Henderson, 17, eyes history at Swinging Skirts

By Randall MellApril 26, 2015, 2:27 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Brooke Henderson is chasing history.

The thing is ... history’s chasing her, too.

The 17-year-old Henderson will tee it up Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Classic looking to become just the third player to win an LPGA event before her 18th birthday. To join that exclusive club, however, she will have to hold off a couple players who know all about setting records at a young age.

Henderson kept herself atop the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round after shooting an even-par 72 Saturday despite closing her round with back-to-back bogeys at Lake Merced Golf Club. She’s looking to join Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson as the only players to win an LPGA title before their 18th birthdays.

At 9-under 207, Henderson is one shot ahead of Morgan Pressel (67), who holds the record as the youngest woman to win a major championship. Ko (71) is just three back. Ko has set all kinds of records as a teenager in the professional ranks. She was the youngest winner of an LPGA event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. She won six times before turning 18 on Friday, including this event a year ago. Ko is the youngest Rolex world No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf.

Henderson was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world when she turned pro last December. She is playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption and looking to try to earn LPGA membership without attending Q-School in the fall. She could do just that winning on Sunday. If Henderson wins, she can claim membership for the remainder of the year or defer it to next year. However, to do so she would need the LPGA to waive its restriction requiring tour members to be at least 18. 

Henderson’s shaky finish Saturday, coming after rules officials put her group on the clock for slow play, brought a lot of players back into the mix. Min Seo Kwak, yet another strong South Korean rookie, is one back after shooting 69. Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis (71) and No. 5 Shanshan Feng (71) are four back.

“This golf course, five or six shots is really not that much,” Lewis said. “This golf course is too hard for someone to just kind of run away with it.”

The LPGA’s making a habit of delivering compelling Sunday storylines, and the tour’s delivering yet another this week.

Henderson says she grew up admiring Pressel, who first made headlines qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12 and playing in it when she was 13. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco when she was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old. She’s still the youngest woman to win a major.

Now Henderson’s faced with having to beat a player she admires so much in a head-to-head final round pairing. Henderson, Pressel and Kwak will play in the final group.

“Growing up she was my biggest role model, other than my sister,” Henderson said of Pressel. “I always looked up to her.”

Henderson first met Pressel when she was an 8-year-old attending the CN Canadian Women’s Open. At 15, she ended up being paired with Pressel in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open. There was a kinship.

“Ever since then, she's been very kind to me,” Henderson said.

Henderson made a strong impression.

“It was incredibly impressive,” Pressel said. “I knew she would be something special out on our tour as well. I've been following her career and it's been very, very impressive so far.”

Being paired with Pressel heightens the challenge for Henderson.

“I've still always been a little nervous around her, because I've looked up to her my whole life,” Henderson said. “But I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.”

While Henderson is going for her first LPGA title, Pressel is seeking her third, her first in seven seasons, since she won the Kapalua Classic.

Playing in a final pairing Saturday for the first time leading an LPGA event, Henderson looked so solid in the early going. She hit a hybrid 3-iron to 18 inches at the first hole to make birdie.

She doubled her lead to four shots on the front nine. A long hitter, she was superb off the tee, hitting the first 10 fairways she looked at, but her rhythm seemed to be thrown off after her group was put on the clock.

With Sakura Yokomine and Na Yeon Choi struggling, the group was told to speed up play by a rules official when they were coming off the ninth tee. At the 16th, they were put on the clock.

Henderson made bogey at the 17th after a poor chip that she appeared to hurry.

“I think being on the clock did have a little bit to do with it,” Henderson said. “I was a little bit quicker than I would've been otherwise.”

At the 18th, she hit her approach shot long and once again failed to get up and down.

“Overall it was a great day, and I'm really happy to be where I am. If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it.”

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."