LPGA's Asian connection began at Mizuno Classic

By Randall MellOctober 30, 2012, 8:00 pm

The LPGA planted its first seed in Asia at the Mizuno Classic in Japan.

That gives this week’s tournament a special place in LPGA history.

Thirty-nine years ago, this event made its debut as the Japan Classic.

While the rise of Asian dominance in the women’s game might have been inspired by South Korean Se Ri Pak’s breakthrough in the U.S. in 1998, the Asian connection was first formally made in this event in ’73. The LPGA reached halfway across the world to co-sanction the inaugural Japan Classic with the LPGA of Japan Tour, marking the first time the LPGA staged a competition in the Far East.

“It was very important for several reasons,” says Charlie Mechem, LPGA commissioner from 1990-95. “In those days, we did not really play much outside the United States, so the exposure was good for the tour, and by any measure, the sponsors were very dedicated and the events were fabulously run. Our players and staff were treated great, and it was just a lot of fun to go over there.

“Also, it provided us with important Japanese TV exposure. Those rights fees were the beginning of what is now a very large revenue stream for the LPGA. Japan was the seedling for what’s in place today.”

Today, Korean and Japanese TV rights packages are the LPGA’s two largest revenue streams.

American Jan Ferraris won the first Japan Classic in ‘73, with her winnings counting as unofficial money.

In its formative years, the tournament was dominated by Americans. Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, Nancy Lopez and Patty Sheehan won it multiple times. Players from the U.S. won four of the first five Japan Classics, eight of the first 11, but momentum swung another direction here a long time ago. It has been 20 years since a player from the U.S. has won this tournament.

Betsy King is the last American to win it. She took home the trophy in ’92 and ’93, when it was known as the Toray Japan Queen’s Cup.

The relationship the LPGA started with the Japanese through the Mizuno Classic would help open a door for Japan’s Ayako Okamoto to come to the U.S. in 1981 and play the LPGA’s tour. Okamoto was a superstar in Japan, and her success in America helped fuel interest in the American tour in the Far East.

While Pak deservedly gets credit for inspiring South Koreans, Okamoto was the Far East’s first successful pioneer in the West in women’s golf. A World Golf Hall of Famer, Okamoto won 17 LPGA titles and was the tour’s leading money winner and Player of the Year in ’87.

“I would have to think what Okamoto did had an impact on Se Ri,” Mechem said.

Asians have won the last five Mizuno Classics. Japan’s Momoko Ueda is back to defend her title this week.

The LPGA’s inroad to the Far East would eventually lead to South Korea, Malaysia, China and Taiwan.

Six LPGA events are now staged in Asia, the most in the tour’s 63-year history.

“It just showcases how global our tour has become,” said Suzann Pettersen, who has won back-to-back in the last two weeks of this Fall Asian swing.

Since ’73, the LPGA has staged 87 events in the Far East.

It begs a question: Who is the queen of LPGA Asian golf? Or, who is the most successful player in LPGA events staged in the Far East?

So many of the biggest names in women’s golf have left their marks in Asia, but nobody quite as profoundly as Annika Sorenstam.

The Swede won eight LPGA tournaments staged in Asia, more than any other player. Sorenstam won the Mizuno Classic five consecutive years (2001-05). She was the first LPGA or PGA Tour pro to win the same event five years running.

“This is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done in my career,” Sorenstam said after claiming her fifth Mizuno Classic. “To do something nobody has ever done, ranks right up there.”

Actually, Sorenstam isn’t the only Scandinavian to have thrived in the Far East.

Pettersen, of Norway, is the LPGA’s new hottest player after winning the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship and the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship in back-to-back weeks. It’s the second time she has won back-to-back events on the Asian swing. She won the HanaBank Championship and Honda LPGA Thailand in consecutive weeks in ’07.

Outside Sorenstam, nobody has won more LPGA events in Asia than Pettersen, who isn’t playing this week.

Here’s the list of players who have won the most LPGA titles in Asia:

Sorenstam – 8.

Pettersen – 4.

Yani Tseng – 4.

Karrie Webb – 3.

Jiyai Shin – 3.

Na Yeon Choi – 3.

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Watch that time Tiger throttled Ames, 9 and 8

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2018, 4:54 pm

Nine and eight. Three words that live in golf lore. Just say them and any golf fan can tell you what they mean.

In the 2006 WGC-Match Play, Tiger Woods faced Stephen Ames in the opening round. Ames, when asked prior to the event about his chance of winning, infamously said, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting it."

