Chun smiles her way to historic second major title

By Randall MellSeptember 18, 2016, 6:24 pm

In Gee Chun sealed the deal Sunday winning the Evian Championship.

It’s officially the “Year of the Smile” in women’s golf.

If Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko leads the LPGA in smiles, Chun is a close second with Ariya Jutanugarn not far behind.

In fact, Jutanugarn may have become the first player to turn a smile into a practical device this year. She integrated a smile into her pre-shot routine back in April. She didn’t begin her tour best run of five victories this season until she began using a smile as a trigger to remind her to slow down and be confident before stepping over a shot.

Chun had more to smile about winning the Evian Championship Sunday than any player who ever teed it up in a major. She went lower over 72 holes in a major than any man or woman in history. With a dramatic par save at the last, Chun shot 69, posting a four-day total of 21 under, the lowest total in relation to par in major championship golf.


Evian Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I can’t believe I won the Evian Championship at 21 under,” Chun said. “I’m not dreaming, right?”

Chun finished a shot better than the 20-under total Henrik Stenson posted winning The Open Championship at Royal Troon this summer and a shot better than Jason Day posted winning the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last year.

Chun’s total was two better than the women’s record shared by Dottie Pepper (1999 Kraft Nabisco), Karen Stupples (2004 Women’s British Open), Cristie Kerr (2010 LPGA Championship), Yani Tseng (2011 LPGA Championship) and Inbee Park (2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship).

Chun’s smile is apparently as integral to her game as it is to Jutanugarn’s.

“It’s the most important part of In Gee’s game,” Dr. Won Park, Chun’s coach, told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a strong statement, given Park has helped Chun build one of the most elegant swings in the women’s game.

Park says Chun’s pre-shot routine is built on the idea of “flow,” of creating positive flow through her game. Her smile after shots, after plucking her ball from the cup and while acknowledging fans, is an integral part of that flow.

“She has learned to enjoy the game whether she is playing well or playing badly,” Park said. “I try to teach that to every player of mine, but they don’t all pick it up. In Gee does.”

There’s another benefit to Chun’s smile. It has helped her connect to fans in meaningful ways.

She is one of the most popular players in South Korea. She goes by the nickname “Dumbo,” a moniker she says she gained because of her natural curiosity, “like the baby elephant.” Her fan club is called “The Flying Dumbos,” which is spreading to the United States.

Chun is working hard to connect to American fans.

Park told GolfChannel.com that Chun began carrying a pair of small books in her back pockets during rounds after she came to the United States to play full time this year. She carried a yardage book in one pocket and an English-Korean translation book in the other pocket.

“So she could practice her English between shots,” Park said.

Chun has started combining the books, moving her English notes into the back of her yardage book. Park said you can sometimes see Chun appear to be talking to herself when she’s walking between shots.

“She’s practicing her English,” Park said.

After Chun won the U.S. Women’s Open last year, Park was her translator when she met media in her news conference. When Chun arrived for the ANA Inspiration for her first major as an LPGA member this year, Park encouraged her to do as many interviews as she could in English. He helped her here and there.

After winning Sunday at Evian, Chun did her NBC TV interview herself, completely in English.

“Most people say golf is an individual sport, but I believe it is a team sport,” Chun told NBC and Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott while cradling her new trophy. “My manager, my caddie, my coach, my family ... I have a team, and we prepare for this game and play this game together. I love my team.”

Chun’s smile is proving a universal language.

“I think she's an amazing ambassador for the women's game,” said Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who was there on the 18th green to help douse Chun in a champagne-soaked victory celebration. “You can see that from her personality. She's always smiling, and she's there for other people. I think that's why everybody really likes her. You can see that by the many of us that came out to support her and celebrate and spray champagne and water on her.”

With Sunday’s victory, Chun joins South Korean legend Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA victories.

