'Inaugural' KPMG Women's PGA had perfect champion

By Randall MellJune 15, 2015, 10:47 pm

HARRISON, N.Y. – There are some things LPGA commissioner Mike Whan can’t control . . . like who wins championships, right?

Brought on six years ago to resuscitate a withering tour, the man continues to exhibit a magic touch that makes you wonder if he has some mystical ability in that department, too. Of course, Whan can’t dictate who wins events, and he wouldn’t want to, but Inbee Park was a perfect winner for him and his PGA of America counterpart Pete Bevacqua Sunday at the inaugural staging of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She was perfect because there’s awkwardness in the word “inaugural” in that last sentence.

The only downside for Whan in his tour’s new collaboration with the PGA was the danger that the LPGA Championship’s rich history would be diminished. The KPMG Women’s PGA sounds and looks like a new event in the public’s eye, but not in Whan’s eyes, or in the eyes of so many LPGA founders, pioneers and veterans who helped build the tour. The Women’s PGA is a rebranding of the LPGA Championship. The first LPGA Championship was played in 1955, making it the longest running event staged by the tour itself.

Whan wanted the LPGA Championship’s history kept intact, so the trophy and past champions and records are all preserved as part of this new collaboration.

That’s why Park was a perfect winner for Whan, Bevacqua and KPMG. With Park in the hunt early, the large storyline became whether she could “threepeat,” whether she could join Annika Sorenstam as the only players in the 61-year history of the event to win three consecutive years. Obviously, you can’t “threepeat” in a new event.

It’s almost as if the golf gods endorsed this collaboration by giving Whan and Bevacqaua a “history making” champion.

Park reminded everybody her name wasn’t going to be the first etched on the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship trophy. She reminded everyone of this event’s special foundation.

Park’s victory reminded us all that the great Mickey Wright won this championship four times and that Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Patty Sheehan and Se Ri Pak won it three times.

“When I talked to Pete about this collaboration, I said this is one we have to handle with a little fragility, because of the LPGA Championship’s 61-year history,” Whan said. “I don’t want to toss the trophy. I don’t want to forget the history. It was cool the way we were able to get a little bit of yesterday and tomorrow in the feel of the event.”

Whan’s treatment of the women’s majors is another important piece in his grand reconstruction of the LPGA.

When Whan was originally hired six years ago, his first marching order was to rebuild the sagging, anemic tour schedule. The players demanded it. Ultimately, his future was hitched to it, and he did rebuild it.

In his state of the LPGA address late last year, Whan unveiled a 2015 schedule featuring 34 events (including the Solheim Cup) with more than $61 million in total purses. That’s an LPGA record haul for prize money. It’s a robust lineup given the grim state of the schedule just a few years ago, when the tour shriveled to 23 events and $40 million in total purses.

With that strong foundation restored, Whan turned his attention to strengthening the majors. The LPGA Championship was sagging in stature. The Kraft Nabisco was in trouble with the title sponsor departing. Whan brought in ANA to take over for Kraft Nabisco this year and there were some vital upgrades to the event. He announced the collaboration that formed the Women’s PGA Championship, too. This was all added to his previous controversial declaration that the Evian Championship was the LPGA’s fifth major.

Whan’s plan is focused on giving the LPGA majors the stability and history they haven’t had. The men have four majors. They’ve had four majors forever, it seems. The women have had eight different events designated as majors over the years. The Women’s Western Open, the Titleholders and du Maurier have come and gone. The Women’s British Open didn’t get its start until 1976 and didn’t become an LPGA major until 2001. There was a spell in the ‘70s when the women only had two majors championships.

Hinging women’s majors to title sponsors has created problems. Whan’s talks with the PGA were revealing in how focused he was on a long-term commitment. He asked Bevacqua if the PGA would consider a 50-year partnership. Bevacqua said the PGA was only interested in a long-term partnership. KPMG brought clout and a vision, too.

Whan said Evian’s elevation to a major was based on knowing Evian was in the women’s game for the long haul.

“The good thing with Evian is they talk about what they’re going to do 30 years from now,” Whan said. “We don’t have many people who talk about their plans over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.”

With Evian played on a course built on a mountain, Whan envisions that major building a history as a journey. He envisions  young women dreaming of making their way “to the Mountain” for the year’s final major.

“I feel comfortable that our next generation of female golfers will feel deeper roots in our majors,” Whan said.

The KPMG Women’s PGA felt like a deep planting.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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