Breaking borders: Americans playing globally

By Doug FergusonNovember 15, 2011, 6:01 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – One thing already can be said for this Presidents Cup. The Americans have come a long way.

Only it has nothing to do with the oceans and time zones they crossed to get Down Under. Nor is progress measured by the outcome, for the Americans have lost this event only once since it began in 1994.

It’s all about their willingness to travel amid the changing landscape in golf.

The Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne for the first time in 13 years, and just think how differently golf looked back then from an American perspective. It was late in the season – the second week in December – some six weeks after the Tour Championship. Hardly anyone was playing meaningful golf. Even fewer felt like going all the way to Australia.

The International team handed the United States its worst loss in any team competition. The score was 20 1/2 -11 1/2 , such a blowout that the Cup was secured when Nick Price beat David Duval in the second of 12 singles matches on the final day.

“Got beat and still had time to eat breakfast,” Duval said with a laugh.

That was the year before the World Golf Championships began, a series of tournaments for players around the world, and originally designed to be played around the world.

But in the first year, a half-dozen Americans from the top 50 in the world chose not to go to Spain at the end of the season. And when the Match Play Championship went to Australia two years later, so many players stayed away – most of them Americans – that the tournament went down to No. 104 in the ranking (Greg Kraft) to fill the 64-man field.

That led to Stuart Appleby’s famous line about Americans.

ldquo;They’re like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,” he once said. “They don’t travel well.”

Now those passport pages are filling up quickly.

U.S. captain Fred Couples wanted his two captain’s picks to play the week before in the Australian Open, and was pleased that six other players joined them. Some of them started even earlier.

Jim FurykBill HaasHunter MahanDavid Toms and Nick Watney were in Shanghai the week before at the HSBC Champions. Furyk and Mahan were in China even earlier, playing the Shanghai Masters. Phil Mickelson was in Singapore last week. After the Presidents Cup, Matt Kuchar is headed to China for the World Cup.

They worry less about the destination and more about what time the plane leaves.

“I think it’s fantastic the way Americans have embraced the way global golf is played nowadays,” International captain Greg Norman said Tuesday. “The season post-Tour Championship gives them the validity of going to Shanghai or Singapore or down here to Melbourne or other places around the world to play. And those opportunities, the guys are taking.”

The shocker might have been Toms in Shanghai.

He played overseas when he was young because he had not made it onto the PGA Tour and had few other options. Once he established himself, Toms found little need to travel except for the British Open or the Ryder Cup. The prize money was minimal, and whatever appearance money he received wasn’t always worth the trip.

But there he was at the HSBC Champions – the same week of the LSU-Alabama game, no less. Toms acted like a true pro, too. The game was on Sunday morning, he wasn’t in contention, yet the LSU alum was on the range an hour before his round, just like always.

Watney takes about every opportunity that comes his way overseas. He gave up Thanksgiving one year to play the World Cup with John Merrick. He has become a regular in Shanghai.

“I just believe that to be a truly great player, you have to win all around the world,” Watney said.

Dustin Johnson might take up European Tour membership next year. Bubba Watson went to France, although he lasted all of two days at the French Open and couldn’t get home fast enough.

Norman says more travel, especially this time of the year, could make the matches closer this time. But he looked beyond that to a broader picture of Americans getting out more.

“Look, it’s the responsibility of every player, no matter what their position is, to promote the game on a global basis,” Norman said. “And I like to see what the Americans are doing, traveling and playing overseas.”

Ernie Els was talking about the history of the Presidents Cup a few weeks ago, how the only two times the International team did not lose was in Melbourne and South Africa (the famous tie). Not so coincidentally, his team had the crowd on its side.

And then there was that other “road” game in Montreal in 2007.

“All due respect to my great friend Mike Weir, but why go to Canada?” Els said.

There was a reason for that.

After the plunder Down Under in 1998, and with South Africa already planned for the next road game, there was enough concern about Americans traveling a long distance for the Presidents Cup that the Tour made it easy on them by going north of the border.

That’s no longer necessary. The next overseas Presidents Cup in 2015 is likely headed to either South America (depending on the state of the Olympic golf course being built in Brazil) or Asia, with South Korea a prime candidate. This year’s International team has a record four Asian players.

Els was on his way to the first tee for a practice round when asked about this crop of Americans being more willing to travel. He was more concerned about his own itinerary – Singapore last week, Australia this week, South Africa next week.

“The only trouble is it’s so bloody far to get down here,” he said.

The Big Easy laughed when it was pointed out to him that as a South African, he had no choice but to go bloody far to get anywhere.

“These American boys are starting to travel a bit more,” he said. “And it’s good to see.”


Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel beginning Monday at 6PM. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Wednesday 9PM-2AM, Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 3PM-2AM and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

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Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

“Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

“A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

“She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

“You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

“Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

“I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

“I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

“When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

“Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

“I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

“I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

“That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
Texas USC Stanford Furman
Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
       
Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)