Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2017, 12:36 am

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Shanshan Feng led the U.S. Women’s Open as she stepped on to the 15th green Friday at Trump National, but she couldn’t help pausing to take in the historic spectacle unfolding there.

President Donald Trump was settling in to his private box aside the 15th green and behind the 16th tee.

Leaning on her putter, Feng couldn’t resist turning to sneak a peek with the president looking down behind bullet-proof glass.

“I heard people kind of screaming, so that's what I was trying to find out, why they were screaming,” Feng said.

Feng wasn’t alone.

Inbee Park couldn’t make out the president behind the glass as she stepped onto the 18th green, but her caddie, Brad Beecher, spotted him.

“It was kind of funny walking up to the green,” Beecher said. “Everybody was turned the other way, away from us, with their cellphone cameras pointed up at the president. We heard the yelling, and then we saw him get up and wave.”

Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Brooke Henderson were in the first group that passed through the 15th green after Trump arrived.

“I shot a glance,” Thompson said. “Honestly, I was just trying to focus on my shot.”

Trump first rolled onto his private golf club, Trump National, at 3:41 p.m. in a black SUV as part of a presidential motorcade.

Love or loathe this president, it was a historic moment.

Trump is the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

Lewis felt the weight of that history back at the ninth hole, where her group was held back from crossing to the 10th tee so that Trump’s motorcade could pass.

Controversies aside, Lewis appreciated the history being made.


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“That was kind of what intrigued me to start the week, was that we had never had an active sitting president at one of our events,” Lewis said. “So I was kind of excited, regardless of who it is, of the prospect that he came here to watch us.

“He tweeted about coming to the U.S. Women's Open. Some people didn't know it was going on. It's kind of a historic and cool moment to have our president here.”

While more than one activist group was protesting down the road from Trump National, Trump’s arrival was embraced by enthusiastic golf fans inside the club’s gates.

There was an electric crackle outside Trump’s private box as he ascended the staircase to the entrance at 5:22 p.m. A chorus of “wooo-hoos” and cheers went up as president waved.

Once inside his private box, Trump answered the call of spectators beckoning him to the window. He waved, shot a pair of thumbs up and balled his fist in a triumphant salute.

There were no jeers or signs of disapproval.

“Make America great again!” one fan shouted.

“You’re doing a great job,” another shouted.

Outside the gates, there were harsher things being said.

“For months we urged the USGA and LGPA to move this tournament,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, a group formed to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, said in a statement. “They ignored us. Now, they are allowing Trump to use this tournament, and sadly the players, to benefit his own self-interests.

“The USGA and LPGA could have made a clear and unequivocal statement against sexual assault by moving this tournament. Instead they chose to embrace the man who is a walking, talking example of a sexual predator. Shame on the USGA. Shame on the LPGA. This is a stain on your brand that will not wash away.”

Players got a completely different vibe from the adoring fans huddled around Trump’s private box.

Henderson, a Canadian, felt the excitement building around the 15th green as she approached.

“It was really exciting,” Henderson said. “It's really amazing that the president of the United States is here to watch us play golf and on a tremendous golf course.

“It’s pretty incredible. I never thought that would happen. To be in my fifth U.S. Open and to have it happen is really cool.”

Security staff was lined up beneath Trump’s box, keeping spectators from getting too close. A pair of Secret Service members in bullet-proof vests with assault rifles stood watch nearby.

Trump spent about an hour watching from his box.

Thompson was probably more prepared to play in front of the president than anybody else in the field. She has playing privileges at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm and has played with the president.

“I've gotten to play with him quite a bit,” Thompson said. “He plays very fast. It's a good time. Definitely entertaining.”

Trump made Friday as historic inside the gates as it was controversial outside the gates.

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.