Is This the Year for the Euros

By Mercer BaggsJune 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
Sergio Garcia wasnt born the last time a European player won the U.S. Open. He was still about 10 years in the making when Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine in 1970. And even Jacklin wasnt born when the last European prior to him won the Open ' Tommy Armour in 1927.
Garcia is at a loss for words when trying to explain why this is ' why the men that comprise his native continent cannot conquer this American major.
In fact, he doesnt really offer an explanation.
I dont know, is the extent of the 24-year-old Spaniards answer. Truth be told, this type of history doesnt really interest him. And why should it? At his age youre not really worried about the failures of others in the past, just the possibility of achievement by yourself in the future.
But there is European history in the U.S. Open. And its not pretty.
Over the last decade, Europeans as a whole have barely been competitive in the U.S. Open, let alone contended for the title.
From 1994 to 1999 no more than one European-born player finished inside the top 10 each year. And with the exception of Colin Montgomerie, who lost in a playoff in 94 and finished one back in 97, no European came within four strokes of the winner during that time frame.
Four Europeans managed to crack the top 10 in 2000, but none got within 14 shots of runaway champion Tiger Woods.
After getting shut out of the top 10 in 2001, three Europeans made it on the inside in 02, and another three in 03.
Maybe theyre getting closer. Maybe its because many of the top European players are more active in the U.S. With the advent of the World Golf Championships ' an anomaly in name since most of the WGC events are contested in the U.S. ' in 1999, Europes best have had greater opportunity and more incentive to make the cross-continental trip.
Last year, Fredrik Jacobson, Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington finished inside the top 10 at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. All set a career high in U.S. starts that year, as well; and all should equal or surpass those Stateside totals in 04.
I believe it does help, yes, Rose said of the correlation to playing in America and major success. Thats why I played a long run before the Masters (where he held the 36-hole lead), and thats why Im playing (in the U.S.) right before the U.S. Open.
Jesper Parnevik has been a PGA Tour regular since 1994, and has all-but abandoned his native European Tour. Still, his extensive play on this side of the Atlantic hasnt translated to achievement in the U.S. Open, where he has zero top-10s in seven starts. Hes not in the field this year, as he failed to qualify.
By contrast, he has a pair of runner-up finishes in the British Open, as well as three other top-10s.
He says the explanation is simple: fairways vs. flair.
When you come from Europe, were more used to more aggressive style of play, go for the pins ' its not as penalizing over there. And then you go to the U.S. Open and hit one bad shot and triple bogey. You go, Wow! What just happened here? Parnevik said.
The only thing I miss in a U.S. Open is it completely takes away your imagination. Because if you miss (the fairway) you can just chop it out ' theres nothing you can do about it. You cant create anything if you miss a shot. No flamboyant golfer has a chance to win anymore.
Maybe this year, at Shinnecock, will be different.
Parnevik shares a growing belief among many that this may be the end to the Europeans 33-year winless drought in the seasons second major.
After all, Shinnecock is not the traditional tree-lined Open layout, but rather a links-style venue where the elements will factor the way they do in the British Open.
It could possibly be suited for Europeans more so than a normal U.S. Open course, Rose said of Shinnecock. But saying that, we havent done particularly well in the (British) Open either.
Very true.
While Europeans have failed to taste victory in the U.S. Open, Americans continue to drink freely from the Claret Jug. Theyve won seven of the last nine British Opens, while only one European has won since 1992.
That one European was Paul Lawrie in 1999. In fact, his Open triumph was the last major victory for any European ' in any major.
I don't think there's a problem with it, said Harrington, who has five career top-10 finishes in major championships, including three in the last four years at the U.S. Open.
I think these things go in cycles. I think we have plenty of good, young players. And who knows, in another three or four, five years' time, we could be winning plenty of majors.
But not everyone believes that such a run will start this week, just because Shinnecock has a different visual appeal than an Olympia Fields or Bethpage or Southern Hills.
What makes you think they're going to come in and win at Shinnecock? Just because it's a links golf course doesn't mean a European player is going to win. It's who plays the best golf, Vijay Singh said.

I don't think they play that many links courses, anyway. Some of them are members of a links golf course maybe, but Shinnecock is a totally different golf course. They're going to have rough, and at normal links courses, they don't have that much rough. Greens are going to be rolling at 12 or 13, and at the British Open, the greens are rolling at 9. Those are the factors involved.

I don't see any advantages on the European side.
Harrington validated Singh's point Tuesday when he said that he is more accustomed to playing stadium-style courses than links-style. He has even altered his game to be able to hit higher approach shots into these types of greens, as opposed to the low-boring bullets he used to hit back home in Ireland.
This is the third time in the last 19 years that Shinnecock has hosted a U.S. Open. It first did so in 1986, when Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros were among those battling for No. 1 in the newly-formed Sony Ranking (now the Official World Golf Ranking), and players like Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam were nearing their prime.
Langer, however, was the only European to finish in the top 20 that week.
In 1995, when the Open returned to Shinnecock, Mark Roe (T13) was the only European to finish in the top 20, despite the fact that five Europeans comprised the top 12 on the world ranking.
Now, there are only two Europeans among the top 12 on the OWGR: Harrington at No. 7 and Garcia at No. 10.
We don't have the players that we had in the early to late '80s,' Harrington said. 'We don't have that at the moment. That's why we don't have players in the top 10 or top 5, realistically. We have to play better, particularly in the majors.
They dont have Seve and Sandy and Woosie anymore. Faldo, Olazabal and Langer are still capable of competing in an occasional major; though, winning one isnt as likely. And even the great Montgomerie is watching the sun set on his major opportunities.
But they do have Garcia and Harrington and Clarke. And Jacobson and Bjorn and Rose. And even Cejka and Casey and Donald.
'I think the future is bright for European golf,' Harrington said. 'If a European player doesn't win this week, it's not going to lessen anything about the European golf.
'I see some good years ahead for European golfers. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow or Sunday. It can happen -- it will happen in the next few years, there's a lot of good players out there.'
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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by paints a different picture.

    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “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 leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.