'Inaugural' KPMG Women's PGA had perfect champion

By Randall MellJune 15, 2015, 10:47 pm

HARRISON, N.Y. – There are some things LPGA commissioner Mike Whan can’t control . . . like who wins championships, right?

Brought on six years ago to resuscitate a withering tour, the man continues to exhibit a magic touch that makes you wonder if he has some mystical ability in that department, too. Of course, Whan can’t dictate who wins events, and he wouldn’t want to, but Inbee Park was a perfect winner for him and his PGA of America counterpart Pete Bevacqua Sunday at the inaugural staging of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She was perfect because there’s awkwardness in the word “inaugural” in that last sentence.

The only downside for Whan in his tour’s new collaboration with the PGA was the danger that the LPGA Championship’s rich history would be diminished. The KPMG Women’s PGA sounds and looks like a new event in the public’s eye, but not in Whan’s eyes, or in the eyes of so many LPGA founders, pioneers and veterans who helped build the tour. The Women’s PGA is a rebranding of the LPGA Championship. The first LPGA Championship was played in 1955, making it the longest running event staged by the tour itself.

Whan wanted the LPGA Championship’s history kept intact, so the trophy and past champions and records are all preserved as part of this new collaboration.

That’s why Park was a perfect winner for Whan, Bevacqua and KPMG. With Park in the hunt early, the large storyline became whether she could “threepeat,” whether she could join Annika Sorenstam as the only players in the 61-year history of the event to win three consecutive years. Obviously, you can’t “threepeat” in a new event.

It’s almost as if the golf gods endorsed this collaboration by giving Whan and Bevacqaua a “history making” champion.

Park reminded everybody her name wasn’t going to be the first etched on the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship trophy. She reminded everyone of this event’s special foundation.

Park’s victory reminded us all that the great Mickey Wright won this championship four times and that Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Patty Sheehan and Se Ri Pak won it three times.

“When I talked to Pete about this collaboration, I said this is one we have to handle with a little fragility, because of the LPGA Championship’s 61-year history,” Whan said. “I don’t want to toss the trophy. I don’t want to forget the history. It was cool the way we were able to get a little bit of yesterday and tomorrow in the feel of the event.”

Whan’s treatment of the women’s majors is another important piece in his grand reconstruction of the LPGA.

When Whan was originally hired six years ago, his first marching order was to rebuild the sagging, anemic tour schedule. The players demanded it. Ultimately, his future was hitched to it, and he did rebuild it.

In his state of the LPGA address late last year, Whan unveiled a 2015 schedule featuring 34 events (including the Solheim Cup) with more than $61 million in total purses. That’s an LPGA record haul for prize money. It’s a robust lineup given the grim state of the schedule just a few years ago, when the tour shriveled to 23 events and $40 million in total purses.

With that strong foundation restored, Whan turned his attention to strengthening the majors. The LPGA Championship was sagging in stature. The Kraft Nabisco was in trouble with the title sponsor departing. Whan brought in ANA to take over for Kraft Nabisco this year and there were some vital upgrades to the event. He announced the collaboration that formed the Women’s PGA Championship, too. This was all added to his previous controversial declaration that the Evian Championship was the LPGA’s fifth major.

Whan’s plan is focused on giving the LPGA majors the stability and history they haven’t had. The men have four majors. They’ve had four majors forever, it seems. The women have had eight different events designated as majors over the years. The Women’s Western Open, the Titleholders and du Maurier have come and gone. The Women’s British Open didn’t get its start until 1976 and didn’t become an LPGA major until 2001. There was a spell in the ‘70s when the women only had two majors championships.

Hinging women’s majors to title sponsors has created problems. Whan’s talks with the PGA were revealing in how focused he was on a long-term commitment. He asked Bevacqua if the PGA would consider a 50-year partnership. Bevacqua said the PGA was only interested in a long-term partnership. KPMG brought clout and a vision, too.

Whan said Evian’s elevation to a major was based on knowing Evian was in the women’s game for the long haul.

“The good thing with Evian is they talk about what they’re going to do 30 years from now,” Whan said. “We don’t have many people who talk about their plans over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.”

With Evian played on a course built on a mountain, Whan envisions that major building a history as a journey. He envisions  young women dreaming of making their way “to the Mountain” for the year’s final major.

“I feel comfortable that our next generation of female golfers will feel deeper roots in our majors,” Whan said.

The KPMG Women’s PGA felt like a deep planting.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.