What We Learned: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Bailey MosierFebruary 24, 2013, 11:55 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Matt Kuchar's win in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, whether the tournament should remain at Dove Mountain despite problems this week with snow, and Ariya Jutanugarn's heartbreaking loss in the Honda LPGA Thailand.

I’m not going to make any major proclamation about Matt Kuchar soon becoming a major champion. If there’s any bad news for this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship winner, it’s that only two of the previous 14 winners of this event followed it with a major title later in the year. (That would be Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 and Tiger Woods in ’08.) So even though Kuchar vaulted himself into The Masters conversation on Sunday, it would be too narrow-minded to declare him on the verge of earning major hardware. Instead, I’ll use this opportunity to celebrate one of the more fascinating careers of the current era. Kuchar was, of course, a highly ranked amateur, making the cut in three of five majors before turning pro. He won in his first full PGA Tour season, but the train to superstardom soon derailed, as Kuchar found himself back on the Nationwide Tour just seven years ago. At that point, it was hard to picture the once heralded phenom as an elite player, but that’s exactly what he’s become, winning a top-level tourney in each of the past three seasons. Kuchar is still searching for that elusive first major, but his journey toward becoming one of the best without one deserves to be celebrated. – Jason Sobel


I initially favored the anchored putter ban when the U.S. Golf Association proposed it last November, but after hearing PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem speak Sunday at Dove Mountain, I may be changing my tune.

'If there’s one thing that prevailed across a lot of players and a lot of our board members was that, (anchored putters have) been around for a generation, and the game of golf has done quite well … Most players are saying, 'Without a significant upside and no competitive advantage, let’s don’t do it,'' Finchem relayed.

In so many words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However the ruling plays out, I give major kudos to Finchem and members of the PGA Tour for heavily weighing the pros and cons of the issue, and for taking a stand for what they believe. It made me change my stance, and who knows ... perhaps it will have a similar effect on the USGA. – Bailey Mosier


The Match Play needs a new home in 2015. This was painfully obvious before the freak snowstorm that hit the high desert last week. For years players have grumbled about the greens at Dove Mountain, which feature myriad humps and mounds. The isolated location isn’t ideal. The course is never jammed with spectators. The weather is too unpredictable, with snow, of all things, two of the past three years. If the PGA Tour doesn’t want to put the “world” back in the World Golf Championships – and move the Match Play to Brazil or South Africa, for instance – how about sending the 64-man event to Las Vegas? Or maybe Puerto Rico? You know, some place where it won’t snow in late February. – Ryan Lavner


There's yet another teen phenom ready to challenge the world's best women.

Despite Ariya Jutanugarn's heartbreaking stumble losing the Honda LPGA Thailand at the 72nd hole Sunday, the 17-year-old Thai joined 15-year-old Lydia Ko as the most compelling storylines in the LPGA's first two events of the 2013 season. Jutanugarn lost her bid to become the first Thai to win an LPGA event and the third youngest player to win on that tour, but she scripted a riveting tale doing so. It is remarkable how the women's game consistently delivers these precocious talents.

Two years ago, Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 16. Last year, Ko topped her, winning the CN Canadian Women's Open at 15. Ko took a share of the final-round lead  into the LPGA season opener in Australia last week before fading.

It's all enough to make Michelle Wie feel old at 23. – Randall Mell

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.