With Chun’s triumph coming on the heels of Inbee Park’s gold medal win, there’s immense pride back in South Korea. Chun helped the Koreans avoid a shutout in this year’s majors. They’ve now won a major in each of the last six years. They’ve won 11 of the last 22 majors played.

“This is going to be huge for Korean fans,” So Yeon Ryu said.

After winning Sunday, Chun revealed she smiled through some emotional pain at year’s start. A controversial mishap at the Singapore airport before the HSBC Women’s Champions in March was harder on Chun than she acknowledged publicly.

Back in the spring, Chun was injured when fellow South Korean star Ha Na Jang’s father lost control of a 15-pound travel bag, sending it bouncing down an escalator. It struck Chun in the lower back. She missed a month recovering from injuries to her pelvis, sacroiliac joint and lumbar muscles. The media furor the mishap created in South Korea, pitting her against Jang, troubled her more than she acknowledged at the time.

Chun withdrew from the HSBC Women’s Champions, the JTBC Founders Cup and Kia Classic while recovering from injury. All the while, the controversy simmered between Chun and Jang fans.

“It was an inner struggle,” Chun said Sunday. “I just had to keep it quiet inside, but I had to go through all those hard times, not being able to mention anything about my injury and my hurt and pain.”

Chun was paired with Jang in the first two rounds of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June. She said the pairing was stressful, but it actually “led to healing” between her and Jang. “It was nobody’s fault, just by mistake, everything’s cool,” Chun said.

Chun’s smile said everything’s more than cool now in Chun’s world. It’s historically excellent.

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One year later: Surgery to success for Tiger

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 6:30 pm

So much can happen in a year.

Exactly 365 days ago, Tiger Woods went under the knife. When it comes to Woods, surgery has become a somewhat regular occurrence over the years; his timeline of injuries and procedures stretches nearly as long as the one detailing his on-course accomplishments.

But this one was surprising, both for the timing and the operation in question.

It was only one day prior, after all, that Woods sat in front of a sparse gallery of fans and media to announce his plans to design a new course at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. He smiled while sitting carefully in a wooden folding chair, then stood up and gingerly hit a short wedge shot to cap the publicity stunt. He needed to re-load and swing again in order to find the makeshift green.

While it was clear that Woods was not firing on all cylinders, at no point in the proceedings did he mention the surgical appointment looming on his calendar.

“The back is progressing,” Woods said on April 18, 2017. “I have good days and bad days. I’ve had three back operations, and that’s just kind of the nature of the business unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”

He added back operation No. 4 the very next day, this time opting for a lumbar fusion that was more serious and invasive than any of its predecessors. The surgery brought with it a six-month recovery window and the very real notion that, at age 41, Woods may have already played his final hole of competitive golf.



“He is looking forward to life without pain, looking forward to day-to-day without pain,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said the day after the surgery. “He’s looking forward to playing with his kids without pain, playing golf without pain. He knows he’s got a long road, but there’s a huge sense of relief right now.”

Fast-forward one year, and Woods returned to Missouri this week to survey the progress of his Payne’s Valley layout that is scheduled to open in 2019. And near the same spot where he swung through pain with wedge in hand, this time around he ripped a driver at full speed to the delight of the estimated 7,000 fans gathered for a junior clinic he hosted.

Given the relative normalcy of his most recent appearance, what Woods endured last April 19 seems like a lifetime ago.

In recapping the subsequent 12 months, keep in mind that the surgery wasn’t even Woods’ lowest point. That would come six weeks later, when he was arrested and cited for driving under the influence in Florida. There was the mugshot photo, and the arrest reports, and of course the police video where one of the greatest athletes of the last 30 years struggled to tie his shoes.

At that point, professional golf was an afterthought.

But Woods entered private treatment over the summer for his use of prescription drugs, and when he re-emerged as an assistant at the Presidents Cup in October the focus was again on his potential return to life inside the ropes – even as Woods himself acknowledged the possibility that he may never return to competition.

“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” he said. “As I’ve told you guys, I’m hitting 60-yard shots.”

