Bunker Shots Real Season Begins

By Randall MellFebruary 2, 2010, 9:35 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from 'Lefty's Alley' to another big week in the Middle East . . .

Northern Trust Open

Thursday might actually feel like Opening Day for golf.

Nine of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up, albeit it on different sides of the planet, with four of them at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles and five at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates.

Everyone in the top 10 except you-know-who will be playing this week.

That’s more stars playing than any week so far this season.

No. 1 Tiger Woods won’t be playing the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles as he remains in self-imposed exile, but he hasn’t played there since 2006 anyway.

Stance: The two highest ranked players in the world available to play will make appearances at Riviera this week. No. 2 Phil Mickelson and No. 3 Steve Stricker should be factors given their histories there. They finished 1-2 last year. Mickelson has won the last two years at Riviera and is seeking to become the first player in the 84-year history of the event to win it three consecutive years. If he does, they might have to begin calling Riviera Lefty’s Alley instead of Hogan’s Alley. Seven players have won back-to-back at Riviera’s PGA Tour stop (Macdonald Smith, 1928-29; Hogan, 1947-48; Paul Harney, 1964-65; Arnold Palmer, 1966-67; Corey Pavin, 1994-95; Mike Weir, 2003-04; Mickelson, 2008-09).

Takeaway: Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington make their 2010 debuts. They both left ’09 on nice little rolls. Furyk finished T8 or better the last five times he teed it up, including his unofficial victory at the Chevron World Challenge. After issues with swing changes much of ’09, Harrington’s last six PGA Tour starts ended like this: T2, T10, T2, T4, T6, T4.

Bunker shot: The 2010 PGA Tour season is all about strident noise. The wonderfully rich sounds golf typically brings us, the smattering of applause when greens are hit, the chirping of birds in the still before shots are played, have given way to squabbling. From PGA Tour players and tournament directors grousing about international waivers depleting their fields to the cheating accusations tossed around in the groove debate, golf feels like one big argument this season. You can toss in the numerous debates over what Woods should and shouldn’t do before he returns to golf. Has the game ever been noisier?

Omega Dubai Desert Classic

At 20, Rory McIlroy’s the buzz at Emirates Golf Club, but so is Tom Watson at 60.

McIlroy’s the defending champ. Watson’s coming off that rousing victory in a duel with Fred Couples at the Champions Tour’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic two weeks ago in Hawaii. His brilliant run at the British Open before losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry last summer adds to anticipation of his first appearance in the event. Watson’s 12th in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings. His next PGA Tour start will be the Masters in April.

Stance: Lee Westwood got off to a sluggish start in his 2010 debut at Abu Dhabi, but he rebounded with a third-place finish at Qatar last week. At No. 4 in the world rankings, Westwood is the highest ranked international player in the world, though that doesn’t necessarily make him the best. Padraig Harrington’s three majors give him that honor. After winning the Dubai World Championship and Race to Dubai last fall, Westwood will be looking to make this his big year in the world’s biggest events. He’s already a strong contender for the title nobody covets: best player without a major championship title.

Takeaway: Watch out for Henrik Stenson this week. He’s a member at Emirates Golf Club and won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2007.

Bunker shot: Europe may not have the best young talent in the world, but it sure looks like it. European youth win more than American youth. American devotees will argue that PGA Tour events are tougher to win and the world rankings reward European success too heavily. Given that, here are the facts: Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel are both 25 and they’ve each already won five European Tour titles. Sean O’Hair leads Americans under 30 with three PGA Tour titles. Eight European Tour players under 30 rank among the top 50 in the world. They’ve combined to win 21 European Tour titles. Five Americans under 30 rank among the top 50 in the world. They’ve combined to win nine PGA Tour titles.

And also this week . . .

The Nationwide Tour’s second event of the year is the Moonah Classic, scheduled to begin Thursday at Moonah Links in Fingal in Victoria, Australia. American Robert Gates won the season-opening Michael Hill New Zealand Open in his Nationwide Tour debut. He’s back in this week’s field looking for back-to-back titles.
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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”