Women on the PGA Tour Debate Continues

By Golf Channel NewsroomDecember 5, 2003, 5:00 pm
Should women be allowed to play beside the men in PGA Tour events? Its a real conversation point ' some say yes, some say no, but almost everyone at the RBS Presents The State of the Game had an opinion.

The panel of guests will debut on The Golf Channel Friday Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. The panel of golf's most influential personalities present a compelling look at the current state of the game and the decisive headlines that have golf poised for one of the brightest futures in the world of sports.
I dont see Marion Jones running the 100 meters against the world champion men's runner, said Ernie Els in a video clip shown to the panel. I dont see the (woman) shot putter going against the mens shot putter. I dont see the women jumping against the mens high jumper.
I feel like its going to take something away from their tour if their stars arent playing on their tour, said Hank Kuehne. Kuehnes sister, Kelli, is a regular on the LPGA Tour.
Suzy Whaley, who qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a PGA of America sectional tournament, defended the women who have branched out to play in mens tournaments this year.
I think for me ' and for most women ' we are not looking to play on the PGA Tour, she said. Thats not Annikas (Sorenstam) intent ' I dont think. Having me play, having Annika play, having Michelle (Wie) play, put womens golf for the first time on the front page, on television. It brought an awareness that it desperately needed.
David Pillsbury, who is with Nike Golf, agreed wholeheartedly. It was fantastic (Sorenstam playing at the Bank of America Colonial), he said. It electrified the whole country. How could that have not been one of the greatest events this year in sports?
Jack Nicklaus saw a parallel with international players who tried in past years to play the PGA Tour. (It was said) theyre cherry-picking, theyre doing that, that and the other, said Nicklaus.
'Today, the sponsor gets a certain number of exemptions to help his tournament in any way he sees fit. And if its giving Suzy or Annika or whomever an exemption that helps their tournament and promotes the game of golf ' and they bring along their golf clubs and play - let them play!
Whenever I hear someone complain about it, I say, Hey! Go play better. If youre worried about someone beating you, go play better!
Panelist John Cook offered a somewhat differing thought. What Suzy did ' and what Annika did ' was great, said Cook. What Annika did ' shes the best at what she does and she promoted the game to an absolute, out-of-this-world place that it can go.
The problem is, do you give these people places to play? Tiger Woods earned his way on the PGA Tour If anybody wants to come out and try to qualify, I have no problem with that. The problem is, if it gets to a point where the gals are playing all the time and they are not really performing ' and I hate to say this because I have no problem with the gals playing if they are gonna perform and going to compete.
But at what point does it stop being a novelty act instead of someone being competitive?
Ruffin Beckwith of the PGA Tour said that, with 23 percent of Americas golfers now women, one must acknowledge that women represent a real future of the game.
But I am less enamored with a 13-year-old (Wie, now 14) being exploited and playing in some mens event than I am with Annika and Suzy, said Beckwith.
Greg Hopkins, president and CEO of Cleveland Golf, agreed. I think its wrong, said Hopkins.
I think its wrong for sponsors of the tournaments to participate in that. It was wrong. Its different for that young lady over there (referring to Whaley) and Annika, than it is for a 13-year-old girl. Let her mature. Let her learn the game and leave her alone.
Whaley, though, emphatically disagreed.
Its been nice to have a junior icon for my young women in my LPGA USA girls golf, said Whaley ' a teaching pro as well as a head pro in Connecticut. They think shes the coolest thing ever ' and golf is cool, because of Tiger, because of the Michelles.
Thirteen is VERY young. Ive met her, Ive met her family, theyre delightful people. I think they are in an extremely hard situation. . Shes unbelievably talented. If you watch this young girl hit a golf ball, shes a phenom!
Whaley agreed, though, that Wie should not play mens tour events at this age. I think she should enjoy high school, I think she should enjoy her friends, I think she should play very high level competitive golf.
Is that on the mens tour? Possibly no, not right now. But in the future, I could see her playing some mens events on the PGA Tour, she said.
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.