Must-See LPGA Tour TV

By Randall MellSeptember 17, 2009, 10:38 pm
You like cliff hangers, don’t you?

Drama that plays out to the final scene, right?

Not if you’re like most people who watch televised golf.

Golf viewers aren’t like most sports fans, who turn the channel when a game becomes a rout. It’s a peculiar phenomenon, but golf viewers prefer it when dominant players run up the score. How else do you explain the boffo TV ratings Tiger Woods brought in his 15-shot U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach in 2000 and his 12-shot rout at the Masters in ’97? When he wins big, the ratings are big.

In an Arnold Palmer story on this site last week, retired CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian said golf’s always been that way. He learned quickly directing golf broadcasts that viewers don’t like Cinderella stories. They want the stars to win, period.

If that’s really the case, this LPGA season is indifferent, at best.
Cristie Kerr Michelob Ultra Open
Cristie Kerr's only victory in 2009 came at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virgina. (Getty Images)

For just the second time this century, fall arrives without a player having already locked up the LPGA Player of the Year title. The last time September ended with any doubt about who would win the honor was three years ago, when Lorena Ochoa distanced herself from Annika Sorenstam with three titles in the last seven weeks of the season.

The Samsung World Championship began Thursday with the Rolex Player of the Year race wide open. Nobody’s dominating this season with Ochoa off her best form. With seven events left in the year, a hot player can come out of nowhere and steal the award.

In my book, that makes for a potentially compelling finish, to heck with the lack of dominance.

There are some potentially good storylines playing out. Cristie Kerr is trying to become the first American to win Player of the Year since Beth Daniel won it in 1994. Jiyai Shin is trying to become the first South Korean ever to win the honor. If Shin wins, it’s an exclamation point on South Korea’s rise to dominance.

The race is so wide open, American Paula Creamer is winless this season but could still be Rolex Player of the Year. She’s the defending champion at Samsung, which also happens to be her last LPGA victory. Given the stomach ailments and injuries she has endured this season, it would make for a terrific story if she went on a tear and won the PoY award.

Shin leads the Player of the Year points race. She has three victories this season. Ochoa has won twice in ’09, so has Catriona Matthew, if you count the HSBC Brasil Cup, which featured just a 14-player field. Matthew also won the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Nobody else has won more than one event.

Kerr was atop the Player of the Year points list until getting bumped off when Shin won the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship last week. Kerr would relish breaking the American PoY drought.

“We have got to try and get it done,” Kerr said in the Samsung interview room this week. “It's for American golf.  It inspires all of the little girls out there to play golf. It's bigger than us. It's a very selfish personal goal that I want to accomplish for me, but at the same time, it's a bigger thing for women's golf and American golf to try to make it happen.”

There would be irony in an American winning PoY. With 12 consecutive events having passed since an American last won, there’s a growing focus on this country’s struggles on the tour. Americans have won just four events this year.

Kerr was the last American to win this season. That was four months and seven days ago – at the Michelob Ultra Open in May.

“Player of the Year and all of that stuff this year is very important to me,” Kerr said. “I have contended the whole year for it. There are very few events left, and I know that I've got to play my very best golf that I played this year to be able to attain that. So that's kind of where I'm at. I want to do those things. I want them more than anything.”

The PGA Tour season could end with some drama next week at the Tour Championship. As for the LPGA, however, the drama may be just beginning.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.