Compelling subplots abound as Asian swing begins

By Randall MellOctober 6, 2015, 6:53 pm

The LPGA turns for the home stretch with some compelling subplots in play as the tour’s fall Asian swing begins this week in Malaysia.

Will the Americans key to the U.S. Sollheim Cup victory in Germany two weeks ago experience a positive bounce in their return to competition?

How will Suzann Pettersen fare in her return to action after finding herself at the heart of a Solheim Cup controversy?

Can Lydia Ko win her third consecutive LPGA start?

Can Inbee Park hold off Ko in the ongoing battle for the Rolex No. 1 ranking and the Rolex Player of the Year race?

Will Shanshan Feng successfully defend her title?

There’s a lot on the line with the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia beginning Thursday at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. It’s the first of five consecutive Asian events before the tour returns to North America for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

Kuala Lumpur is a familiar Asian venue for more than the women. The course has been home to the LPGA event since 2010 but also has been host to the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic and the European Tour’s Maybank Malaysian Open.

Nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are in the field this week. South Korea’s In Gee Chun, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, is the only player among the top 10 who isn’t there.

Ten American Solheim Cup players are scheduled to tee it up as they look to enjoy a positive bounce from their record-setting come-from-behind victory in Germany. The Americans have won just four LPGA titles this year but will be looking to ride some winning momentum into the fall finish.

Gerina Piller, Angela Stanford and Paula Creamer should take special satisfaction from the American victory into this week’s event.

Piller won a vital singles match in the American comeback. She made a pressure-packed 8-foot putt at the final hole in Sunday singles to defeat Caroline Masson, 1 up. While the putt didn’t clinch the American victory, it was the most important putt in the comeback. If Piller had missed, the Europeans would have gained the half point they needed to retain the cup.

Angela Stanford broke out of a Solheim Cup slump defeating Pettersen, 2 and 1, in a singles match. It was a brilliant effort, giving the Americans an important point in the Sunday match they arguably most wanted to win.

Creamer, who was heavily scrutinized as a captain’s pick, defeated Germany’s Sandra Gal, 4 and 3, in the anchor singles match to deliver the point that clinched the victory. She went out with Morgan Pressel in the Solheim Cup’s leadoff foursomes match to win a point from the formidable European tandem of Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist.

Park and Ko enter this week amid tight battles for special prizes in the women’s game.

Park is the Rolex world No. 1, but Ko can take back the top ranking with a victory or second-place finish this week, depending upon what Park does. Park has reigned atop the world rankings for the last 16 weeks. Ko took it from Park on Feb. 2 and held it for 19 weeks.

Ko is coming off a victory in her last start at the Evian Championship, where the 18-year-old became the youngest winner of a women’s major championship. She won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in her start before that.

Park leads the POY race with 243 points, Ko is second with 224. An LPGA victory is worth 30 points.

Ko and Park each have a tour-leading four victories this season. Ko was asked Tuesday in Malaysia if she was up to winning a third consecutive start.

“This tournament, it's a top field,” Ko said. “It doesn't get much better than that. Coming and saying, `Hey, I'm going to win every week’ is kind of unrealistic. I just got to play some good golf out there and just have fun. There's a lot of great things to look forward to, and, personally, I think I play better when I have fun and I've got a smile on my face. If the win comes, great, but that's kind of the last thing I'm thinking about.”

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.