Bracket Set for 'Round of 16' at Volvik World Long Drive Championship, Tonight at 9 p.m. ET in Primetime, Under the Lights on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 5, 2017, 2:55 pm

Seven of Top-10 in World Long Drive Rankings Among 16 Competitors Vying for Championship Belt at WinStar World Casino and Resort

Tonight’s Telecast Also to Feature Mixed-Team Event Showcasing Four Men Paired with the Four Women Advancing to Tomorrow Night’s Semifinals

THACKERVILLE, OKLA. (Sept. 5, 2017) – The stage is set for 16 of the longest hitters in golf to convene live and in primetime under the lights, beginning tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel at the 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Championship from WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The first of back-to-back nights on Golf Channel, tonight’s telecast will feature the eight Round of 16 matches in the Open (Men’s Division), along with a mixed-team (Open/Women’s Divisions) format. Tomorrow night, the 2017 World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season will culminate in primetime with competitors vying for the title of World Champion and the coveted winner’s belts.

OPEN DIVISION (MEN’S) ROUND OF 16 MATCHES:

(1) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (16) Wes Patterson (St. Louis, Mo.)

(8) Kevin Shook (Bradenton, Fla.) vs. (9) Mitch Grassing (Ottawa, Ont., Canada)

(4) Tim Burke (Orlando, Fla.) vs. (13) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

(5) Trent Scruggs (Hickory, N.C.) vs. (12) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

(2) Justin James (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) vs. (15) Bobby Bradley (Wellington, Fla.)

(7) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.) vs. (10) Steve Monroe (Clearwater, Fla.)

(3) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (14) Josh Cassaday (Denver, Colo.)

(6) Joe Miller (London, England) vs. (11) Nick Kiefer (Chicago, Ill.)

The Women’s Division preliminary rounds are taking place today, and fans can follow live scoring in real-time here. The four semifinalists on the Women’s side will take part in tomorrow night’s telecast beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Phillis Meti is looking to defend her 2016 World title, alongside 2017 event winners Chloe Garner and Troy Mullins, in addition to four-time former World Champion Sandra Carlborg.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Championship will air from 9-11 p.m. ET tonight and tomorrow (Wednesday). Golf Central will preview live event coverage both nights, with a special one hour pre-game show analyzing the matchups, which also will include interviews with those in the field preparing to compete.

PURSE: A $270,000 purse will be paid out among those advancing to the Round of 16 in the Open Division, with the winner receiving $125,000. In the Women’s Division, those advancing to the quarterfinals will earn a portion of the $40,000 purse, with the winner receiving $20,000: (Open: 1st – $125,000; 2nd – $50,000; 3rd/4th – $19,500; 5th-8th – $7,000; 9th-16th – $3,500; Women’s: 1st – $20,000; 2nd – $8,000; 3rd/4th – $3,000; 5th-8th – $1,500).

PRODUCTION: The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize nine dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera along with two crane-positioned cameras (one directly behind the tee box and the other stationed in the landing area) that will track the ball from the moment it leaves the competitor’s clubface until it comes to rest. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Top Tracer technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracking drives from the moment of impact.

BROADCAST TEAM: Golf Channel’s Bob Papa will handle play-by-play duties, while 2012 PGA Professional Teacher of the Year and host of The Golf Fix – Michael Breed – will serve as analyst, and Jerry Foltz will handle interviews. Art Sellinger – long-drive pioneer, two-time national long-drive champion and founder of the Long Drivers of America – also will be on hand to provide an analyst perspective and offer additional background on the competitors. Additionally, Golf Channel reporter Chantel McCabe will be on-site for Golf Central, offering reports and conducting interviews with competitors prior to and following live event coverage.

COLT FORD STAGING CONCERT ON-SITE TOMORROW:Renowned musician, Colt Ford, will be on-site at WinStar’s golf facility tomorrow, Sept. 6 to perform a special (free) concert for those attending the competition. The band will perform a handful of songs prior to the competition getting underway, and will resume with a full performance immediately following the completion of the event later in the evening.

CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT: The Open Division competition will be contested through a single-elimination bracket, narrowing to the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals to ultimately determine a winner. The Women’s Division also will utilize a single-elimination match play format for the semifinals and finals. Competitors in each match will compete head-to-head in two alternating 90-second sets with an opportunity to hit four balls in each set.

Tonight’s telecast also will introduce a new team format, with the top-four in the Women’s Division – who will compete in Wednesday night’s semifinal matches – being paired with the four highest-ranked men in the Open Division not having advanced from the Round of 32: Maurice Allen (No. 1), Tommy Hug (No. 8), Jason Eslinger (No. 13) and Jeff Flagg (No. 19). The four, two-person “mixed” teams will face off in a match play bracket format that will use the aggregate yardage of each team member’s longest drive in the set versus that of their opponent’s aggregate yardage.

2017 WLDA SEASON RECAP: The Volvik World Long Drive Championship serves as the culmination of the 2017 WLDA season that already has produced a number of dramatic moments, led by the two televised events, along with several other events over the course of the past several months, including:

 

Date

Event

Location

Winner   (Open)

Winner   (Women’s)

April    23

East Coast   Classic

West   Columbia, S.C.

Tim Burke

 

May 20

WinStar   Midwest Slam

Thackerville,   Okla.

Landon   Gentry

 

May 27

New Zealand   Championship

Christchurch,   New Zealand

Sam Jones

 

June 6

Clash in   the Canyon**

Mesquite,   Nev.

Ryan   Reisbeck

Chloe   Garner

June 25

Bluff City   Shootout

Memphis,   Tenn.

Justin   James

 

July 8

Rockwell   Blast

West   Bountiful, Utah

Glenn   Wilson Jr.

 

July 16

Bash for   Cash

Port   Robinson, Ont. (Canada)

Justin   James

 

July 25

Mile High   Showdown**

Denver,   Colo.

Maurice   Allen

Troy   Mullins

July 30

Japan   (Tokyo) Championship

Shizuoka,   Japan

Kimihiro   Minamide

Chika   Kobayashi

August 4

U.K.   Championship

Enstone,   England

Dan Konyk

Ilona   Stubley

August 6

Catawba   Classic

Newton,   N.C.

Maurice   Allen

 

August 14

Japan   (Iwaki) Championship

Iwaki,   Japan

Naoto   Misumi

Kaori Saito

(**signifies televised event on Golf Channel)

For more information, visit www.worldlongdrive.com.

ABOUT WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION

The World Long Drive Association is an organization that brings together golf’s longest hitters from around the globe. Emerging as one of golf’s most popular grass roots competitions, sanctioned Long Drive events are open to amateur and professional golfers. With an Open Division, Women’s Division and Masters Division (Ages 45+), the 2017 WLDA season consists of events across the United States and around the world, culminating with the Volvik World Long Drive Championship Sept 1-6, from WinStar World Casino and Resort (Thackerville, Okla.,) where competitors will convene under the lights for the world title on Golf Channel.

ABOUT WINSTAR WORLD CASINO AND RESORT

As the world’s largest casino by number of gaming positions, WinStar World Casino and Resort offers more than 7,400 electronic games, 97 table games and 46 poker tables. The Resort also boasts a 3,500-seat entertainment venue – the Global Event Center – as well as nearly 1,500 luxury hotel rooms, a 36-hole championship golf course and state-of-the-art Golf Academy. Located just north of the Oklahoma/Texas border along Interstate 35, WinStar World Casino and Resort presents unrivaled gaming action 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, world-class entertainers and a vibrant culinary scene with 17 diverse restaurants for guests to explore.

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”

For Ariya, Lexi, finish was fabulous, frustrating

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 12:47 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lexi Thompson can take a punch.

You have to give her that.