What happened on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at La Coasta Resort & Spa, was the most lopsided result in tournament history: 9 and 8 Check out the highlights below:

After his win, Woods was asked if Ames' comment had motivated him. Woods replied, "9 and 8."

Woods eventually lost, 1 up, to Chad Campbell in the third round. He then won his next start at Doral and went on to finish the season with six consecutive Tour wins, including The Open and PGA. He also won his first start in 2007 to make it seven consecutive Tour titles.

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Schedule change, caddie change for Casey at Match Play

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 4:12 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Paul Casey originally planned to skip the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, opting for two weeks off before the Masters.

Those plans changed when he removed the Arnold Palmer Invitational from his schedule and returned home to England last week to attend the funeral of a family friend. That adjustment also prompted a caddie change this week, with Scott Vail stepping in for the Englishman’s normal caddie, John McLaren.

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“We looked at tickets and it just didn't make sense for Johnny to fly back. We try and base our schedule around playing the best golf possible, but also having quality family time,” Casey said on Tuesday at Austin Country Club. “For Johnny to break up a nice three-week break with his family, there was no point to ruining that.”

This isn’t the first time Casey, who won the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, has needed a replacement caddie. At last year’s Travelers Championship, McLaren took a similar break and was replaced on the bag by Shannon Wallace. Although it’s not uncommon for caddies to take a week off, McLaren does have one stipulation.

“The only rule we have is that if Johnny is not going to work, he picks my caddie. So he picked the caddie,” said Casey, who is 20-12-1 in 12 starts at the Match Play and has advanced to the championship match twice.

Westchester Country Club hosted the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship. (Getty) Getty Images

Westchester selected to host 2021 U.S. Women's Am

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2018, 3:20 pm

The USGA announced Tuesday that Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., has been selected to host the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur. The tournament will be held Aug. 2-8, 2021.

The club's West Course first hosted the event in 1923, and it boasts a storied history of professional tournaments as well. The PGA Tour hosted the Westchester Classic, later known as the Buick Classic and eventually The Barclays, at Westchester from 1967-2007, including the first-ever FedExCup playoff event, won by Steve Stricker in 2007.

The course was also the site of the 2011 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, won by Fred Couples, and the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship, won by Inbee Park.

"The USGA is thrilled to bring the U.S. Women's Amateur to Westchester Country Club for the second time," Stuart Francis, USGA championship committee chairman, said in a release. "One of the USGA's three oldest championships, the Women's Amateur consistently identifies the world's top female players, and we are confident Westchester will provide the ultimate test for the championship's 121st playing."

First held in 1895, the Women's Amateur is open to players with a USGA handicap index not exceeding 5.4. Sophia Schubert won last year's event at San Diego Country Club, while this year's tournament will be held at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs.

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Stock Watch: Park rises again, under the radar

By Ryan LavnerMarch 20, 2018, 12:48 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Rory (+10%): The massive drives, the fist pumps, the unmistakable strut – McIlroy finally found the spark that he needed to play confident, aggressive golf. Bring on Augusta and his shot at history.

Tiger (+7%): It was another forgettable end to a final round, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture: Five events into his comeback, Woods has now carded 10 consecutive rounds of par or better – all on tough tracks – and can be viewed as a legitimate threat at the Masters. Remarkable, really.

Inbee Park (+5%): Fighting injuries and questioning whether she should retire, the Queen ‘Bee routed a top field in just her second start back. Stud.

Bryson (+3%): When The Machine operates properly, he’s one of the best ball-strikers in the world. Yes, he’s still painfully slow, but there’s no denying his talent – his runner-up against a star-studded field should help him tremendously.

Laura Davies (+2%): Fifty-four years old and nursing an Achilles injury, she turned back the clock with one of the coolest performances of the young season, on any tour. She’s still got tons of game.


Henrik Stenson (-1%): Maybe he’s just destined to go winless at Bay Hill. In the past four years, he’s had three excellent chances to win there and came away empty-handed each time.

Rickie (-2%): Hanging near the lead, Fowler closed his third round bogey-double, then shot 74 in the final round to drop out of the top 10. Sigh.  

P-Reed (-3%): His whiny protest to a rules official about a free drop – “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth” – got even juicier when the Ryder Cup partners were drawn in the same group at the Match Play. Get your popcorn ready.

Ted Potter Jr. (-5%): His impressive victory at Pebble Beach over DJ, Phil and J-Day is looking more and more like a fluke each week. He’s now missed four consecutive cuts.

Fan behavior (-7%): Another week, another player complaining about increasingly hostile spectators. The Tour has (frustratingly) remained quiet on the issue, but the tipping point will come when one of these dopes affects the outcome on the 72nd hole.