Korea, U.S. could play way into rivals at Crown

By Randall MellJuly 20, 2016, 9:35 pm

GURNEE, Ill. – When the South Koreans knocked the Americans out of the inaugural UL International Crown two years ago, television sets were practically overheating in Korea.

It was around 7:00 on a Sunday morning in Seoul when So Yeon Ryu made birdie on the first playoff hole to eliminate the Americans and grab the wild-card berth into the final round of singles play.

“It was the highest rated LPGA telecast of that year in Korea, by far,” said Sean Pyun, the LPGA’s managing director of international business affairs. “And that window when the Koreans and Americans were in the playoff, that was the peak moment of the ratings.”

That’s saying something, because LPGA TV ratings in Korea are through the roof anyway. They average more than twice the ratings PGA Tour events get in Korea, according to the LPGA’s Nielsen Repucom reports.

A not-so-funny thing happened, though, in the middle of the Korean-American playoff.

The International Crown’s special television feed to South Korea failed after all the players had struck their second shots in the playoff. It caused a furor among the legion of women’s golf fans in Korea burning to see how the playoff would end. JTBC Golf, the home of the LPGA in Korea, was inundated with queries from frustrated fans.

“There were so many complaints coming through the JTBC Golf website, the site crashed,” Pyun said.

The feed didn’t go back up until the playoff was over.

The Korean-American playoff showdown wasn’t even for the International Crown title. It was just to see who advanced from pool play, and yet it still drew the largest LPGA ratings of the year in Korea. It was no coincidence the peak came with the Koreans taking on the Americans, the No. 1 seed in that inaugural year.

The Koreans are the dominant force in women’s golf today, but the Americans are the Americans. They owned the women’s game once, and the LPGA is still American based, still rotating on an American axis. The Americans are the next strongest women’s golfing nation, and there’s nobody else close to either, yet.

UL International Crown: Articles, photos and videos

With the UL International Crown fueled by nationalistic passions, the Koreans and Americans seem like natural rivals in this format. They’re No. 1-2 seeds again this year, with the Koreans displacing the Americans as the top seed this time.

The Koreans and Americans seem most capable of driving interest in this new event to another level with yet another showdown, this time for the title, but those storylines can’t be forced. It will take more to build the history rivalries require. It will take more head-to-head drama to create a legitimate rivalry in an eight-team event where match play makes everyone dangerous.

And here’s the thing, the Koreans and Americans don’t even see themselves as rivals.

“I don't think there's a rivalry there, no,” said American Stacy Lewis. “I don't feel like we're trying to keep up with them or do anything. What they're doing is pretty amazing. To have so many players in the top 15 in the world that even with Inbee [Park] out, the next option is really pretty good. It's amazing what the Korean team is doing and how well they play.”

Five of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are Koreans, two are Americans. Nine of the top 20 are Koreans, four are Americans.

Cristie Kerr says she doesn’t see Korea as rivals, either.

“It’s more like we’re just trying to keep up with the numbers they have if you look at the world rankings,” Kerr said.

There are 70 American LPGA members this year to 34 South Koreans. But the interest in those 34 Koreans is intense back in Korea.

Ryu said when she checked her cell phone after that playoff victory against the Americans at the International Crown two years ago, she had about 100 text messages, many of them from friends and family wondering what happened after the TV feed failed.

“People were wondering if maybe we lost and they just didn’t want to show the loss on TV back in Korea,” Ryu said.

Korean fans got to see what happened, though, in a replay of the event. Pyun said LPGA events are replayed several times every week in Korea.

“The replays get really strong ratings, too” Pyun said.

The LPGA announced Wednesday that the next UL International Crown will be played at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon in 2018.

“I think the UL International Crown has already been lifted significantly in its second playing,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “I'm pretty sure in 2018 we're going to hit the hyper-speed button, and it's really going to go crazy.”

If the Koreans and Americans are in the hunt in the end, it could be crazy good for the International Crown.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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