So can Ariya Jutanugarn, who beat Thompson in the gut-wrenching conclusion to the CME Group Tour Championship Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

They both distinguished themselves overcoming adversity this season.

The problem for Thompson now is that she’ll have to wait two months to show her resolve again. She will go into the long offseason with the memory of missing a 2-foot putt for par that could have won her the championship, her first Rolex Player of the Year Award and her first Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Thompson took home the CME Globe $1 million jackpot and Vare Trophy for low scoring as nice consolation prizes, but the Sunday finish was a lot like her season.

It was so close to being spectacular.

She was so close to dominating this year.

That last 2-foot putt Sunday would have put Thompson in the clubhouse at 15 under, with a one-shot lead, which would have added so much more pressure to Jutanugarn as she closed out.

Instead of needing to birdie the final two holes to force a playoff, Jutanugarn only needed to birdie one of them to assure extra holes. She went birdie-birdie anyway.

Thompson was on the practice putting green when she heard the day’s last roar, when Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-foot birdie to beat her.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” Thompson said of the short miss. “I don’t really know what happened there. It just happens. I guess it’s golf.”


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Thompson was asked if the weight of everything at stake affected her.

“No, honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it,” she said. “I putted great the whole day. I guess, maybe, there was just a little bit of adrenaline.

“We all go through situations we don’t like sometimes.”

Thompson endured more than she wanted this year.

She won twice, but there were six second-place finishes, including Sunday’s. There were three losses in playoffs.

There was the heart-wrenching blow at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, when she looked as if she were going to run away with the title before getting blindsided by a four-shot penalty in the final round. There were two shots when a viewer email led to a penalty for mismarking her ball on a green in the third round, and two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Thompson was in tears finishing that Sunday at Mission Hills, but she won a legion of new fans in the way she fought back before losing in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

There was more heartache later in the spring, when Thompson’s mother, Judy, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, requiring surgery to remove a tumor and then radiation.

For Thompson fans, Sunday’s missed 2-foot putt was a cruel final blow to the year.

This time, there were no tears from Lexi afterward.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds . . . it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said. “This won’t either.”

After Thompson bounced back from the ANA loss to win the Kingsmill Invitational in May, she acknowledged how the loss motivated her.

“I'm as determined as any other person out here,” Thompson said. “We all want to win. I have a little bit more drive now.”

She was so close this year to elevating herself as the one true rock star in the women’s game. She will have a long offseason to turn Sunday’s disappointment into yet more fuel to get there.

Thompson will prepare for next year knowing Jutanugarn may be ramping her game back up to dominante, too.

Jutanugarn looked as if she were going to become a rock star after winning five times last year to claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and then rising to No. 1 with a victory at the Manulife Classic back in May, but it didn’t happen.

Jutanugarn struggled through a summer-long slump.

She failed to make a cut in six of seven starts. It wasn’t as miserable a slump as she endured two years ago, when she missed 10 consecutive cuts, but it was troubling.

“Even though I played so badly the last few months, I learned a lot,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m growing up a lot, and I’m really ready to have some fun next year.”

Her surgically repaired shoulder was bothering her again, but it was more than that.

“This time it was more about becoming No. 1,” said Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “I think all of the responsibilities got to her.”

Gilchrist said he could see a different focus in Jutanugarn this week. He credited Vision 54s Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott for helping her deal with all the pressure that has mounted with her growing status.

“It’s been a long process,” Nilsson said. “She’s felt too much expectation from everybody else, where she loses focus on what she can do.”

Marriott said they asked Jutanugarn to come up with something she wanted to do to make herself proud this week, instead of worrying about what would please everyone else.

It worked.

“I told my caddie, Les [Luark], that thinking about the No. 1 ranking wasn’t going to help me be a better golfer,” Jutanugarn said. “I wanted people to say, `Oh this girl, she’s really happy.’ That was my goal, to have fun.”

Late Sunday, hoisting the trophy, Jutanugarn looked like she was having a lot of fun.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.