It wasn’t long before those pitch shots gave way to irons and full swings with drivers, one social media video at a time. Woods’ whirlwind renaissance after receiving clearance from his surgeon raised expectations for his return at the Hero World Challenge in December to stratospheric levels.

Now four months into his latest comeback attempt, Woods has exceeded nearly every expectation while re-establishing himself as a regular contender on the PGA Tour. Three straight top-12 finishes in Florida highlighted his spring, and his health is such that questions about the status of his back from the media are now few and far between.

“I think as an athlete, you’re always pushing yourself, right? And the best ones are pushing themselves beyond their limits,” Woods said at the Valspar Championship. “I happened to be one of those guys who pushed my body and my mind to accomplish the things I knew I could. I was able to do it.”

How the next 365 days unfold remains to be seen. Woods is now 42, fighting an undefeated opponent in Father Time, and it wasn’t that long ago that the one-year retrospectives about him had a decidedly different tone.

But heading into the heart of the summer season, Woods’ prospects seem more promising than they have been at any point since his five-win season in 2013. And the winding path from bleak to rosy can be traced back to a fateful decision exactly one year ago to try once more to heal his ailing back where multiple prior attempts had failed.

From limping with a wedge to veering off the road to hinting at a possible return to smashing expectations while staring down players half his age.

So much can happen in a year.

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World Long Drive Association Staging First Live Televised Event of 2018: "Clash in the Canyon," Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 6:15 pm

Open & Women’s Divisions Airing Live in Primetime in Partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada from Long Drive’s Most Storied Venue

Each of the Top-20 in Open Division World Long Drive Rankings & Five-Time (and Defending) World Champion Sandra Carlborg Headline the Field

Veteran Sports Broadcaster Jonathan Coachman Making Golf Channel Debut; Will Conduct Play-by-Play at Each of the Five Televised WLDA Events in 2018

Coming off record viewership in 2017 and a season fueled by emergent dynamic personalities, the World Long Drive Association (WLDA) will stage its first of five televised events in 2018 with the Clash in the Canyon, airing live and in primetime on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. Taking place April 21-24 at Mesquite Regional Sports and Event Complex in partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada, the Clash in the Canyon will culminate with the televised portion Tuesday evening featuring the four women and eight men having advanced from preliminary rounds.

A familiar setting in the Long Drive community, Mesquite previously hosted the Volvik World Long Drive Championship and a number of qualifying events dating back to 1997, including the World Championship having been staged at the same venue as the Clash in the Canyon from 2008-2012. The 480-yard venue is carved out of the adjacent canyon which acts as a scenic backdrop when gazing down the grid from an elevated tee box.

The eventwill feature a 36-man field competing in the Open Division based on World Long Drive rankings, which will include each of the top-20 in the current rankings, along with a Women’s Division field of 18 competitors, led by five-time – and defending – World champion Sandra Carlborg. The Open Division will compete for a $50,000 purse, with a first place prize of $20,000, while the Women’s Division will be vying for a $7,000 first place prize with a $15,000 overall purse. World No. 3 Ryan Reisbeck will be defending his 2017 Clash in the Canyon title, while Chloe Garner won’t have an opportunity to defend on the Women’s side due to her being sidelined for the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. The Clash in the Canyon is the second official event of the 2018 World Long Drive season, as Justin Moose claimed the East Coast Classic in Columbia, South Carolina last month.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Clash in the Canyon will air in primetime on Golf Channel from 7-9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 24, with Golf Centralpreviewing the event from 6-7 p.m. ET. An encore telecast is scheduled to air on Golf Channel from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. New to 2018 will be an overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) displaying the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

Morning Drive and Golf Central will prepare viewers for the Clash in the Canyon through interviews and dedicated segments featuring competitors on-site in Mesquite.

