Major Issues Major Pressure

By Randall MellJuly 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' The U.S. Womens Open is strangely different this week.
Some of the worlds best players will actually feel as if theyre escaping pressure when they step inside the ropes Thursday morning, or that theyre escaping the kind of pressure they arent comfortable with for the kind of pressure they crave.
Theyll reach the first tee leaving behind relentless questions about the future of the LPGA and their embattled commissioner to immerse themselves in what could be one of the most demanding tests of their time.
Saucon Valley Country Clubs Old Course is a beast at 6,740 yards. Its the second longest layout in the history of the championship with greens that roll and twist in confounding contours.
I think Sunday afternoon, after everything is done, theres going to be a lot of mentally tired players, eight-time LPGA winner Paula Creamer said.
Stress and strain have mounted on and off the course with news early in the week that key LPGA players delivered a letter to their organizations board of directors asking for the resignation of commissioner Carolyn Bivens. The discontent is focused on the loss of title sponsors and a shrinking schedule.
Ochoa didnt dispute her involvement in the preparation of the letter when she stepped before assembled media Wednesday.
Everybody has been talking about it, and we, as players, want to be more involved in what is happening, and we want to see the tour going in a better direction, said Ochoa, the worlds top-ranked player. Hopefully, things will start moving in a good direction, because we are worried that were losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track.
One player after another entering the media room this week has been asked about the controversial letter.
I want to perform and do my best, just leave everything else outside, Ochoa said.
Bivens was scheduled to attend the championship on Thursday, but tour officials confirmed that she has canceled her appearance.
The U.S. Womens Open is all about stress and pressure and overcoming adversity. Its about survival. Its a theme that fits this entire LPGA season with pros worried about their tours future.
Saucon Valley, though, will demand their full focus.
Its a phenomenal, classic U.S. Open course, said Christina Kim, a two-time LPGA winner. Immaculate condition, long course, nasty rough, challenging greens, tests every club in the bag. Its all of that, and its fair.
Ochoa, 27, believes the routing favors her left-to-right ball flight as she bids to regain her status as the tours most dominant player.
Ochoa arrived for last years U.S. Womens Open having won six times on the season. She enters this year having won twice. When Jiyai Shin claimed the Wegmans LPGA two weeks ago for her second victory of the season, she moved into first place on the Rolex Player of the Year points race and on the tours money list.
A two-time major championship winner, Ochoa wasnt a factor in the years first two majors.
Competition is tough, we all know that, Ochoa said. We know good players are coming, and its getting better and better. Im just trying to practice harder and harder. Ive already won two tournaments this year, but Im not at the top. I want to make sure I continue playing and getting better, every week being consistent, so that at the end of the year, Im at the No. 1 position, the way I like.
Ochoa is looking to win her first U.S. Womens Open.
Creamer, 22, is looking to claim her first major in her 21st start in one. Shes paired with Ochoa and In-Kyung Kim in the first two rounds.
Hopefully, we can feed off each other and make a lot of pars and birdies, Creamer said.
If this championship really is about overcoming adversity, Creamers fully prepared, despite her limited practice regimen.
After starting the season with a mysterious stomach malady, Creamer began feeling better last month, only to injure her left thumb. She was unable to defend her title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic last week because of inflammation of the thumb joint. She has received two cortisone shots over the last week.
My thumb feels much better, Creamer said. A lot of ice and Advil are my two favorite things right now.
In her first four seasons on tour, Creamer never withdrew from an event. She has withdrawn from three this season.
Its been frustrating, Creamer said. It feels like a character building year, because Ive been through a lot.
Its been the hardest year Ive had out here. I thought 06 was because I didnt win, but Id rather go through that year than this.
The way Saucon Valley is set up, nobodys likely to escape hardship this week.
Related Links:
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.