Thompson uncomfortable as LPGAs hot topic

By Randall MellJuly 28, 2010, 11:07 pm

LPGA Tour _new

Women’s British Open defending champion Catriona Matthew thinks too much is being made of 15-year-old Alexis Thompson not being there this week.

She’s not alone.

Alexis thinks the same thing, according to her agent.

The Thompson family is uncomfortable that she’s the focus of so much attention with a major championship about to begin when she’s not even playing.

Matthew and Laura Davies came into the Women’s British Open media center at Royal Birkdale on the eve of the championship and were both asked multiple questions about Thompson. They had opposing takes that sum up the back-room debate Thompson’s inspiring with her stunning start to her professional career.

alexis thompson
Thompson’s T-10 at the U.S. Women’s Open and T-2 at the Evian Masters have made her a hot topic on tour. (Getty Images)
Bobby Kreusler, Thompson’s agent, said when he first explained why she wouldn’t be playing the Women’s British Open this week – Thompson’s request for a special exemption to final-stage qualifying was denied after a conflict with the U.S. Women's Open prevented her from going to prequalifying – he never intended for the fallout to take on a life of its own.

“At first, the reaction to not getting to play over there was, `Well, that’s a bummer,’ but she moved on quickly,’” Kreusler said. “Her reaction is, `Well, what are we doing today? Can we go to the beach?’”

Thompson’s tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago and her tie for second at the Evian Masters last weekend have made her a hot topic on tour. In the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open at brutish Oakmont, Thompson was paired with Ai Miyazato and Jiyai Shin. She beat Miyazato by 10 shots and Shin by two. Shin’s the No. 1 player in the world and took the top spot from Miyazato, who has won four times this season.

Jim McLean, Thompson’s swing coach, isn’t surprised the 15-year-old from Coral Springs is creating such a buzz.

“These tour pros see how fiercely competitive Lexi is, and how she can just rip her drives past them, and it definitely gets their attention,” McLean said. “It’s incredible how much she loves competition. She doesn’t shy from it. She can tee it up with anybody right now.”

The questions in the media center Wednesday at Royal Birkdale included whether someone 15 is old enough to be a professional. It’s likely to be a debate that will only grow if Thompson continues this torrid start. The conversation focuses on more than whether Thompson is ready competitively.

“I think probably she'd be better off at school,” Matthew said in her pre-tournament interview. “She's certainly proved she's a good enough player, there's no doubting that. But 15 is maybe just a little too young to come out on tour. I mean, it's still really only a child. She should be enjoying herself more. I don’t see the great rush.”

Davies took a different stance.

“If she wants to play, she should be allowed to play,” Davies said. “If you're good enough, for me, you're good enough. That's just the way it is. In tennis and other sports, just the fact that you're so young is probably a little bit of a bonus because it creates so much excitement for the tour. So, personally, let her come and play. But I'm sure there are a lot of people that disagree with that. You have to assume that the people around her are doing the right thing.”

McLean said people should understand that Thompson loves the game, loves to practice and that her parents didn’t push her toward turning pro early.

“It’s frustrating to the family, the criticism of her turning pro, because it really was Lexi’s idea,” McLean said. “She was ready to play. This was the interesting next step for her. She didn’t take the step wanting to beat the pros. She took it knowing she could win. This wasn’t her parents, Scott and Judy, pushing her at all.”

If Thompson were an LPGA member, after just three starts, she would already be 18th on the LPGA money list this week with $314,842 in prize winnings. That would rank her ahead of Michelle Wie ($283,784) and Azahara Munoz ($274,534). Munoz leads the Rolex Rookie of the Year points list.

LPGA rules require members be at least 18 years old. Kreusler said the family has no intention at this time of petitioning for a waiver of the age limit, but if she had won the Evian Masters, she could only have claimed the two-year LPGA exemption that comes with the victory by being granted a waiver. A victory, Kreusler said, might require a re-evaluation of plans.

As a non-member of the LPGA, Thompson can play on six sponsor’s exemptions a year. She also can play her way into the U.S. Women’s Open and Women’s British Open, giving her eight possible chances to play LPGA events. Kreusler said the family’s focus is on limiting her to 15 to 17 professional events next year. She would look at the Australian Women’s Open and Australian Ladies Masters, Japan LPGA Tour events and Ladies European Tour events in completing her schedule.

In the meantime, Thompson continues to be the talk of an event she’s not playing.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.