Whan: Henderson's future 'in her hands'

By Randall MellJune 23, 2015, 7:49 pm

Brooke Henderson’s quest to play the LPGA full time is right where it ought to be.

It’s in her hands.

That’s LPGA commissioner Mike Whan’s position with a growing legion of her followers believing the 17-year-old Canadian’s victory Sunday on the Symetra Tour is yet more proof she’s ready to play the best tour in the women’s game.

“The bottom line – as I’ve said to Brooke and I’ve said to her father – more than most players I’ve known, she has her future in her hands,” Whan told GolfChannel.com. “She really does. She can play her way on to the LPGA. She can play her way through Q-School. It’s in her hands.”

With Sunday’s victory, Whan granted Henderson a waiver that allowed her to claim Symetra Tour membership. With that, Whan gives Henderson yet more options to play her way to the LPGA.

Yes, Whan hears Henderson’s supporters pressuring him to rewrite his association’s rules and grant her LPGA membership, but the commissioner believes she is traveling a route that is ultimately best for her and his tour.

Whan’s denial last fall of Henderson’s petition for a waiver of the LPGA’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old kept her out of Q-School, leading her to turn pro anyway and try to play her way into the LPGA this year through sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers. While Whan says he is impressed at how Henderson is performing, he is holding firm to a line he drew for teen phenoms Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson.

“I reviewed Brooke’s resume in the fall of 2014, and from my personal perspective at the time, it wasn’t up to par with the others I have approved,” Whan said. “Of the two petitions I’ve said yes to, I’ve probably said 60 no’s. I feel it’s kind of like a legal case. I’m going to set precedent. It’s not just her. I’m going to set a line and most people are going to look and compare themselves to that line. That line now is Lydia and Lexi.”

Ko and Thompson are the only players Whan waived the age rule for since he became LPGA commissioner five years ago, allowing them to play the tour as members before they were 18. They both won LPGA events before he granted them waivers. For Whan, a victory is required before he will even consider saying yes to a waiver.

Whan read Henderson’s father’s comments at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where Dave Henderson urged media to pressure Whan to find a way to grant his daughter tour membership. She tied for fifth at the Women’s PGA, finished third at the Swinging Skirts Classic and tied for 10th at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open.

“Brooke can play,” Dave said. “She can go. That’s what we tell Mike Whan every day. Give us a chance and let us in . . . What more do you want? She is good for golf. She is good for revenues. She brings young people into the game.”

Whan also acknowledges the social media campaign in support of Henderson. He appreciates the excitement she’s generating, but . . .

“When people make the comments they make on social media, they’re talking about a resume they’ve seen the last four or five months,” Whan said. “To her credit, she’s building a resume that’s nowhere near where it was when she petitioned me last fall.”

The truth is, Henderson’s future really is more in her hands than the commissioner’s.

Even if Whan granted Henderson a waiver of the tour’s age restriction today, it wouldn’t come with LPGA membership privileges. The LPGA doesn’t have the special temporary membership rule that the PGA Tour has. Even with an age waiver, Henderson still has to qualify under one of 20 LPGA priority list categories that grant a player access to the tour. Ko and Thompson used their waivers to claim membership via category 7 (non-member win). Henderson doesn’t yet qualify for tour access via any category. She would need the LPGA to change its rules to somehow grant her instant membership.

Henderson gave herself two more routes for getting to the LPGA with Sunday’s Symetra Tour victory. Here are the routes to the LPGA available to her:

• If Henderson wins an LPGA event, she can claim tour membership for this year and through next year, provided she is granted a waiver of the tour’s age restriction. If she wins, the waiver is a virtual certainty, based on Whan’s record and the fact that he just waived the Symetra Tour age restriction for her. Henderson turns 18 on Sept. 10.

• If Henderson accumulates winnings in LPGA events with a cut that are equal to or better than the player who finishes 40th on the final LPGA official money list this year, she will earn membership for 2016 via category 10 of the LPGA priority list. Henderson has earned $317,470 in seven LPGA starts so far this year. If she were a tour member, she would rank 20th on the LPGA money list this week. A year ago, Hee Young Park finished 40th on the money list with $447,658 in earnings.

• If Henderson wins three Symetra Tour events this year, she will earn an immediate promotion to the LPGA. Her victory Sunday at the Four Winds Invitational counts toward that, meaning she needs two more victories to earn the promotion. While this would give her access to LPGA events via category 13 of the priority list, she wouldn’t play as a tour member. She would accumulate winnings as a non-member. There are 12 Symetra Tour events remaining this season.

• If Henderson is among the top 10 on the final Symetra Tour official money list this year, she would earn LPGA membership for 2016 via category 9 of the priority list. Though Henderson’s victory Sunday counts toward a three-victory promotion to the LPGA, her winnings do not count as official money. She starts Symetra Tour membership this week with zero dollars in official earnings.

• If Henderson doesn’t make it via any of the routes above, she can still try to play her way to the LPGA through Q-School this fall.

Henderson is scheduled to play the next three weeks. She will tee it up at the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship in Harris, Mich., this week and at the Symetra Tour’s Tullymore Classic in Stanwood, Mich., next week. She plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club the week after that.

Henderson’s seven LPGA starts this year have come via five sponsor exemptions and through two Monday qualifiers. By LPGA rules, she is limited to six sponsor exemptions a year. She has one left and plans to use that at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August. She is qualified to play the U.S. Women’s Open based on her top-10 finish in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst. She also appears likely to get a special invitation to the Ricoh Women’s British Open that won’t count against her six sponsor exemptions.

As of now, Henderson can’t get into any other LPGA events, except through Monday qualifiers. However, she could qualify for the Evian Championship in September if she is among the top 40 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings as of Aug. 4. She’s currently No. 49 in the world.

There’s a lot of work left for Henderson to do to make it to the LPGA, but her future looks in capable hands.

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.