Granada: Life after winning the first $1M LPGA prize

By Randall MellNovember 5, 2014, 2:31 pm

A $1 million winner’s check is standard fare in the men’s game.

The PGA Tour began handing them out with the launch of the World Golf Championships in 1999. It didn’t take long before the purses of other events began soaring, too.

Since the start of the 2009 season, 218 PGA Tour events have paid out $1 million to their champions.

It isn’t a big deal anymore.

Since ’09, do you know how many women have taken home $1 million as winners of an LPGA event?

Zero. None. Nada.

That’s why the new Race to the CME Globe is a big deal. The race’s $1 million jackpot is a really big deal.

This week’s Mizuno Classic in Japan marks the second-to-last event for the women to position themselves for a shot at the big prize. The top nine players on the Race to the CME Globe points list after next week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational will go to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with a shot at winning the jackpot. (Click here to see who’s jockeying for position).  

Just three women in the history of golf have taken home $1 million with a victory.

Julieta Granada was the first to do so in 2006, claiming the windfall as winner of the inaugural LPGA Playoffs at the ADT. Ochoa won the big prize in ’07 and Jiyai Shin in ’08, but then the event folded, taking its giant paycheck with it.

A sense of wonder that went with winning the LPGA’s season finale was lost with the ADT’s demise, but it’s back with the Race to the CME Globe.

Eight years have passed since Granada won the first $1 million jackpot in women’s golf, but the memory’s fresh. A 20-year-old rookie, she outplayed world No. 1 Ochoa and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb in the final round at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla. At the trophy presentation, Granada was handed a glass cube purported to be filled with a million dollars in cash.

“I still remember that clearly,” Granada told “We were going around, taking pictures of me holding it, with this bodyguard following me around. I’m a rookie, and I’m thinking: ‘This is pretty cool. I must be important. I’ve got a guy protecting me.’ I found out I wasn’t as cool as I thought. As soon as I gave the cube with the $1 million in it back, the guard stopped following me around. He went with the money.”

Granada never set up a direct deposit account with the LPGA that rookie season. She got paid the old fashioned way, by check. That made for a comical visit to the Wachovia Bank where she kept her account near her Orlando home. She walked in the bank’s door one morning and handed the massive check to a clerk, whose eyes widened.

“It was pretty funny,” Granada said. “It actually wasn’t for $1 million, because of the withholdings, but it was a large deposit.”

Granada wasn’t quite a rags-to-riches story, but the money was awfully nice. Growing up in Paraguay, she wasn’t poor, but her family wasn’t rich, either. The daughter of a greenskeeper, Granada earned a scholarship to the Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla. She moved there at 14 with her mother, Rosa, to chase her golf dreams, but it didn’t always seem like the dreamiest journey in their little apartment so far away from home.

“To save money so we could travel to junior tournaments in the summer, we didn’t have a car while I was at school,” Granada said. “My mother and I rode bikes.”

They rode bikes everywhere. The five-mile bike hike to the nearest Walmart wasn’t a lot of fun on Florida’s hottest days.

“I retired that bike, and I don’t ever want to ride one again,” Granada said.

When Granada graduated from the Leadbetter Academy and turned pro in 2005, her means of transportation didn’t dramatically improve. Playing what was then called the Futures Tour (now Symetra), she traveled the country with her mother in a 12-year-old Nissan Quest minivan. Rosa caddied for Julieta and still does today. On the way to Julieta’s very first event as a pro, their van broke down 30 miles from the tournament site, outside Ann Arbor, Mich. They had to scramble to find a ride to the tournament.

Julieta played that first event under added pressure. She played knowing the mechanic wanted $700 to fix the van. She played knowing they didn’t have the money to pay.

With a second-place finish, though, Granada won $6,500.

“I thought, ‘Sweet, now we can go pick up our car and go to the next event,’” she said.

Granada enjoyed a strong LPGA rookie season, even before winning the $1 million jackpot. The big payday changed her life in ways she didn’t expect. She bought a luxury SUV, a Range Rover Sport.

“I really wanted a nice car,” Granada said. “It’s the only thing I really wanted with the winnings.”

With the win, Granada was fueled with the confidence that bigger triumphs were in sight, but there were bumps in the road that her new luxury SUV couldn’t avoid. She was fourth on the LPGA money list her rookie year, but she tumbled to 100th two years later, then 106th, taking her back to LPGA Q-School.

“The money was a double-edged sword,” Granada said. “I was out on tour fighting to make money. I was hungry, and it was my fuel. Then, winning all that money, you get complacent. You get comfortable, and you lose a little of that hunger, a little bit of that determination.”

While Granada is still looking for her second victory, she’s buoyed by a resurgence in her game. She’s enjoying her best year since her rookie campaign, with seven top-10 finishes this season, two of them in majors, and $607,014 in money winnings. She is 25th on the LPGA money list and 23rd on the Race to the CME Globe points list.

Granada won’t get a shot at the $1 million jackpot this year. She can’t mathematically crack the top nine in points, but she will head to the CME Group Tour Championship feeling good about the direction her game is headed and her shot at future jackpots.

That sense of wonder returns to the LPGA’s season finale with the biggest jackpot in the women’s game awaiting once more.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry