MEDINAH, Ill. – Davis Love III had to share his big day with Chicago’s beloved Bears.
If he leads the Americans to the Ryder Cup in the fall of 2012, he’ll have the whole town to himself.
An emotional and enthusiastic Love was introduced Thursday as the next U.S. captain of the Ryder Cup, then spent the next few hours being feted across Chicago. He was made an honorary member at Medinah Country Club, where the 2012 matches will be played, got a miniature replica of the Stanley Cup, and hobnobbed with Chicago’s sports royalty: Scottie Pippen, Dan Hampton and Ernie Banks.
“Good luck to you,” Pippen, who teamed with Michael Jordan to win six NBA titles with the Bulls, told Love at an afternoon reception. “I’m looking forward to popping some champagne with you.”
All five of Chicago’s pro teams presented Love with personalized jerseys, and the White Sox threw in a ball from the 2005 World Series. Love also was to be a guest of the Bulls at their game against the Dallas Mavericks later Thursday night.
“The whole world is going to be watching what we do here in Chicago,” Love said. “When we get here, when the European team gets here, we’re going to be at least a point ahead because we’re going to have the Chicago fans, the Chicago energy.”
The daylong celebration of Love’s appointment wraps up a week that put the Ryder Cup in the news some 18 months before the next shot is struck. Europe, which won the gold trophy in Wales last October, appointed two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal as its captain Tuesday.
Love’s appointment was hardly a secret, and it was clear he’s already working on a plan to reverse the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup woes. Europe has won six of the last eight matchups.
Love has started talking with PGA and Medinah officials about course setup. He’s thought about the qualities he wants in his vice captains and who might be suited for those jobs. At dinner Wednesday night, he and wife Robin spent part of the time looking at the ballrooms and imagining how they could be configured for team meeting rooms.
As for those disastrous rainsuits that leaked, causing a distraction before the Americans even teed off in Wales, Love pledged that a big part of his job will be making sure his players feel as comfortable and prepared as possible.
“I’m a players’ captain,” he said earlier in the day. “I’ll try to get them what they need to be successful. I’m not going to tell the best players in the world how to play golf. I’m not going to read their putts. I’m going to stay out of their way and let them show their talents. I think a good leader knows he’s got a great team and just gets them prepared and let’s them go play.”
Love, a 20-time winner on the PGA Tour, played on six Ryder Cup teams. His first three matches, with Tom Kite as his partner, were against Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros, the “Spanish Armada” that formed one of the most daunting teams in Ryder Cup history. Love won that first match, but never beat Olazabal again. They never played each other in singles.
Olazabal won his second green jacket in 1999, and while his duel that day was with Greg Norman, the Spaniard held off a late charge by Love, who was the runner-up.
Love recalled that Olazabal brought a special Spanish wine to serve at the Masters’ Champions Dinner that next year, and he gave Love the leftover bottles.
“I’ll always remember his generosity,” said Love, who said he has not spoken to Olazabal this week. “He’s always been a good friend. It’ll be a tough competition. On Thursday we’ll be friends, and Sunday night we’ll still be friends.”
Love said he would consider playing if he earned his way on the team, although a U.S. captain has never qualified for the team in recent decades. Love last qualified for the team in 2004, when Europe routed the Americans at Oakland Hills.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it,” Love said. “If we had good assistants and I’m playing great, that would be a great story for our team and for golf – as long as I get three or four points out of the deal.”
This was the second time Love has been showcased by the PGA of America, and both times he fought tears. The other occasion was in 1997 at Winged Foot, when he won the PGA Championship and broke down thinking about his father, Davis Love Jr., a longtime PGA professional who died in a plane crash early in Love’s career.
“Now to be named Ryder Cup captain is a thrill I never thought I would have,” said Love, his voice choking and his eyes filling with tears. “I’d love to share that with my father. I know somehow I am. … There’s not a tour player out there that plays one tour event or six Ryder Cups that doesn’t have a PGA professional that led them to that position.”
Love picked as 2012 US Ryder Cup captain
MEDINAH, Ill. – Davis Love III had to share his big day with Chicago’s beloved Bears.
Bifurcate to make game easier for amateurs
In January of 2017, Golf Digest ran a story about the average driving distance of amateurs. If you missed the article (click here to read it), the numbers may surprise you. It conveniently breaks down the results, both by handicap and by age, to provide a more detailed view of what golf is really like for the majority of players.
I recently ran across the post again and couldn’t help myself; hence this article. The average driving distance on the PGA Tour is around 295 yards, with the leader in the 320-plus range. Per the article, low handicap players top the list at 250 yards, while the 10-19 handicapper – average player – drives it around 215. That’s a big difference.
Bifurcation, the hotbed topic which ignites division among golfers at a level nearly on par with our nation’s current political weather, keeps banging at my door. Frank Nobilo recently said something to the effect that “the average player has never been further removed from the professional game.” I agree.
The most common argument against splitting the rules is that golf is one game – where amateurs and professionals, alike, play the same game. But, do they really?