OPEN DIVISION FIELD (in order of World Long Drive ranking): Justin James, Maurice Allen, Ryan Reisbeck, Tim Burke, Trent Scruggs, Will Hogue, Mitch Grassing, Ryan Steenberg, Paul Howell, Glenn Wilson Jr., Landon Gentry, Joe Miller, Tommy Hug, Justin Moose, Kyle Berkshire, Kevin Shook, Jason Eslinger, Nick Kiefer, Steve Monroe, Troy Teal, Jeff Gavin, Brady Torbitt, Dan McIntosh, Eddie Fernandes, Spencer McDaniel, Scott Kalamar, Stephen Kois, Jim Waldron, Jeff Crittenden, Jeff Flagg, Mark Costello, Mitch Dobbyn, Josh Cassaday, Press LaBrie, Dan Lambert, Wes Patterson.

WOMEN’S DIVISION FIELD: Hollie Bartsch, Alexis Belton, Monica Borowicz, Sandra Carlborg, Shelby Crider, Irene Crowchild, Erin Hess, Jana Jones, Heather Manfredda, Phillis Meti, Troy Mullins, Debbie Peever, Alex Phillips, Ashley Pinion, Jessika Shelton, Erin Shireman, Haley Vandenberg, Katherine Wills.

FORMAT: The Open Division field will consist of 36 men broken into four “pods” of nine competitors across four three-minute sets of eight balls each, with a points system being used to identify four from each pod advancing to the Round of 16. From there, five sets of eight balls will determine the eight competitors advancing to take part in the single elimination match play bracket during the live telecast on Golf Channel. The Women’s Division will feature 18 competitors broken into two groups of nine taking part in four sets of eight balls. The top four point-earners from each pod will advance to the single-elimination match play competition beginning with the quarterfinals, with the winners moving on to the semifinals which will play out on Tuesday night’s telecast.

BROADCAST TEAM: A new voice to World Long Drive, veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play at each of the five WLDA televised events on Golf Channel in 2018, beginning with the Clash in the Canyon.Art Sellinger – World Long Drive pioneer and two-time World champion – will provide analysis, and Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

2018 VOLVIK WLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING & MASTERS DIVISION: As part of the event, the WLDA will stage preliminary and final qualifying for the Open Division on Saturday-Sunday, April 21-22, which will award six exemptions into the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship field later this year. Also taking place on Sunday, April 22 will be a Masters Division (ages 45+) competition, with a field of 16 that includes several individuals who have greatly contributed to the success and sustainability of the sport over the past few decades. The Masters Division format will feature a points system, with each competitor completing five sets of eight balls each. The top eight will advance to the single-elimination, match play head-to-head quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

MASTERS DIVISION FIELD:  Mike Bauman, Don Beck, Kyle Blenkhorn, Vince Ciurluini, Jeff Crittenden, Pat Dempsey, Eddie Fernandes, Jeff Gavin, Chris Hall, Dan Lambert, Brian Lawler, Tom Peppard, Lance Reader, Richard Smith, Scott Smith and Roy Studley.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Clash in the Canyon by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage on Tuesday, April 24 using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

In addition to the latest video and highlights from on-site in Mesquite, WorldLongDrive.com will feature real-time scoring for the duration of the event, April 21-24. Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Clash in the Canyon leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Robinson, Ont., Canada

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

One additional event is scheduled to be staged in the fall, being contested as part of the 2018-2019 season:

  • Catawba Classic – Hickory, N.C. (November 3-4)

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events will be staged in 2018 through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Additionally, an all-encompassing international qualifier will be staged (late summer) featuring a minimum of four exemptions into the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

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Lauren Thompson and a giant 'gator eating a turtle

By Grill Room TeamApril 19, 2018, 4:53 pm

Really, the headline says it all.

"Morning Drive" co-host Lauren Thompson was playing the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., when her threesome turned into a foursome, with the appearance of a giant alligator. Techincally, it was a fivesome, as the 'gator had a turtle in its mouth.



Hey, it's a slow news week for Grill Room.

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Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to GolfChannel.com that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.