US and Europe in Compelling Competition

By Associated PressMay 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- The Memorial has come a long way since its inception three decades ago, mostly because the players have traveled a long way to get here. They come from every continent where golf is played, representing 15 countries.
 
Then again, it's like that just about every week on the PGA TOUR.
 
That's good news for Tim Finchem, commissioner of the richest and most powerful golf tour in the world.
 
It is becoming a problem for George O'Grady, commissioner of a European Tour that is losing its players, if not its identity.
 
The Wales Open this week has but one of the top 10 players in the world -- Retief Goosen -- and four of the top 50. Most of the European-born stars are at Muirfield Village, from Luke Donald to Paul Casey, from Sergio Garcia to Jose Maria Olazabal. The Irish Open wasn't much better, coming one week after THE PLAYERS Championship.
 
'We're not in conflict with the PGA TOUR,' O'Grady said last week at the BMW Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour. 'The PGA TOUR opened their doors to the best golfers in the world, made them welcome.'
 
And those players gladly walked through the door.
 
That's worth keeping in mind during a U.S.-Europe competition that is becoming far more compelling than the Ryder Cup.
 
Golf has never been more global, but that takes on different meaning depending on the tour. The European Tour is global because of where it goes, a schedule that touches five continents. The PGA TOUR is global because of the players it gets.
 
The PGA TOUR, clearly, is the rising tide in golf. The question is whether it is lifting all ships, or drowning them.
 
Vijay Singh stirred the pot last week at Wentworth when he said the BMW Championship was 'even bigger' than THE PLAYERS Championship. Singh went on to say he was saddened that Europeans had no trouble traveling to Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS, but hardly any Americans bothered coming over to Wentworth.
 
'I would like to see a lot more Americans coming over and trying to play this tournament,' Singh said.
 
What he conveniently failed to explain was why it was only the third time in the last 10 years he played the BMW Championship if he had such strong feelings for the tournament. And perhaps the simple explanation why Europeans come to THE PLAYERS Championship is that most of them are joint members of the European and PGA tours.
 
Still, it exposed a growing divide between the tours, and how the Federation of PGA Tours is no longer effective.
 
The federation was formed 11 years ago primarily to oversee the World Golf Championships, which sounded like a great idea when they were being staged all over the world. Now the three that count toward official money are played in Arizona, Florida and Ohio, and they are under contract through 2012.
 
The one that used to rotate between the United States and Europe was folded into an existing PGA TOUR event at Doral, which turned out to be a double whammy. It not only knocked out dozens of rank-and-file U.S. players, it handed America yet another 'world' event.
 
Singh raised the idea that the BMW Championship -- a world-class event on a championship course as good as any -- could not be packaged as a WGC event, perhaps attracting more Americans.
 
Never mind that too many Americans stayed away even when there were WGC events in Ireland and Spain and London.
 
'We offered one or two events we considered suitable to be WGC tournaments but the PGA TOUR flatly refused to consider them,' said Keith Waters, director of international policy for the European Tour.
 
Ed Moorhouse, co-chief operating officer at the PGA TOUR, recalls preliminary talks about a WGC event the week before or after the British Open, but it never got beyond that.
 
'It's fair to say we didn't go into a lot of details because it was fairly obvious they didn't want to entertain a WGC in Europe,' Waters said in a telephone interview. 'It was most disappointing.'
 
The tournament that got most of the attention was Loch Lomond, home of the Barclays Scottish Open held a week before the British Open. Loch Lomond was interested, and Waters said he was certain Barclays would have been willing to up the ante.
 
One reason the PGA TOUR balked was it had obligations to the John Deere Classic, held the same week in Illinois.
 
That's why the federation has run its course. It's hard to take it seriously when Finchem, who heads up the federation, has too many competing interests.
 
A new WGC event is planned for China starting in 2009, and Moorhouse said it can rotate out of China every other year, which could mean going to Europe or Australia. That rings hollow, because Europe doesn't have a lot of options in November except for southern Spain or France, Portugal or the Middle East, where the Dubai Classic, Qatar Masters and Abu Dhabi are holding their own.
 
Perhaps the direction for Europe is to come up with its own version of the WGCs.
 
O'Grady mentioned joining forces with Japan, South Africa, Asia and Australia to create 'a hugely strong alternative to the PGA TOUR.'
 
'The idea of amalgamating with other tours to put on a really attractive schedule by whatever name we call it is one that we are in the final stages of refining,' he said.
 
One possibility is a series of events similar to the WGCs that would be jointly sanctioned by everyone except the PGA TOUR.
 
But just like anything else, its strength would be determined by who shows up.
 
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

    Getty Images

    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

    Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”