Trump is center of attention at Women's British Open

By Randall MellJuly 30, 2015, 6:45 pm

TURNBERRY, Scotland – Donald Trump’s shadow engulfed the Ricoh Women’s British Open Thursday morning.

Amid a buzz of helicopter blades, whirring camera shutters and reporters shouting unvarnished questions, Trump brought the chaotic, edgy energy surrounding his presidential bid to this championship. He stepped out of his aircraft and into a hornet’s nest. 

From a swarm of media jockeying for position behind security in front of the Trump Turnberry hotel, a reporter barked a request for Trump to come over for a few questions.

Trump obliged, moving close enough for reporters to read the words on his red cap: “Make America Great Again.” The questions came at him machine-gun style.

Why are you here? Won’t your presence detract from the tournament? Are you a racist?

Welcome back to Scotland, Mr. Trump.

Never has a major championship turned so frenetic so early, and never quite like this.

There was more media outside the gates of the Turnberry Ailsa course than inside for the start of this championship. Two dozen photographers parked themselves at the foot of the hotel awaiting Trump’s arrival. The assembled media corps was dominated by British press, with just a few American reporters.

Even the TV cameraman perched above the 18th green to televise the action there wheeled his camera around to point it at Trump’s helicopter as it landed. Out on the course, players in the heat of competition knew exactly when the billionaire businessman-turned-politician had arrived.

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Lydia Ko was climbing the leaderboard with a strong start when she heard the distant buzz of Trump’s helicopter circling overhead. She was in the lead and on the 16th when she looked skyward.

“I was like, `Man, that’s a really nice helicopter,’” Ko said. “I would love one.”

With Trump encircled by media in front of the hotel, Lee Ann Pace stepped out the hotel’s front door. She was setting out to make the long walk to prepare for her opening tee shot. She must have felt as if she were stepping into a movie set. The media’s chaotic reception of Trump made for a surreal gauntlet to navigate.

What was Pace thinking when she opened the hotel door?

“Well, this is weird,” she said.

Why was Trump here? He had an answer ready.

“Because I love Turnberry, and we’re doing a lot of work on Turnberry, and we have the Women’s British Open here,” he said. “It’s going to be a really exciting weekend.”

Does he think his presence will detract from the event?

“Everyone’s asking me to be here,” he said. “The tour has asked me. The world’s asked me to be here, and I have a big stake in this land.”

Trump made a major investment purchasing the iconic golf course and hotel overlooking it, and he’s making another major investment in a renovation scheduled to begin later this year.

“We have this great piece of land, a thousand acres right on the ocean,” he said. “It’s just a spectacular place.”

Is Trump a racist? Trump didn’t have time to answer that question before another question was hurled at him, this one about Lizette Salas, the LPGA pro who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

“Don’t know who she is,” Trump said.

Trump would meet a slightly less frenzied media contingent a couple hours later in an elegant new ballroom in his hotel. Before that, though, a smaller but equally aggressive media swarm relocated in scoring behind the 18th green, waiting for Salas to finish her round.

With Trump’s remarks last month about Mexico and illegal immigration creating a controversy, Salas’ opinions on immigration were suddenly newsworthy. They’re especially relevant in the women’s game, where Trump fired back at LPGA commissioner Mike Whan after Whan issued a statement three weeks ago suggesting his tour would have preferred the Women’s British Open not be played at Trump Turnberry.

Salas was busy dealing with her own challenges on the course. She was putting together a solid sub-par start to the championship before three-putting the final green to shoot even-par 72. She wasn’t happy about the finish. She slammed her putter against her bag, leaving the 18th unaware what awaited her outside scoring.

After signing her card, Salas was engulfed.

A barrage of pointed questions came machine-gun style again, including one asking if she thought Trump was a racist. Salas was gracious, thoughtful and patient.

“I’m not a politician,” Salas said. “My job is to win golf tournaments. I’m just happy to be here competing.

“Everyone has a right to say what they feel. That’s what is great about living in the United States. I’m happy to be the child of Mexican immigrants, and I’m proud of my heritage.”

Salas, No. 29 in the Rolex world rankings, was asked if she felt Trump was disrespectful saying he didn’t know who she is.

“I don’t blame him for not knowing who I am,” she said. “I’m pretty sure he has better things to do than know who I am.”

What did she think of Trump making an appearance?

“We all kind of expected him to be here,” she said. “It’s nice of him to come out and support the tour and this competition.”

All the while Salas was being interviewed, Hyo Joo Kim stood in a corner opposite her, fielding questions from three reporters. Kim, by the way, opened with a 65 and led the championship.

Reporters eventually made their way back to a ballroom at Trump Turnberry hotel, where they found a more civilized news conference setting. Under shimmering chandeliers, media was ushered past a table full of extravagant appetizers.

“I’ve never been at a press conference where sushi was served,” one reporter cracked.

When Trump arrived, about 20 photographers were poised just off the stage. Cameras whirred with his arrival. He got started introducing Martin Ebert, the architect who’s overseeing Turnberry’s multimillion-dollar renovation. Almost comically, when Trump stepped off the stage, just about every lens turned with his every moment, with a cluster of photographers following Trump to the back of the room and ignoring Ebert.

Trump would eventually answer a few golf questions before tackling an onslaught of political questions.

Did Trump speak with Whan after the commissioner received Trump’s pointed letter?

“He apologized to me,” Trump said. “He was very nice and very respectful. I said `You know, I don’t mind if you apologize to the press.’ He said, `You think I could do without it?’ I said you can do without it. You can do whatever you want. But he did call me, and he did apologize.”

An LPGA spokesman said Whan was traveling back to the United States, but the tour was focused on the Women’s British Open and the commissioner would not be giving any official response.

Trump ended the news conference saying he was also ready to focus on golf.

“I want to go watch the Women’s British Open, is that OK?” Trump said.

And then Trump was off to Turnberry to walk his beloved course in one of the most unusual first rounds in the history of the Women’s British Open.

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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.'"

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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.