2014 Newsmaker No. 8: The R&A

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2014, 2:15 pm

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews made news in September voting to allow women as members for the first time in the 260-year history of the organization, but the monumental change brought important new questions with it.

With the club’s pledge to “fast track” new women members, who will they be?

Annika Sorenstam? Nancy Lopez? Judy Rankin? Laura Davies? As players, they make sense as women who have profoundly influenced the game.

And how about Louise Richardson? Since becoming the first female head of St. Andrews University in 2009, she felt the impact of the club’s exclusionary membership practices more than most women. Unlike the male presidents who preceded her, she couldn’t use the club to dine with university donors, or to cultivate important professional relationships.

Richardson felt the discriminatory practice of the all-male rule in her daily life. She told the New York Times before the vote that she has endured club members waving their R&A ties at her.

“A supporter of the university got in touch and asked if he could possibly have lunch at the R&A,” she told the New York Times. “I had to arrange for somebody I know to take him to lunch at the R&A because, of course, I can’t. And I had to arrange for another member of the staff to take his wife to lunch some place in town because, of course, she can’t get into the R&A, either.”

2014 Newsmakers: 6. Wie7. Reed8. R&A9. Bubba | 10. DJ | Honorable mentions

The club pledged change will come quickly.

“The membership has acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months,” club secretary Peter Dawson said when news of the vote was announced.

Almost three months later, the world is waiting to see who will take those historic first steps as female club members.

“Back when I turned pro I would never have imagined that this could ever happen,” Davies said.

The Royal and Ancient’s clubhouse sits behind the first tee at St. Andrews, and though the club doesn’t own historic St. Andrews, it assists the St. Andrews Links Trust in managing and maintaining the course as the home of golf. Royal and Ancient members get preferred tee times and other perks.

When announcing the historic change, Dawson said the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of women, reporting 85 percent of the Royal and Ancient membership voted for the change.

Strong women’s voices framed the meaning of the vote.

“It is disappointing that we are even having to have this discussion in 2014, and today’s result must mark the beginning of a message which states that sport cannot treat women as second-class citizens,” Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, told media the day the vote was announced.

Helen Grant, the UK’s Minister of Sport, raised other questions the new membership policy now poses.

“This is positive news for the sport, and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated sex policies follow suit,” she said.

Royal Troon, Muirfield and Royal St. George’s are all-male clubs on the British Open’s current rotation of venues. Royal Troon is scheduled to host The Open in 2016. Royal St. George’s and Muirfield are actively reviewing their membership policies, according to British media reports.

Will these clubs change their policies, too? Or will the R&A steer future Opens away from these venues if they don’t change?

The R&A, the governing body that administers the Rules of Golf with the USGA, is often confused with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. They are linked by heritage. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club created the R&A in 2004, technically becoming separate entities but still bound by history and active associations. Dawson is chief executive of the R&A as well as the secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s membership change promises to heighten pressure on the R&A to steer future Opens to inclusive clubs.

“I think clubs somewhat have the right to do whatever they want to do, but then that maybe limits them from what they can host, and their position potentially to the world,” said England’s Justin Rose, whose six PGA Tour titles include the 2013 U.S. Open. “I think there’s definitely a situation there where if you’re going to host such high-profile events, you need to conform a little bit more with what’s acceptable in the mainstream society.”

In that sense, a woman’s place in the game will remain an ongoing question for the R&A.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."