Confusion, frustration surround Park's historic bid

By Randall MellJuly 29, 2013, 6:30 pm

So what are we calling Inbee Park’s remarkable quest to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a single season?

Is she going for the Grand Slam or not at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews this week?

Winning four majors in a row in a calendar year is pretty much what we’ve all understood a Grand Slam to be, but Park’s quest has grown complicated with the LPGA declaring that the Evian Masters will be its fifth major this year. It’s problematic, because while we always thought winning four majors in a season constitutes a Grand Slam, the origin of the concept isn’t based on that number.

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According to golf historian Martin Davis, a Grand Slam as originally conceived for golf would require winning all the majors played in a single season.

“The term Grand Slam came about in Bobby Jones’ time,” Davis says. “It’s actually a term from the card game bridge. A Grand Slam is when you take all 13 tricks. It means you sweep the table, you win everything.”

Given that definition, Park would have to win the Women’s British Open this week and the Evian Masters next month to win the Grand Slam.

Except there’s a problem with that, too.

If four isn’t the magical number, if sweeping all the majors offered in a single season constitutes a Grand Slam, then Babe Zaharias ought to get credit for becoming the first player to win the Grand Slam six decades ago. She swept all three majors in 1950, back when only three women’s majors were staged. And then shouldn’t Sandra Haynie get credit for a Grand Slam, too? Huh? Sandra Haynie? Yes, she won the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open back in ’74, when those were the only majors on the women’s schedule.

If Park wins this week, what will she call it?

“I think I can treat it like a Grand Slam,” she said.

Who can blame her? It’s the grandest feat in the history of golf, whether it’s officially a slam or not.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan will be calling it a Grand Slam, too.

“I’ll call her a Grand Slam winner if she wins four,” Whan said. “I think we’ll have created a Super Slam with five.”

OK, but that’s also complicated. What if a player misses the cut at the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco, but then wins the last four majors of the year. Is that a Grand Slam? Or what if a player wins the Kraft Nabisco, fails to win the LPGA Championship, and then wins the final three majors of the year. Is that a Grand Slam?

If Park wins the Women’s British Open, maybe it doesn’t really matter what we call it, besides fantastic and remarkable. Maybe it’s a silly, overblown question. And yet people care because we’re so invested in the concept as devoted followers of the game. We’ve waited so long for somebody to come along and win the Grand Slam that the very idea has become the Holy Grail of golf.

And so now here we are with Park on the threshold, and it’s aggravating and annoying we can’t definitively call her quest a bid to win the Grand Slam.

“At the end of the day, the media will call it what they want to call it,” Whan said.

OK, but what if Reuters calls it a Grand Slam but The Associated Press doesn’t?

Golf Channel won’t be calling it a Grand Slam. What about ESPN, which is broadcasting the Women’s British?

The whole thing’s annoyingly muddled with the LPGA unilaterally declaring the Evian Masters a major.

That’s problematic, too, because the idea a governing body in golf can just “declare” an event a major also aggravates some folks. There will be golf fans that will refuse to recognize the Evian Masters as a major on the principle that tradition determines that, not commissioners and title sponsors. If Park wins at St. Andrews, those folks will have no problem calling her feat a Grand Slam.

This whole thing is muddled for the women who made history, too.

Even Hall of Famers can’t agree on what to call Park’s quest.

“In my eyes, if Inbee wins the Women’s British Open, it’s the Grand Slam,” Hall of Famer Pat Bradley said. “And then, oh, by the way, there’s another major in a month.”

Annika Sorenstam isn’t so sure what it ought to be called.

“I think the Grand Slam has always been all of them, and now we have five,” Annika Sorenstam said. “But it’s also always been four. So do you call it a Super Slam if you win five? I really don’t know. I guess I really don’t have an answer because we’ve never been in this situation.”

Whatever it is Park is pursuing this week, if she wins, it’s the greatest feat by a professional in the history of major championship golf. Period.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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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.