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.
 
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  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

    Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

    Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

    Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

    Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

    Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

    Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'


    Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

    Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

    Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

    Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

    Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

    Begay, Rolfing: Tiger's arrest needs to be wakeup call

    Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

    Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


    Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

    Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

    Article: Tiger doesn't know what future holds

    Article: Woods back to making full swings

    Woods admits he might never return to competition

    Making progress: Breaking down Tiger's driver swing


    Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

    Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

    Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

    Tiger Tracker: Woods finished T-9 in return to competition

    Chamblee: 'I was wrong' about some of my Woods skepticism

    Tiger, if you were hurting, would you tell us? 'Yeah, I'd tell you'


    Woods out and about in 2017

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    Article: Shirtless Tiger holds up a massive lobster

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

    NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

    NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

    Rank

    Network

    Event

    Day

    Avg. Viewers P2+

    1

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Sunday

    1,100,526

    2

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Saturday

    968,202

    3

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    946,387

    4

    NBC

    KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

    Sunday

    839,983

    5

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Saturday

    808,578

    6

    GOLF

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    795,000

    ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

    • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
    • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

    GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

    Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.