Name Recognition

By Randall MellJuly 6, 2011, 1:32 am

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Mike Whan’s legacy as LPGA commissioner is now joined to Alexis Thompson.

For better or worse.

News Tuesday of Whan’s decision to allow the 16-year-old phenom to try to win tour membership through qualifying school looms as large over women’s golf as the Cheyenne Mountain does over the U.S. Women’s Open this week.

By waiving the tour’s requirement that Thompson be 18 years old to be eligible for membership, Whan opens a door he was once reluctant to open.

Consider what Whan said just six months ago when denying Thompson’s request for expanded sponsor exemptions.

“At the core of it, I really didn’t think I wanted to be the commissioner that created a new pathway to the LPGA that made young girls around the world think that as a freshman or sophomore in high school that they have a big decision to make,” Whan said in January. “I didn’t want to create this worldwide phenomenon where 14-year-olds are sitting in their living room and thinking, `high school or pro?’”

Well, what should those girls be thinking now?

If Thompson makes it through Q-School, she will be competing as an LPGA member next year as a junior in high school. That’s radically new terrain for this tour. It’s a radical new possibility for youth with big games and big dreams.

Thompson will turn 17 on Feb. 10 of next year.

Aree Song, Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda were granted waivers at age 17, but they all turned 18 shortly after. They each were finished with high school when they started playing the tour, or they were virtually finished.

Whan changed his mind about Thompson, and he might have changed the LPGA forever.

Why did he change his mind?

It’s an important question with so much at stake for Thompson and youth who want to follow this trailblazer’s path, but there were no answers coming out of the LPGA leader’s office on Tuesday. The commissioner wasn’t returning calls or doing interviews. A spokesman said Whan may make himself available Wednesday after he arrives at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Whan’s a family man with young children. It’s a good bet he wrestled with this. As a historic decision, it deserves some context, some explanation in what the commissioner might have wrestled with and why he believes this is the right thing to do. His reasons matter.

It may be that this isn’t so much a matter of the time being right for this decision, but maybe his belief in the player being right, Thompson being the right player.

Only Whan can answer that.

Thompson’s different, no doubt. She’s gifted, with a strong, supportive family. She’s proved herself in limited opportunities since turning pro at 15. She’s proved herself with her success, with a near victory at the Evian Masters last summer and a tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open. She’s even proved something in her failure this year at the Avnet Classic, in the way she managed her emotions in a final-round stumble.

There are no guarantees, though. We saw it with the unfulfilled promise in Aree Song. We saw it with Ty Tryon.

Thompson may very well be the exception to the LPGA rule, but what’s the rule now?

That’s the question that resonates beyond Thompson. That’s the issue, as much as Lexi’s readiness.

What follows this decision?

How do you create this new avenue for Thompson without creating a pathway strewn with the failed bids of teens attempting to follow?

That’s what Whan seemed to be struggling with last January.

While the commissioner has the power to deny future petitions, he can’t deny parents who see his decision as validation of a new pathway. You can’t deny parents who see a new blueprint: Home school your junior golfer, turn pro at 15, petition the LPGA to go to Q-School at 16.

Maybe that’s a pathway only Thompson is able to make work.

Whan’s decision is creating some debate within his ranks.

“I’m not a fan of it, I don’t really like it,” Kraft Nabisco champion Stacy Lewis said. “The age rule is there for a reason, and it’s a good reason, because of maturity levels. It’s the kind of thing where once you let one player in, do you have to let them all in? Obviously, Lexi’s a special case, she’s a great player for her age, but I would just hate for other kids that age, kids who need the time to mature, I would hate for them to want to follow the same track and get burned out by the time they’re 20.”

On the other side . . .

“I think it’s a good decision,” said Karen Stupples, the 2004 Women’s British Open champ. “I think Lexi’s proved she’s ready to play. She’s a nice girl who fits in well out here.

“Turning pro at 16, it’s a big step to take, but she’s been living the life out here for a year. She has a strong support network. I think she’s an exception. I don’t think you’ll see this very much.”

Juli Inkster’s never been keen on juniors making the jump to pros, but she’s softened on Thompson.

“She’s proven she belongs out here,” Inkster said. “I think it’s more a social issue than playing ability. Everybody knows she belongs, but she’s learned out here. She’s learned the ropes. She knows the players. I’m cool with that.”

Thompson is carving a new path, a potentially exciting one in what it might offer American golf, but a path opened by Whan, who will be forever linked with this path's ultimate destination.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.