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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

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.