LPGA commissioner Whan making an impact

By Randall MellJanuary 15, 2013, 5:43 pm

When Mike Whan was hired as the LPGA commissioner at the end of 2009, nobody knew who he was.

There was a mad scramble among media to learn more about the former CEO of Mission Itech Hockey. Even LPGA pros had no clue who this guy was.

Today, three years after Whan’s hire, Wikipedia still has no entry devoted to him.

That’s just fine with Whan, 47, because he prefers making his impact behind the scenes, and he’s quietly making a profound impact in the women’s game.

After taking over in tough economic times, Whan has rescued a sinking ship.

Whan doesn’t like hearing that, and he doesn’t believe it’s an accurate description of the state of the tour when he took over, but there were serious doubts about the future of the LPGA with so many title sponsors abandoning ship as he was taking the rudder.

In ’08, there were 34 official LPGA events, 24 of them domestic events.

By 2011, there were just 23 total official events left.

You have to know those numbers to appreciate Tuesday’s release of the LPGA’s 2013 schedule.

There will be 28 events this year. While that is just one more than a year ago, it’s six more check-cashing events than two years ago. It’s $8.5 million more in total prize money over 2011. And Whan might not be done this year. He hopes to be able to announce a 29th event in the coming month, a West Coast event to be played in late September.

Momentum isn’t a dirty word in the LPGA ranks anymore.

Whan’s turning that around.

“There was definitely a negative trend and that was concerning for a lot of us,” said Rob Neal, chair of the LPGA Tournament Owners Association Board and executive director of the Tournament Golf Foundation. “Mike’s job, No. 1, was to stop the negative trend and create a solid foundation to turn things around and create some positive momentum.”

Basically, Whan has turned around a crisis of confidence in LPGA leadership.

Whan’s predecessor, Carolyn Bivens, didn’t have an easy task as the LPGA’s first female commissioner. A sour economy, and her heavy-handed tactics with tournament owners, conspired to unhinge the organization. A player revolt forced her departure and created serious questions about the tour’s future.

If so many longtime LPGA partners no longer had confidence in the tour’s leadership, why would prospective new sponsors have any?

That was the challenge Whan faced.

“We needed a new face and a new kind of energy to build the confidence in everybody at the LPGA and in the LPGA family,” Neal said. “I think Mike’s brought that.”

Whan’s formula is as basic as creating a genuine partnership with tournament owners.

“He creates this feeling that the LPGA and the tournaments are in a joint effort, that it isn’t 'us' and 'them,' but it’s a team,” said Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, the LPGA president. “That whole change in atmosphere and thinking has really grown the parties together.”

Whan believes his stars know how to sell even better than he does.

“I always felt like the media and others thought we were more shaky than we were because I knew we had a good product,” Whan said. “You can’t sell a bad product, and you can’t fix a bad product. The bottom line is these ladies get it. They are the best sales engine in this business.

“You can’t say quality and momentum aren’t continuing this year, and nobody can take credit for that but the players. My staff and I have been smart enough to get out of their way and let them do what they do so well. We turn what they do into more business, but they are the best sales engine in this business.”

Former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem is a big fan of Whan’s work ethic.

“Mike’s doing an extraordinary job, and he’s doing it the old-fashioned way,” Mechem said. “He’s just working at it. It’s the only way to do it.”

Whan will tell you the tour’s growing schedule will continue to be pinned to his stars.

Stacy Lewis’ rise in 2012  as the LPGA’s Player of the Year helped the tour move back into the Dallas area with the new North Texas LPGA Shootout this year. She’s a Texan and proud of it. She had an endorsement deal with Pure Silk, which helped pave the way to that company becoming title sponsor of the new event in the Bahamas this year.

The LPGA is in Taiwan because of Yani Tseng’s popularity and in China because of Shanshan Feng’s breakthrough last year. The tour’s still in Mexico because of Lorena Ochoa. It’s in South Korea and Japan because of all the stars that have come out of those countries.

Still, Whan’s skill as a facilitator can’t be underestimated. He’s rebuilding trust that the LPGA is a good partner.

“Three years ago, we were a tour of individual tournaments that were, maybe not scraping, but working very hard in a tough economy to stay afloat,” said Gail Graham, president of the Tournament Owners Association. “Now, it feels more like we’re part of the team, part of the association. That’s really buoyed the confidence of tournaments.”

The rebuilt trust is taking the LPGA closer to Whan’s goals.

Whan wants 30 to 32 LPGA events. He believes that’s a solid, optimum schedule.

“I’m trying to build schedules that match the way top players play anyway,” Whan said. “They play three weeks, then take a week off, or they play four weeks, then take a week off. Typically, they take a week off after a major, and they take a week off after playing Asia. If I build a schedule built around the way they want to play anyway, I get fresher players. I get happier sponsors. I get better TV. So, it’s selfish, but at the same time, it’s selfish for everybody. Everybody wins in terms of better fields, better TV, better value for my business partners.”

Whan’s work won’t be done when he does reach 30 events.

“After we get to 30-32, my focus will shift to growing purses and growing TV coverage, to make sure our 32 events are even more impactful and important, rather than just to keep adding weeks to the schedule,” Whan said.

The 2013 schedule will feature more than 300 hours of television coverage.

“We will have more days of coverage, more hours of coverage and more live coverage than we’ve ever seen,” Whan said.

Someday, that might get Whan his own Wikipedia page.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.”