
'This is probably going to get me in trouble, but the Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it,' she told the magazine. 'Their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English when they can speak English. They rarely speak.
'We have two-day pro-ams where people are paying a lot of money to play with us, and they say, 'Hello and goodbye.' Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. They've taken it over.'
Annika Sorenstam, the world's No. 1 player, called the comments 'pathetic.'
'Jan has done a lot for this tour, and I think the tour has done a lot for her,' Sorenstam told the Houston Chronicle. 'We have a lot to be thankful for out here. It's not just a single person's effort. This tour has grown. I think the LPGA is stronger than ever, and I think as an international member it's important to have international players because it shows this is a world tour.
'I totally disagree with what she said. It's sad that it was said, and I enjoy playing with Se Ri [Pak]. All the Asian players have done a lot for the tour and raised the level of golf, which is why we're here. It's pretty much a pathetic comment.'
Four of the top six money winners on the LPGA Tour are Asians, and Koreans have as many wins this year (six) as American players. Take into account the three wins by Taiwan's Candie Kung and Asians have won nine tournaments this year.
'Part of it I think is true, but we have a lot of sponsorships from Asia, like Samsung, but with the language barrier, a few of us have that problem,' Kung told the Chronicle. 'That's because we're coming from a different country. I'm not worrying about it that much.'
Stephenson, who for years has said the LPGA should use sex as a marketing weapon, also said lesbians on the tour are harmful.
'I used to get teased by the girls that I didn't need a woman problem because I always had a man problem,' she said. 'They never really bothered me, because they knew I was straight. Society is more open now about gay relationships, but it does hurt the tour. It hurts with sponsors. But if you had two gorgeous girls who were gay, I don't think that would hurt.'
Fellow Aussie Rachel Teske told the paper that the comments were disappointing because the LPGA has battled those issues for years.
'We have great players out here, and all the girls on tour are playing so much better and so well,' she said. 'It doesn't matter where you come from. The girls from Korea and Asia actually bring a lot of strength to our tour because diversity is one of our strengths.'
Pak, who led the World Championship after Friday's round, was noncommittal, saying she doesn't believe Stephenson meant what she said.
'There are a lot of talented players coming from all different kinds of countries,' Pak said. 'The LPGA is getting better. I think it's a better thing for the LPGA.'
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.