The Week in Golf News 1127-1201

By Golf Channel NewsroomDecember 1, 2000, 5:00 pm
IMG plans another Aussie Stop
 
International Management Group has announced a new tournament to be staged in Perth, Australia, which will begin playing in 2002.
 
The as-yet-unnamed tournament will be held at the Lake Karrinyup course for five years, with an option for five more. It will replace the Heineken Classic, which is moving to Melbourne and takes place in November.
 
Star Field Set for Senior Skins
 
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin will compete in the 2001 Senior Skins Game Jan. 27-28.
 
The two-day made-for-television event will be played at the Wailae Resort in Hawaii after being held at Mauna Lani Resort from 1990 to 1999.
 
Sergio Commits to Australia
 
Sergio Garcia, the young Spaniard who plays both in Europe and the United States, has committed to play in the Australian Masters in February.
 
The world's 14th-ranked player is the first major draw secured by tournament organizer IMG, although Ernie Els, Nick Price, Jesper Parnevik and Phil Mickelson are reportedly pencilled in.
 
Monty and Torrance Support European Tour
 
Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance have voiced their support of the European Tour in the controversy of player demands to open the books.
 
'No, I don't support it at all,' said Montgomerie when asked whether he approved or not. 'I feel that it's my responsibility to support the Tour. I know what's going on with the accounts and it's all very kosher. If I'm involved with making the rules on the Tour, I can't go behind its back and demand something else.'
 
Montgomerie is a member of the tournament committee which dictates the Tour's rules and golfers' code of conduct.
 
Torrance said, 'I trust the European Tour implicitly. I've been on the Tour for 30 years and I've seen it grow incredibly. I don't agree with the reasons for the complaint whatsoever.'
 
LPGA Adds New Event in Korea
 
The Ladies Professional Golf Association has announced the addition of the Sports Today Open which will be held in Seoul, Korea, Oct. 19-21.
 
The event, which will be played the first time in 2001, is the first LPGA-sanctioned event in Korea since the Samsung World Championship moved to the U.S. in 1998.
 
The inaugural event will carry a $1.5 million purse. The field will comprise the top 60 players from the official LPGA money list, and the remainder will be top-ranking players from the Korean LPGA.
 
Australasian Tour Elects Officers
 
Wayne Grady, Wayne Smith and Mike Harwood were elected to the board at the Australasian Tour's annual meeting while Jack Newton chose not to seek re-election as chairman.
 
Newton was awarded life membership of the tour. Peter Senior also chose not to seek re-election.
 
NTSB Uncertain What Caused Stewart Crash
 
The National Transportation Safety Board concludes that they have several theories about what caused the crash of Payne Stewart's jet, but the total destruction of the plane and the fact that the voice recorder lasts only 30 minutes makes finding a resolution impossible.
 
All aboard the ill-fated jet perished. Military jets reported seeing the windows fogged up while the plane was still in flight, which could suggest the loss of cabin pressure, as well as the loss of enough oxygen to cause unconsciousness. Though emergency oxygen was available, in older planes it had to be activated manually by the crew.
 
Oxygen deprivation causes many pilots to behave irrationally, meaning that in the minute or two they need to adjust controls, many do make wrong decisions.
 
An emergency oxygen tank was found empty, but officials could not determine if the tank was empty before the flight began. Pressure problems were reported with the Learjet prior to the flight, but it was impossible to tell if maintenance done on these systems was done correctly.
 
The plane did have a so-called 'black box' to record the plane's instruments at the time of the accident, and the 30-minute voice recorder recycled itself during the four-hour flight.
 
Fulke is Honored
 
Pierre Fulke has been named the European Tour's Asprey and Garrard Golfer of the Month for November.
 
Fulke held of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Michael Campbell to capture November's Volvo Masters.
 
Norman Criticizes Appleby for Withdrawal
 
Australian Stuart Appleby has withdrawn from the Australian PGA Championship to play in the $2 million Sun City tournament in South Africa, and that concerns Aussie Greg Norman.
 
Appleby waited until Sunday night to notify surprised tournament officials. That is wrong, said Norman.
 
'If you decide a month ago to play South Africa and not the (Australian) PGA, that is your decision. But if you decide to play the PGA and then change, that is a different story,' said Norman.
 
Norman said Appleby put the organizers in 'a bit of a bind.'
 
Els Free of Back Pain
 
Ernie Els says the back problem he suffered three weeks ago is now healed and he is confident as he prepares to defend his title at Sun City.
 
He hurt his back in the first round of the American Express Championship in Spain. 'I feel like I'm back to normal again. I played golf for the first time on Sunday and there wasn't even the slightest bit of pain.'
 
Woods, Finchem Meet in L.A.
 
Tiger Woods and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem met for first time since Woods' GolfWorld magazine outburst and both believe it was very beneficial.
 
Woods and Finchem discussed player marketing rights, commercial use of player images and the Internet. Woods' Williams World Challenge will be held nearby this weekend.
 
'It was important for us to meet face-to-face to gain a clearer understanding of each other's business objectives,' said Woods in a statement released by the PGA Tour.
 
Finchem said, 'I'm delighted we're discussing the specifics of his business strategy, because a significant mission of the Tour is to provide our members with a strong marketing platform.'
 
Both agreed the dialogue would continue.
 
Westwood Earns Euro Player of the Year Honors
 
Lee Westwood was named the European Tour's Asprey and Garrand Golfer of the Year for the second time in the last three years.
 
The 27-year-old Englishman won six times in 2000 and ended Colin Montgomerie's seven-year run at the top of the Order of Merit.
 
'It's a fantastic honor to be voted Player of the Year and caps a wonderful season for me and all those who have helped make it such a success,' said Westwood.
 
Westwood won the award unanimously over Ernie Els and Darren Clarke. The world's No. 5 ranked player is in South Africa this week for the Nedbank Sun City Challenge, which offers $2 million to the winner.
 
PGA Tour Announces 2000 Awards
 
For the third time in the past four seasons, Tiger Woods has been named the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Woods, who also earned this distinction in 1997 and 1999, won nine Tour events in 2000 and amassed over $9 million in official earnings.
 
Woods was selected by a vote of the PGA Tour membership. He becomes the first man to be named Tour Player of the Year on three occasions.
 
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Woods adds this trophy, named the Jack Nicklaus Award, to the others he has captured in 2000, including the Arnold Palmer Award for the Tour's leading money winner, the Byron Nelson Award for the Tour's lowest scoring average (67.79), and the PGA Player of the Year, which is presented by the PGA of America.
 
In other PGA Tour awards, Michael Clark II earned Rookie of the Year honors. The 31-year-old was the only rookie to win in 2000, doing so in a playoff at the John Deere Classic in July. He also collected six top-25 finishes on the year.
 
Paul Azinger was named the PGA Tour's Comeback Player of the Year after winning the SONY Open in Hawaii. It was his first title since the 1993 PGA Championship. It was also the 40-year-old's first victory since he defeated lymphoma.
 
Azinger ended the season with a career-best $1,597,539 in earnings and also represented his country on the victorious Presidents Cup team.
Getty Images

Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

Getty Images

Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

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.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


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.”

Getty Images

10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

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.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“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.”

Getty Images

Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

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.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


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.”