The “regular” tees on many courses today have been stretched to around 6,500 yards, while the PGA Tour average is over 7,400. Most courses keep greens soft and running around 10 on a stimpmeter (I know, you’re course prides itself on 14’s) while the average on Tour is 12 1/2. Even with the Tour’s comparative lack of rough, it’s still deeper and more penal than most courses opt for, day in and day out.
Tour players also compete under the watchful eye of a staff keen on strict adherence to the rules, while a large percentage of average players are unfamiliar with many of the rules (Me, too; they keep changing). One other thing: Tour players have to count every shot they hit, finish every hole and there are no gimmes nor mulligans.
Add the distance pros hit the ball and it’s easy to see they play a different game. If you disagree, take the time to play a “Tour” course from the tournament tees right after a competition and see what you can shoot.
Putting that argument aside, it occurred to me that I’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. My reasons for bifurcation have had more to do with protecting my view of the integrity of the game rather than what would be best for the average player.
The guys on the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour (LPGA and PGA Tour Champions, too) can really, really play. Last week, I watched a 36-year-old unknown player who had never won on either tour shoot 27 (with a bogey on the front-nine, par 35) in route to a 60. Then he came back two days later with a 28 on the same nine. He won on the Web.com Tour.
Science has unlocked many of the mysteries of the game. Club and ball technology have prompted a benefit for athleticism like never before. Biomechanics, video, launch monitors and force plates have combined to create a huge pool of players with very good swings. Did I mention that they can really play?
However, taking advantage of all this technology requires hours in the gym every day, hours on the range every day, hours on the course every day, and hours in the laboratory on a consistent basis. How many amateur players have the time and money to do all this? That’s right, not most. That’s why the median 10-19 handicap player averages 215 off the tee. They just don’t receive nearly as much benefit from today’s technological advancements as does the touring pro.
So, instead of penalizing the professional player for working hard and taking advantage of all that is available today, my argument has shifted to wanting bifurcation in order to make the game easier, less costly and quicker for the average player.
My idea for the average player begins with distance; the game is too darn long. Think about it: If a player gives up 80 yards off the tee and 45 yards on a 7-iron (180-135), it makes sense that this player should play from 7,400 – ((80 X 14) + (45 X 14) + (4 X 50)) = 5,450 yards to relate to the tour game. Even for the player who averages 250 off the tee and 160 with a 7-iron, the same reasoning yields a 6,400-yard course, give or take a little. But I’m not stopping there, equipment rules need to be relaxed as well.
For instance, the allowable trampoline effect for amateurs should be increased with a focus to fit slower club-head speeds. The limit on the size of the club head needs to be removed and larger grooves for more control and spin should be allowed. Ball limits should be relaxed so the player with lower club-head speed gets more benefit from new ball technologies.
Courses also need to quit watering so much, which would yield a more natural look as opposed to playing in the botanical gardens. This will allow the ball to run out more, effectively shorten the course and open up more options for how to play a shot or hole. Running the ball up on a green or down a fairway needs to return to the game. Rough needs to be eliminated; it’s supposed to be a game rewarding angles not just penalizing off the mark shots. It would also be great to see tree branches trimmed up, when possible, to allow for windows of opportunity and artistry instead of simply creating pitch-out masters.
There will always be the faction that consider themselves purists, which is great. Let major amateur championships stick to the stricter set of rules.
Wait, you could even go as far as to make it a different game altogether and give it a different name, flog for example. That way you don’t need different sets of rules for the same game; each game can have its own set of rules. Tennis is seeing a shift to include pickle ball, maybe golf embraces flog. You could go to the flog course instead of the golf course.
You could even have the USFA, United States Flogging Association, established for the advancement and preservation of flogging, tasked with protecting the game’s original vision of a fun, cheap game which plays quick and embraces imagination and artistry. I think you would be surprised how much you would like flog.
Anyone care to go flogging Saturday?
LPGA Korean event gets sponsor, new venue
BMW Group Korea will be the title sponsor of the LPGA’s new South Korean event scheduled for next year.
The event will be played at LPGA International Busan in the port city of Busan in October of 2019. It’s the first LPGA golf facility to be opened outside the United States, with the golf course scheduled to be ready for play in the summer of next year. The LPGA announced in a news conference in Busan in March that the course would host a new event with the title sponsor to be named at a later date.
BMW Group Korea will give South Korea two LPGA events in the fall Asian swing. The KEB Hana Bank Championship is played in Incheon in October.
The Busan event will feature a $2 million purse with a first-place check of $300,000.
Formerly Asiad Country Club, LPGA International Busan is a renovation being managed by Rees Jones. The golf facility’s opening will mark the first of several projects the LPGA plans in the region, including the opening of an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Center and the establishment of an LPGA regional qualifying school.
Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title
STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.
It’s been that kind of exhausting season.
From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.
So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?
“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”
A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.
Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.
All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.
But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.
On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.
“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.
Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.
“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”
Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.
“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.
It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.
Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.
This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.
They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.
“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.
Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.
It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.
Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.
Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.
“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”
But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.
Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.
And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.
By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.
“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”
Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.
In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.
The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.
“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”
Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf
Arizona's women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.
Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:
• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.
• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.
• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).
• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.
• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.
• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.