LPGA needs to ride wave of excitement from Solheim Cup

By Associated PressAugust 24, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' A roar went up and thousands of fans immediately headed to the next hole, a wave of red washing through the trees at Rich Harvest Farms.
 
Its a commonplace scene when Tiger Woods is playing. This rock star treatment, though, was for the women. From the practice rounds to the closing ceremony, fans ' young and old, male and female, hardcore golfers and people who dont know a pitch from a putt ' packed the Solheim Cup, and players delivered with one of the most riveting events in years.
 
It was the perfect advertisement for womens golf. The next question is, could it also be the remedy for the LPGA, which has seemed more like a bad soap opera in recent months?
 
You want to know how this will help the LPGA? I just think if more people could come out and actually watch us play ' Ive been out here, as you guys know, a long time, and Ive never seen the golf that these women play now, veteran Juli Inkster said Sunday night.
 
We have a great product, and the more people see that and write about it, itll be great for us.
 
Like everything else, the economy has taken its toll on the LPGA. There are 28 official money events this year, six fewer than last year. The Corning Classic was played for the last time this year, and McDonalds is dropping its sponsorship of the LPGA Championship.
 
But most of the tours problems centered around former commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who was essentially forced out by the players earlier this summer. Bivens was credited with signing new TV deals, upgrading the quality of courses and increasing coverage of child care, but her missteps got the most attention ' and often overshadowed the players.
 
She was widely criticized last year when she proposed an English-only policy for tour players. Though never instituted, it garnered wide attention, with one California lawmaker calling it borderline racist. Early in Bivens tenure, a dispute over media credentials disrupted the Fields Open.
 
Weve got some great golf, Inkster said. If people would write about the golf and not about all the other stuff, we would be great.
 
That, though, is now up to the players.
 
After rallying for what turned out to be a critical halve in the Americans 16-12 victory over Europe on Sunday, Inkster said this was her last Solheim Cup and that shell play a limited schedule next year. Its hardly a surprise, considering the seven-time major champion is 49 and hasnt won since 2006.
 
But its the end of an era, and means the tour is firmly in the hands of its youngsters.
 
Take the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Half of the players were 25 or younger. Michelle Wie, whose 3-0-1 record led the team, is all of 19. Paula Creamer, who contributed three points, is 23. Morgan Pressel, whose 3-and-2 victory over Anna Nordqvist sealed the win, is 21.
 
I said thank you to Beth Daniel because if she hadnt picked Juli Inkster, I would have been the oldest on the team, joked Cristie Kerr, who is just 31.
 
Its not just youth, though. The kids can play.
 
Brittany Lincicome, 23, won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the years first major. Creamer has eight wins on the LPGA. Pressel and Wie, of course, were in contention for a major before they got their drivers licenses.
 
A few years ago, it looked like American golf was very old, and we had quite an old team on the Solheim Cup, Pressel said. Now its younger than ever.
 
The key, as always, is Wie.
 
She has drawn comparisons to Woods since she was in grade school, and had a deal with Nike as soon as she turned pro. Whether its her skill ' she can drive it further than some men ' or that she dared to tee it up against the guys, she captivates fans and has the potential to drive the game to new heights like Woods did with the PGA Tour.
 
But she has to win, and she has to show more of the personality that charmed fans at the Solheim Cup.
 
Her teammates had raved about her, promising that everyone would see an entirely different side of her. Sure enough, Wie was so animated that U.S. captain Beth Daniel worried at one point she was too excited. She screamed after big shots and pumped her fists. She played to the crowd, raising her arms and cupping a hand to her ear to ask for more noise. When the Americans clinched the cup, it was Wie who grabbed a big American flag and ran around the 18th green.
 
By the end of the weekend, fans were greeting her with whimsical cheers of Wheeee!
 
It was the most fun Ive had playing, Wie said. I think Ive said that multiple times this week, but every hole seemed like walking down 18 of a major championship times 100. I mean, these crowds were absolutely amazing, and to have 11 other team members as great as these people, it was just so fabulous.
 
But its another two years before the LPGA will have this kind of lovefest again. As the players went their respective ways Monday, the challenge will be to maintain the enthusiasm of the Solheim Cup when theyre opponents instead of teammates.
 
Were going to be good, Inkster said. You guys just have to be patient with us.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • American Junior Golf Association

    Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

    While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

    There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

    According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

    Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

    By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

    They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

    McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

    Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

    On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

    Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

    10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

    12/1: Tony Finau

    14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

    20/1: Francesco Molinari

    25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

    30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

    40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

    50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

    60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

    80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

    100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

    Getty Images

    Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

    By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

    Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

    It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

    Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

    “I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

    “I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

    Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

    At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

    Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

    “I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

    “Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

    “Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

    After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

    “I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

    Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

    “It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

    “Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

    On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

    Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

    “She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

    Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

    At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

    At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

    Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

    “I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

    Her overall assessment of her day?

    “It was a great experience,” she said.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.