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Crosby leads inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open

By Randall MellJuly 13, 2018, 12:35 am

They turned back the clock to some of the golden eras in women’s golf Thursday at Chicago Golf Club.

First up at the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner made her peers proud. The 79-year-old striped the first tee shot to open the event.

For fans who saw her win as “Big Mama” in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Carner’s return made for an emotional start to the first rendition of this special event. She shot her age to lead a parade of grateful women relishing a chance to win, or just compete in, another USGA event.

“This is a who’s who field of women’s golf,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said at the gala dinner earlier in the week. “Instead of calling it the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, let’s call it 'The About Time Senior Women's Open.'”

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez couldn’t play after undergoing knee replacement surgery, but she was on the first tee at day’s start. She introduced players as the ceremonial starter.

Hollis Stacy, whose eight USGA titles include three U.S. Women’s Open titles and three U.S. Girls’ Junior titles, savored starting in the first group with Carner and Sandra Palmer.

“It means a lot, because as I've said all along, the USGA has been the custodians of golf,” Stacy said. “They've done a great job, and they want to do what's right. Having a Senior Women's Open is the right thing to do, and they did it in such a first-class way, coming to Chicago Golf Club and making it first class.”

Laura Davies and Juli Inkster, favorites to win the event, moved into early contention, but Elaine Crosby topped the leaderboard at day’s end.

A two-time LPGA winner, Crosby opened with a 3-under-par 70. She plays the LPGA Legends Tour, but she had to play her way into the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. She earned a spot in one of the 17 sectional qualifiers staged around the country.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

“I wasn't exempt, but I think that made me work even harder to make sure I played well enough to get here, because it's history for women's golf,” said Crosby, 60. “We've worked really hard.

“I've been involved with the Legends Tour a lot, trying to help grow that, and I think this can really help. ... I think this is just awesome, and they've treated us very well here, and what a great venue to come to for our inaugural.”

Davies, 54, eagled the 18th hole to open with a 71, leaving her tied for second with Liselotte Neumann, the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champ, and Trish Johnson, a three-time LPGA winner and 19-time LET winner.

Davies said playing alongside Neumann and Inkster made this first event even more memorable.

“Two of my best friends on tour, really,” Davies said. “I was just saying I've known Lotte for 37 years. We played junior golf together, and, Juli, since I turned pro she's been out here. So it's two constants in my career.”

Inkster, 58, opened with a 73.

While players have been talking about how the week feels like a reunion, Inkster captured just how competitive these players remain.

“I hit the ball like crap,” Inkster said. “I've been hitting the ball so good, and I drove the bad really bad today. I played defensive all day.

“It’s a long four days. I’m just ecstatic I shot even par.”

Helen Alfredsson, a seven-time LPGA winner, is just two shots off the lead.

Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill, the 1986 and ’87 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ, is tied for 10th after opening with a 74.

“I feel like I've been treated like a queen here with the reception,” Cockerill said.

That seemed to be the theme among a field grateful for the new opportunity this event brings to women’s golf.

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Tiger Tracker: 42nd Ryder Cup

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 25, 2018, 1:15 pm

Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods is competing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. We're tracking him.

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Euros wearing yellow ribbons to honor slain golfer

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:51 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – European Ryder Cup team members will wear yellow ribbons this week to honor Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was murdered last week while playing golf.

Arozamena went to school at Iowa State, but she was a native of Spain and won the European Amateur Championship in July. She was attacked and killed Sept. 17 while playing a round by herself at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa.

European captain Thomas Bjorn wore one of the ribbons while addressing media Tuesday at Le Golf National, and he explained that the decision to honor Arozamena came out of a discussion between Ryder Cup Europe and her mother.

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“The golfing family extends beyond what we are trying to do this week,” Bjorn said. “It’s nothing about us, but it’s just more about that the golfing family gets touched by these things all over the world. It’s terrible when things like this happen.”

Arozamena considered Ryder Cup stalwart and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia one of her idols growing up, and the two met when she was a child. Garcia sent condolences out via social media last week, saying he was “heartbroken” over her death.

“Such a great prospect for the game of golf she was, but also a wonderful person,” Bjorn said. “When you speak to Sergio and [Spaniard] Jon [Rahm] about it, they couldn’t talk highly enough about her. We felt like that was appropriate for the week.”

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Spieth, Reed in different groups during Tuesday practice

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 12:38 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tuesday’s U.S. groupings at the Ryder Cup may give a glimpse into what potential pairings we will see this week at Le Golf National.

In the day’s first foursome, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed played together. The second group included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; and the anchor group was Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Whether those groups will make up captain Jim Furyk’s version of the team’s pods, however, remains to be seen. Given that half of his team has never played Le Golf National, Furyk said he tried to match players on Tuesday with those who had some experience on the course.

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“Today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots,” Furyk said. “There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have.”

Given the success of previous pairings and some relatively obvious choices, it seems there are some likely options for the U.S. Woods and DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners and at the Tour Championship they experimented with the other player’s golf balls on Tuesday.

It also seems likely that Spieth-Thomas and Fowler-Johnson will be paired in some form this week.

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Le Golf National nothing like wide open Hazeltine

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:00 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The layout at Le Golf National has a distinctly European feel, and captain Thomas Bjorn hopes to keep it that way at the Ryder Cup.

Gone are the wide fairways and short rough of Hazeltine, where the Americans bombed and gouged their way to their first team victory in nearly a decade. This week players will encounter one of the tightest and most demanding tracks on the European Tour, where water lurks around nearly every corner.

“Well this is a tough golf course, to start with,” Bjorn said Tuesday. “I like the idea of a golf course that’s set up like a championship golf course. You’ve got to identify guys that are hitting the golf ball well. Identify guys that are playing good golf that week.”

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Unlike the other recent Ryder Cup host venues on this side of the Atlantic, Le Golf National is somewhat of a known entity in that it annually hosts the European Tour’s French Open. It’s a tournament that Ryder Cup rookies Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren have won each of the last two years, while teammates Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia both cracked the top 10 in June.

That should give the Europeans an advantage when it comes to familiarity, and Bjorn’s plans for course setup included a desire to ensure the experience factor for his players would still be relevant this week amid larger-than-normal grandstands.

“There’s guys on this team that have played a lot of French Opens. I don’t want them to show up and it’s a completely different golf course to what they are used to,” Bjorn said. “This is very similar to what it is normally.”

Despite the similarities in setup, there will still be plenty of adjustments for the American squad. Justin Thomas was the only U.S. player to make the trek for this year’s French Open, and captain Jim Furyk admitted that only six of his 12 players had seen the course at all prior to this week.

“We’re just trying to figure it out,” Furyk said. “Europe knows this golf course well. They have played the French Open here. We’re trying to figure out the setup and what they have in store for the week.”