LPGA Champions Would Love Big 4

By Kraig KannMay 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
This week marks the fourth time the so called and much hyped Big Four have gotten together this year. Tiger, Vijay, Ernie and Phil have gone head-to head at The Buick Invitational, The Players Championship, The Masters and now the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
Tiger has two victories among those four events. If you take Ernie out of the equation and go with the other three names, then Vijay Singh earns a W for his playoff work last weekend at the Wachovia Championship.
Each of the four men has three worldwide wins this year ' all of Ernies coming overseas.
The statistics dont do as much for me as the overall big picture. To me, its the simple fact that the PGA Tour is fortunate to have four players with such star power and such appeal that people talk about it. As the year plays itself out, each man will get his fair share of wins ' thats just the way it always works.
The LPGA and the Champions Tour should be so lucky. And for that matter the Nationwide Tour as well.
The LPGA has the great fortune of Annika Sorenstam. But who else really jumps off the weekly commitment list? The Champions Tour has been blessed to have had Hale Irwin over the last decade or so. And yes, the Champions Tour has a good number of great champions on its weekly list of tournament pairings. Tom Kite, Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen, Fuzzy Zoeller headline a top notch cast of talent.
But neither tour has such star appeal, such domination, and such drawing cards as does the PGA Tour these days.
Dont get me wrong, I really think the Champions Tour and the LPGA are as strong top to bottom as they may have ever been. The Champions Tour has no dominant player these days. The LPGA ' take away Annika ' has plenty of parity.
But its just not the same. Hey, we all know the PGA Tour rules. Fine. Its always been that way. But there were days in recent memory when each tour had its star power spread out just a bit.
Remember the Champions Tour season when Irwin and Gil Morgan went head to head seemingly every week? Ok so it wasnt Nicklaus and Palmer, or Nicklaus and Trevino. But Irwin and Morgan, Irwin and Fleisher and Irwin and Nelson gave us a run for the money and a storyline to follow.
Remember Annika and Karrie? How good was that? What about Annika and Se Ri? For a few years the LPGA had a Big 3 we fell in love with. I miss it.
Believe me when I say that neither the Champions Tour nor the LPGA is a bad product. Its just that both lack the get me fired up storyline to hype.
You can bet that Nationwide Tour officials and players alike would like nothing more than for a two or three horse race to develop this season that keeps people talking about when theyll next clash for the battlefield promotion.
These are great times for the PGA Tour. Tiger might not be at his very best. But the rankings say hes the best of the best. And those right behind him in that race for No. 1 are true superstars that really move the needle as we like to say.
Dont take it for granted.
Maybe you dont like the media banging the Big 4 drum week in and week out. Sometimes I, myself, feel for those left out of this continuing soap opera. But the facts speak for themselves. Theyre the Big 4 for a reason. They win, they draw and rarely do they disappoint.
In the NBA, you dont often check the box score and see Shaquille ONeal with only 5 points and 1 rebound do you? Does Allen Iverson score 48 one night and then 7 the next?
When Dennis Eckersley was saving game after game after game for the Oakland Athletics, there was this virtual lock that hed deliver every night.
Thats what the Big 4 on the PGA Tour seems to do. Win every week? No?
Golf is a sport with little guarantee. But these days, when the big guns show up for a PGA Tour event, its a pretty safe bet that theyll be in the hunt come Sunday, making for a continuing storyline that appears to have a pretty long shelf life.
I for one, think its great. And when it comes to the majors ' its even better. If the underdog comes and steals their spotlight ' so be it. It makes for a terrific story. and a virtual lock for one of my columns the next week.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.