Former LPGA Member Grabs Lead In Season Opener

By Futures Tour MediaMarch 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
Duramed FUTURES TourLAKELAND, Fla. -- After spending the last three seasons on the LPGA Tour, Sae Hee Son felt an odd sense of nervousness as she entered today's first round of the season-opening $85,000 Bright House Networks Open.
But that twitch in her gut also could have been a reminder that the last time the Korean had visited Cleveland Heights Golf Course in the fall of 2004, she had breezed through the Duramed FUTURES Tour's Qualifying Tournament en route to LPGA Final Q-School where she earned her exempt 2005 status. Son left Cleveland Heights and never looked back until she once again stood on the first tee today.
And today, the now-seasoned professional posted the morning number that everybody chased all day, carding a bogey-free, six-under-par score of 66.
'I feel great now, but I was just a little bit nervous today,' said Son, 22, of Seoul, Korea. 'I have had three years on the LPGA Tour and I improved my course management and putting. But I still need a lot of experience.
Now a resident of Orlando, Fla., Son produced a well-balanced round with three birdies on the front and three birdies on the back nine and rolled in 26 putts.
Finishing two shots back at 68 (-4) in the first round was fourth-year player Jessica Shepley, who also played in the morning rounds and started on the back nine of the par-72, 6,258-yard course with four birdies. The Canadian finished her day birdie-bogey on the front nine, rolling in a 12-footer on No. 8, but stumbling with three putts from 30 feet on the difficult par-three ninth green - the course's toughest-playing hole today.
'I didn't hit my irons particularly well, but I got away with it,' said Shepley, 24, of Oakville, Ontario. 'I wanted to get off to a good start and get comfortable out there.'
Today's season-opening first round was a crucial test for Shepley, a former All-SEC player at the University of Tennessee, who, by her own admission, has fallen short of lofty expectations as she has transitioned from collegiate to the professional ranks. Fed up with poor 2007 season results, the Canadian left the Tour before the end of the season last year and went home to Ontario to regroup.
'I've refocused on every aspect of my life and golf game and re-evaluated my goals,' she said. 'Now I know that it's not always about doing what I want to do, but about doing what I need to do.'
Returning players Annie Young and Yeon Joo Lee were the first to jump onto the leaderboard this morning, both posting rounds of three-under-par 69. Lee's low round marked a return from an injury-shortened season last year in which she struggled with an injured disk in her back. Young's start was a continuation of her pre-season tune-up, in which she won a Phoenix-based mini-tour event three weeks ago.
'I've thought a lot about Emily Bastel and Allison Fouch, who finished No. 1 and 2 [on the Tour's money list] out here last year, and it wasn't always great for them, but they stuck it out and finally got what they wanted,' said Young of Highland, Utah, a third-year pro and former All-American at Oklahoma State University. 'I've probably put too much pressure on myself to get to the next level, rather than enjoying where I am. My attitude this year has to be that this is a great stepping stone and that I just have to give myself opportunities.'
A total of eight players are tied at three-under-par 69, including 2005 Lakeland tournament winner Jin Young Pak of Kang Leung, South Korea, Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., Alissa Kuczka of Phoenix, Song Yi Choi of Seoul, Korea, Leah Wigger of Louisville, Ky., and former two-time Tour champion Stephanie George of Myerstown, Pa.
In spite of an afternoon rain that set in and dampened opening day for the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour, at least one player in the afternoon rounds seemed unfazed by the drizzle and happy to finally be competing again since the season ended last September.
'It feels good to come out here and shoot a 69 because it was pretty cold being at home in Louisville [Ky.] this winter, hitting shots in a heated area,' said Wigger, playing in her first full season.
The tournament's defending champion Lori Atsedes of Ithaca, N.Y., carded a one-under-par score of 71, while heralded rookie Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., made her professional debut with a plus-one score of 73.
'I wasn't really nervous,' said Hurst, 17, this week's cover-girl feature in Golfweek magazine. 'The greens just weren't good to me.'
Saturday's second round will begin at 8:30 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:39 p.m.
For scores and more information, visit
Weather: Partly cloudy turning to mostly cloudy with afternoon rain. Temperatures dropping from mid-70s to mid-60s with wind around 7 mph.
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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.

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No indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2018, 12:25 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.

While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022.

“With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted The Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.

Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.

Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.

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Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.

Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.

Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”

“A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”

There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.

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Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.

Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.

As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.

Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.

Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.

“It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.

Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.

“There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”

That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.

“I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.

Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.

In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.

“I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”

That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.

Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.

Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.

One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”

Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.

In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.

Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.