Korea, U.S. could play way into rivals at Crown

By Randall MellJuly 20, 2016, 9:35 pm

GURNEE, Ill. – When the South Koreans knocked the Americans out of the inaugural UL International Crown two years ago, television sets were practically overheating in Korea.

It was around 7:00 on a Sunday morning in Seoul when So Yeon Ryu made birdie on the first playoff hole to eliminate the Americans and grab the wild-card berth into the final round of singles play.

“It was the highest rated LPGA telecast of that year in Korea, by far,” said Sean Pyun, the LPGA’s managing director of international business affairs. “And that window when the Koreans and Americans were in the playoff, that was the peak moment of the ratings.”

That’s saying something, because LPGA TV ratings in Korea are through the roof anyway. They average more than twice the ratings PGA Tour events get in Korea, according to the LPGA’s Nielsen Repucom reports.

A not-so-funny thing happened, though, in the middle of the Korean-American playoff.

The International Crown’s special television feed to South Korea failed after all the players had struck their second shots in the playoff. It caused a furor among the legion of women’s golf fans in Korea burning to see how the playoff would end. JTBC Golf, the home of the LPGA in Korea, was inundated with queries from frustrated fans.

“There were so many complaints coming through the JTBC Golf website, the site crashed,” Pyun said.

The feed didn’t go back up until the playoff was over.

The Korean-American playoff showdown wasn’t even for the International Crown title. It was just to see who advanced from pool play, and yet it still drew the largest LPGA ratings of the year in Korea. It was no coincidence the peak came with the Koreans taking on the Americans, the No. 1 seed in that inaugural year.

The Koreans are the dominant force in women’s golf today, but the Americans are the Americans. They owned the women’s game once, and the LPGA is still American based, still rotating on an American axis. The Americans are the next strongest women’s golfing nation, and there’s nobody else close to either, yet.

UL International Crown: Articles, photos and videos

With the UL International Crown fueled by nationalistic passions, the Koreans and Americans seem like natural rivals in this format. They’re No. 1-2 seeds again this year, with the Koreans displacing the Americans as the top seed this time.

The Koreans and Americans seem most capable of driving interest in this new event to another level with yet another showdown, this time for the title, but those storylines can’t be forced. It will take more to build the history rivalries require. It will take more head-to-head drama to create a legitimate rivalry in an eight-team event where match play makes everyone dangerous.

And here’s the thing, the Koreans and Americans don’t even see themselves as rivals.

“I don't think there's a rivalry there, no,” said American Stacy Lewis. “I don't feel like we're trying to keep up with them or do anything. What they're doing is pretty amazing. To have so many players in the top 15 in the world that even with Inbee [Park] out, the next option is really pretty good. It's amazing what the Korean team is doing and how well they play.”

Five of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are Koreans, two are Americans. Nine of the top 20 are Koreans, four are Americans.

Cristie Kerr says she doesn’t see Korea as rivals, either.

“It’s more like we’re just trying to keep up with the numbers they have if you look at the world rankings,” Kerr said.

There are 70 American LPGA members this year to 34 South Koreans. But the interest in those 34 Koreans is intense back in Korea.

Ryu said when she checked her cell phone after that playoff victory against the Americans at the International Crown two years ago, she had about 100 text messages, many of them from friends and family wondering what happened after the TV feed failed.

“People were wondering if maybe we lost and they just didn’t want to show the loss on TV back in Korea,” Ryu said.

Korean fans got to see what happened, though, in a replay of the event. Pyun said LPGA events are replayed several times every week in Korea.

“The replays get really strong ratings, too” Pyun said.

The LPGA announced Wednesday that the next UL International Crown will be played at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon in 2018.

“I think the UL International Crown has already been lifted significantly in its second playing,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “I'm pretty sure in 2018 we're going to hit the hyper-speed button, and it's really going to go crazy.”

If the Koreans and Americans are in the hunt in the end, it could be crazy good for the International Crown.

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”