Women's golf needs USA vs Asia team competition

By Randall MellOctober 25, 2012, 6:38 pm

USA vs. Asia.

In women’s golf, there wouldn’t be a more compelling competition.

While there are no plans in the making to pit the Americans against the Far East in a biennial team competition similar to the Solheim Cup, it presents itself as a natural rivalry, as an event that holds the potential to complement the Solheim Cup as a platform to promote the women’s game with unique nationalistic appeal.

With the LPGA in the middle of another successful Asian fall swing, it presents itself as a possibility worth pondering.

The Asians are the most dominant force in women’s golf, and with the Lexus Cup’s demise, they aren’t part of any international team competition that showcases their talents as a region on any stage beyond the normal LPGA schedule.

That’s a shame.

Yes, that will be changing soon enough, with the LPGA getting ready to unveil its first Olympic-style competition as part of its future scheduling, a competition that will feature as many as eight international teams, but that’s a markedly different idea than pitting two international forces against each other.

While some folks might disagree, the feeling here is that there’s a lot of room for more international team competition in women’s golf.

If I’m an Asian corporation with interest in women’s golf, I’m talking to the Solheim family about how they so effectively built the USA vs. Europe competition. I might even be exploring the possibility of a partnership, but I’m definitely approaching the LPGA in exploring a way to bring the Americans and Asians together to play.

There are obstacles for the LPGA, but USA vs. Asia offers another great opportunity to maximize the enormous popularity of women’s golf overseas.

A segment of American women’s golf fans may believe Asian domination has hurt the LPGA, but the facts scream differently.

If not for the explosion of Asian interest in the game, the LPGA might be on its deathbed.

Seven of the 27 title sponsors of LPGA events are Asian companies with six events staged in the Far East. Notably, the LPGA’s largest single revenue stream is from Korean TV agreements. The second largest is from Japanese TV agreements.

Yes, there’s no doubt a successful American contingent is important to the LPGA’s success, but Asian and American success don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The Americans just need to step it up a notch, and a USA vs. Asia competition helps both causes in focusing so much attention on the personalities of players within the competition.

Of course, as the game is playing out today, the Americans would be heavy underdogs.

There’s probably a snickering element of even American golf fans who think the USA would get waxed in any such competition with Asia, and statistical comparisons reveal why, but feisty American women players would relish proving otherwise.

Here’s a quick look at how American and Asian players compare:

• If you took the top 12 Americans in the world rankings today, the USA team would feature No. 2 Stacy Lewis, No. 11 Paula Creamer, No. 14 Cristie Kerr, No. 20 Angela Stanford, No. 21 Brittany Lincicome, No. 23 Lexi Thompson, No. 27 Brittany Lang, No. 34 Morgan Pressel, No. 52 Michelle Wie, No. 63 Jessica Korda, No. 71 Katie Futcher and No. 75 Vicky Hurst.

• The Asian team would feature No. 1 Yani Tseng (Taiwan), No. 3 Na Yeon Choi (South Korea), No. 4 Shanshan Feng (China), No. 5 Inbee Park (South Korea), No. 6 Jiyai Shin (South Korea), No. 8 Ai Miyazato (Japan), No. 9 Mika Miyazato (Japan), No. 10 So Yeon Ryu (South Korea), No. 12 Sun Ju Ahn (South Korea), No. 13 Amy Yang (South Korea), No. 18 I.K. Kim (South Korea) and No. 19 Chi Arimura (Japan).

• The average ranking of the American team: 34.4.

• The average ranking of the Asian team: 9.0.

The competition might be lopsided on paper, but there’s enough American talent to intrigue in the unpredictable match-play format.

Again, there are obstacles, to be sure.

With the LPGA’s new Olympic event, would two international events in the same year work together?

How would the Solheim family react to another team event in opposite years? Would USA vs. Asia pose a threat to the Solheim Cup? The family deserves consideration after all it’s done for the women’s game.

How would the different golf ruling bodies in Asia come to terms? While the Ladies European Tour is the sole governing body for Europe in the Solheim Cup, Asia has different ruling bodies in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. There would be challenges, but they would be worth pursuing.

There’s also a reasonable concern that the competition might divide American and Asian golf fans in unhealthy ways as rivalries can do, but a genuine emphasis on sportsmanship and higher ideals will make that work as it does so many international competitions.

USA vs. Asia?

Is it a missed opportunity in women’s golf?

With the Asian swing fully engaged, it’s a question worth pondering.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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."