Norman Offers Sorenstam Shootout Invite
Sorenstam, who became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour when she missed the cut in the 2003 Colonial, will be playing in the silly season for the third straight year. She has played in the Skins Game the last two years.
Norman is the tournament host of the event known as the 'Shark Shootout.' He announced a new title sponsor in Merrill Lynch, and offered the first invitations to Sorenstam and Fred Couples. The only other players confirmed for the 12-team field Nov. 10-12 at Tiburon Golf Club are defending champions Kenny Perry and John Huston.
Norman has been outspoken about women playing on men's tours, calling it a marketing ploy two years ago when Laura Davies was given an exemption to the ANZ Championship.
'I think the rightful place is that women play on their tour and we play on ours,' he said in January 2004. 'It all started with Annika to promote herself and promote women's golf, but at the end of the day, it can be very detrimental.'
Se Ri Pak is the only woman to have made the cut on a men's tour since 2003, tying for 10th in a Korean tournament.
Norman said Monday he still believes any woman wanting to compete on a men's tour should qualify. But he said unofficial events like the Merrill Lynch Shootout or the Skins Game are different.
'I think I've been very consistent and public in some of the my comments prior to this in believing that anybody that plays on a regular tour event, whether it's in Australia, whether it is in Europe or in the U.S., should earn their stripes to go play it,' he said. 'This Merrill Lynch Shootout is a totally different event. Even though it is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour, it's still got that relaxed atmosphere that an individual like Annika Sorenstam will come and add a tremendous amount of value to it.'
Norman said inviting Sorenstam was a joint decision with Merrill Lynch, which previously has worked with Sorenstam.
Her partner has not been determined. Norman usually determines the teams, but told Sorenstam she could play with whomever she wants -- even if her partner is another woman.
'Would there possibly be another woman? Absolutely,' Norman said. 'Time will tell who that will be.'
Norman said the tournament next year will move to December and will be televised on the weekend by NBC Sports.
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Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn
SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.
The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.
''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''
Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.
The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.
Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.
''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''
Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.
''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''
Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup
JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.
In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.
Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian Poulter, Nick Watney and Michael Kim.
Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.
Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.
Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.
Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.
''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''
Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.
''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''
Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.
Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.
''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''
The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.
Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1
Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.
Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.
Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.
Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.
One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.
In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.
On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.
"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."
Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.
Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green
Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].
And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.
Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.
Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.