International Crown intensity high at LPGA opener

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2014, 8:14 pm

The LPGA’s season opener in the Bahamas next week is about a lot more than shaking off rust.

With the International Crown making its debut later this year, the intensity will immediately ratchet up in the ranks of the South Koreans, Americans and Japanese.

While the eight nations qualifying for the International Crown were set at the end of last year, the competition to see who makes those four-player rosters continues. The most intense battles look like they’ll unfold for the South Korean, American and Japanese rosters.

For South Korea, with fierce nationalistic pride in its country’s dominance of the women’s game, there promises to be escalating scrutiny on who qualifies and who doesn’t. So Yeon Ryu said there is already pressure building with South Korean fans expecting a win to prove that nation is truly the world’s best in women’s golf.

“The really hard part is Koreans are pretty sure we’re going to win this tournament,” Ryu says of her country’s fan base. “I think that makes it really hard.”

It’s practically a free-for-all for the final spot on the South Korean roster.

On the American front, there’s no guarantee American stars Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer hold on to the last two U.S. spots. They have work to do to secure their places over the next three months.

Japan has a bunch of players in the top 50 in the world with a chance to make its team.

The International Crown is scheduled July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owing Mills, Md.

South Korea, the United States, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Chinese Tapei and Australia claimed spots into the event based on the cumulative world rankings of their best four players near the end of last season. However, the competition for rosters spots on those teams remains open through March 31, the Monday before the Kraft Nabisco Championship begins.

That leaves just six LPGA events for players from those eight countries to make their team, though qualifying isn’t limited to LPGA events. The top four from each nation in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings on March 31 will make the team.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan believes this will be a showcase event.

“It takes our tour’s greatest asset and puts it on display,” Whan said. “Fans and viewers have different views on this, but the global nature of our tour, the fact that the best players come from all over the world, and that the whole world is watching, that is our greatest advantage at the LPGA.

“When we play in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, what you realize is that they are so country proud, it’s unbelievable. So we’re going to give them an opportunity to be country proud. We’re going to give them an opportunity to put up the flag, paint the face, sing the anthem and let’s see who the best country in the world is.”

Here’s a look at how the roster battles shape up for each country with the world rankings in parenthesis:

South Korea: Inbee Park (1), So Yeon Ryu (5), Na Yeon Choi (7), I.K. Kim (10), Ha Na Jang (14), Amy Yang (15), Jiyai Shin (16), Hee Young Park (18), Hyo-Joo Kim (24), Sun Ju Ahn (27), Chella Choi (28), Se Ri Pak (30),

The South Koreans are so deep, they literally could have had three or four teams qualify for this event if more than one team from each nation were allowed to make it. Pak, the Hall of Famer who inspired her nation’s dominance, would make quite the story if she could work her way on to the team.

United States: Stacy Lewis (3), Lexi Thompson (9), Cristie Kerr (12), Paula Creamer (13), Angela Stanford (17), Lizette Salas (20), Gerina Piller (36), Jessica Korda (42), Brittany Lincicome (46), Morgan Pressel (47), Jennifer Johnson (56), Michelle Wie (61).

That’s quite the bunching there with Thompson, Kerr, Creamer, Stanford and Salas all within 11 world-ranking spots.

Japan: Ai Miyazato (21), Mika Miyazato (22), Sakura Yokomine (34), Rikako Morita (38), Miki Saiki (44), Shiho Oyama (48), Mamiko Higa (49), Yumiko Yoshido (51), Chie Arimura (66).

The Miyazatos aren’t sisters, but they are the most well-known Japanese players to LPGA fans. There’s a lot of talent, though, on Japan’s own women’s tour who could make international names for themselves at Caves Valley.

Spain: Beatriz Recari (19), Azahara Munoz (31), Carlota Ciganda (39), Belen Mozo (172), Mireia Prat (247), Maria Hernandez (340), Patricia Sanz Barrio (367).

The trio of Spaniards leading the way here were a big part of Europe winning its first Solheim Cup on American soil last year.

Sweden: Caroline Hedwall (23), Anna Nordqvist (26), Pernilla Lindberg (119), Mikaela Parmlid (146), Karin Sjodin (180), Linda Wessberg (216), Camilla Lennarth (250).

Hedwall and Nordqvist are proven international team match-play dynamos as part of the last two winning European Solheim Cup teams. Hedwall was the first player to go 5-0 in a Solheim Cup in last year’s Euro win.

Thailand: Ariya Jutanugarn (29), Pornanong Phatlum (35), Moriya Jutanugarn (85), Thidapa Suwannapura (123), Onnarin Attayabanphot (141), Nontaya Srisawang (166), Patcharajutar Kongkrapan (237).

There’s a lot of young, emerging talent here. The Thais could really surprise.

Chinese Taipei: Yani Tseng (37), Teresa Lu (54), Candie Kung (92), Hsuan-Yu Yao (163), Yun-Jye Wei (207), Tzu-Chi Lin (406).

This is Yani’s team. She is revered in her homeland, and she’ll be looking to regain her best form to help make her nation proud.

Australia: Karrie Webb (8), Katherine Hull-Kirk (107), Stacey Keating (114), Lindsey Wright (129), Rebecca Artis (148), Sarah Jane Smith (185), Nikki Campbell (213), Bree Arthur (223), Sarah Kemp (231), Kristie Smith (232).

Webb may be the only Hall of Famer to qualify for this international team event, but this is a team with proven winners in the United States, Europe and their native Australia.

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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.