Granada: Life after winning the first $1M LPGA prize

By Randall MellNovember 5, 2014, 2:31 pm

A $1 million winner’s check is standard fare in the men’s game.

The PGA Tour began handing them out with the launch of the World Golf Championships in 1999. It didn’t take long before the purses of other events began soaring, too.

Since the start of the 2009 season, 218 PGA Tour events have paid out $1 million to their champions.

It isn’t a big deal anymore.

Since ’09, do you know how many women have taken home $1 million as winners of an LPGA event?

Zero. None. Nada.

That’s why the new Race to the CME Globe is a big deal. The race’s $1 million jackpot is a really big deal.

This week’s Mizuno Classic in Japan marks the second-to-last event for the women to position themselves for a shot at the big prize. The top nine players on the Race to the CME Globe points list after next week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational will go to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with a shot at winning the jackpot. (Click here to see who’s jockeying for position).  

Just three women in the history of golf have taken home $1 million with a victory.

Julieta Granada was the first to do so in 2006, claiming the windfall as winner of the inaugural LPGA Playoffs at the ADT. Ochoa won the big prize in ’07 and Jiyai Shin in ’08, but then the event folded, taking its giant paycheck with it.

A sense of wonder that went with winning the LPGA’s season finale was lost with the ADT’s demise, but it’s back with the Race to the CME Globe.

Eight years have passed since Granada won the first $1 million jackpot in women’s golf, but the memory’s fresh. A 20-year-old rookie, she outplayed world No. 1 Ochoa and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb in the final round at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla. At the trophy presentation, Granada was handed a glass cube purported to be filled with a million dollars in cash.

“I still remember that clearly,” Granada told “We were going around, taking pictures of me holding it, with this bodyguard following me around. I’m a rookie, and I’m thinking: ‘This is pretty cool. I must be important. I’ve got a guy protecting me.’ I found out I wasn’t as cool as I thought. As soon as I gave the cube with the $1 million in it back, the guard stopped following me around. He went with the money.”

Granada never set up a direct deposit account with the LPGA that rookie season. She got paid the old fashioned way, by check. That made for a comical visit to the Wachovia Bank where she kept her account near her Orlando home. She walked in the bank’s door one morning and handed the massive check to a clerk, whose eyes widened.

“It was pretty funny,” Granada said. “It actually wasn’t for $1 million, because of the withholdings, but it was a large deposit.”

Granada wasn’t quite a rags-to-riches story, but the money was awfully nice. Growing up in Paraguay, she wasn’t poor, but her family wasn’t rich, either. The daughter of a greenskeeper, Granada earned a scholarship to the Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla. She moved there at 14 with her mother, Rosa, to chase her golf dreams, but it didn’t always seem like the dreamiest journey in their little apartment so far away from home.

“To save money so we could travel to junior tournaments in the summer, we didn’t have a car while I was at school,” Granada said. “My mother and I rode bikes.”

They rode bikes everywhere. The five-mile bike hike to the nearest Walmart wasn’t a lot of fun on Florida’s hottest days.

“I retired that bike, and I don’t ever want to ride one again,” Granada said.

When Granada graduated from the Leadbetter Academy and turned pro in 2005, her means of transportation didn’t dramatically improve. Playing what was then called the Futures Tour (now Symetra), she traveled the country with her mother in a 12-year-old Nissan Quest minivan. Rosa caddied for Julieta and still does today. On the way to Julieta’s very first event as a pro, their van broke down 30 miles from the tournament site, outside Ann Arbor, Mich. They had to scramble to find a ride to the tournament.

Julieta played that first event under added pressure. She played knowing the mechanic wanted $700 to fix the van. She played knowing they didn’t have the money to pay.

With a second-place finish, though, Granada won $6,500.

“I thought, ‘Sweet, now we can go pick up our car and go to the next event,’” she said.

Granada enjoyed a strong LPGA rookie season, even before winning the $1 million jackpot. The big payday changed her life in ways she didn’t expect. She bought a luxury SUV, a Range Rover Sport.

“I really wanted a nice car,” Granada said. “It’s the only thing I really wanted with the winnings.”

With the win, Granada was fueled with the confidence that bigger triumphs were in sight, but there were bumps in the road that her new luxury SUV couldn’t avoid. She was fourth on the LPGA money list her rookie year, but she tumbled to 100th two years later, then 106th, taking her back to LPGA Q-School.

“The money was a double-edged sword,” Granada said. “I was out on tour fighting to make money. I was hungry, and it was my fuel. Then, winning all that money, you get complacent. You get comfortable, and you lose a little of that hunger, a little bit of that determination.”

While Granada is still looking for her second victory, she’s buoyed by a resurgence in her game. She’s enjoying her best year since her rookie campaign, with seven top-10 finishes this season, two of them in majors, and $607,014 in money winnings. She is 25th on the LPGA money list and 23rd on the Race to the CME Globe points list.

Granada won’t get a shot at the $1 million jackpot this year. She can’t mathematically crack the top nine in points, but she will head to the CME Group Tour Championship feeling good about the direction her game is headed and her shot at future jackpots.

That sense of wonder returns to the LPGA’s season finale with the biggest jackpot in the women’s game awaiting once more.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."