Five Exempt for 2005 LPGA Season
This is the sixth year in the 24-year history of the Futures Tour that players have received automatic exemptions onto the LPGA Tour, and only the second year that five exemptions were presented. Previously the number of awarded cards was three.
Also today, the next 10 players on the money list, excluding any LPGA non-exempt members, received automatic entry into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to be held December 1 - 5, at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Those players, in order of finish, are: Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio; Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea; Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea; Kris Tamulis of Naples, Fla.; Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea; Young Jo of Suwon, Korea; Erica Blasberg of Corona, Calif.; Allison Hanna of Portland, Ore.; Naree Song of Seoul, Korea; and Michelle Murphy of Tacoma, Wash.
Kang, who is in her third season on the Futures Tour and a second-year LPGA non-exempt member, had eight top-10 finishes, including two wins. She won the Tampa Bay's Next Generation Futures Golf Classic in Florida and the Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic in Morgantown, W. Va. She earned $51,268 in 18 starts this year and tops the Futures Tour Money List awarding her honors as the 2004 Futures Tour Player of the Year.
'After trying to Monday qualify on the LPGA last year, I decided the Futures Tour is such a great program where you can play full time and every single week, so I played here all this year,' said the 24-year old. 'The Futures Tour gives you the experience of being a professional and I wanted to take advantage of it.'
Wright, also a non-exempt member of the LPGA and a second-year Futures Tour player, finished nine times in the top 10 this year, including winning twice. Her wins came at the Isleta Casino and Resort Futures Gold Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Bank of Ann Arbor Futures Golf Classic in Michigan. With $45,536 in season earnings, Wright finished second on the money list.
'Last year, I watched the top five players get their cards and a few of the players I looked up to, so I knew this was the place to go to move on to the LPGA,' said the four-time NCAA All-American Wright, who played at Pepperdine University. 'I had status on the LPGA Tour [this year], but I knew if I played on the Futures Tour one more year, I would continue to develop week in and week out and make myself a stronger player. If you come out here prepared, it is an awesome experience.'
Despite missing the cut this week, Perrot held on to her No. 3 position on the money list. The 20-year old posted six top-10 finishes, including two wins coming into the final week. She won the GMAC Futures Golf Classic on Avon, Conn., and three weeks ago, won the Albany Futures Golf Classic in New York.
Perrot, who had LPGA non-exempt status last year said, 'I have been waiting for this moment since I was eight. I had one goal -- the LPGA Tour, and I did it. It is really exciting. I played three years on the Futures Tour and now I graduated to the LPGA Tour. It is like going to college and getting a degree and moving on. The experience I gained on the Futures Tour will help me so much on the LPGA Tour.'
The youngest player in the top five, 18-year-old rookie Cho, had five top-10 finishes this season, including one runner-up finish and two wins. Her first professional win was the Michelob ULTRA Futures Charity Golf Classic in Decatur, Ill., and her second win was the Stratton Mountain Futures Classic in Vermont. She earned $38,153 in earnings and captured Futures Tour Rookie of the Year honors.
The biggest surprise of the day and week was Johnson. She started the week in 11th place on the Futures Tour Money List. In order to move into the top five, the first-year pro would have to win this week's event. In stellar fashion, Johnson came from two shots back in the final round to tie for the lead with Kris Tamulis of Naples, Fla., after regulation play. Then the 22-year old won the York Newspaper Futures Golf Classic in a playoff with a birdie. That win allowed her to sneak past Bastel, who finished tied for 27th, by only $252.
'Surprised to say the least,' said the left-handed player and recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin. 'I had no idea until my name was called at the awards ceremony. At the start of the week, I thought if I won, I might have a chance. Having said that, while playing today and in the playoff, I never thought of it. I just wanted to win. It has been a great experience competing on the Futures Tour. This Tour is a spring board into the next stage.'
Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the Futures Tour said, 'We are sending five great champions to the LPGA Tour and wonderful representatives of the Futures Tour and their individual countries. These players are very strong and ready to take the next step. They showed character and will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, such as Lorena Ochoa, Grace Park, Beth Bauer and others. The Futures Tour is truly the place to grow young talent and develop them into the LPGA stars.'
The Futures Golf Tour, 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA,' has become the largest international developmental tour and the second largest women's golf tour in the world. Since 1989, Futures Tour events have raised nearly $3 million for charitable organizations. Throughout its 24-year history, membership has increased from approximately 150 North American players to more than 300 players from 29 different nations. The Tour now conducts 18 tournaments in 15 states. The top five players on the 2004 Futures Tour Money List will receive automatic exemptions for the 2005 LPGA Tour. There are more than 240 Futures Tour alumnae on the LPGA Tour and through 2003, they have won a total of 266 LPGA titles, including 28 major championships. The Futures Tour is committed to developing the skills and dreams of women golfers, establishing role models for youth and creating the LPGA stars of tomorrow.
Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas
ROGERS, Ark. – Former Arkansas star Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship.
Lopez, a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks, matched her career best by finishing at 8 under - doing so after missing the cut in her last two tournaments. The Mexican player began the tournament at Pinnacle Country Club ranked 136th in the world but finished just two shots off the course record of 10 under in her third year on the LPGA Tour.
Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok.
Local favorite Stacy Lewis, expecting her first child in early November, had a 66.
Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.
Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead
CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.
Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.
“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”
Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.
Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.
“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”
10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke
CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.
Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.
Was it a birdie, or a par?
According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.
According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.
“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”
Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.
“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”
While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.
His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.
“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”
Travelers becoming marquee event for star players
CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.
The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.
The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.
Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.
The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.
Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.
While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.
Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.
“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”
Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.
But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.
“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”
After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.
The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.
But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.
Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.
It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.
“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”