LPGA releases 2012 schedule; 27 official events

By Randall MellJanuary 10, 2012, 11:30 pm

The ship doesn’t look like its foundering anymore.

With a favorable new wind in its favor, the LPGA’s sails are freshening with positive momentum going into the 2012 season.

The new schedule released Tuesday brought that kind of promise with it.

The LPGA will play 27 official money events this season, four more than last year. There are five events on the ’12 schedule that weren’t there last season, four of them in the United States or Canada, including the Kingsmill Championship. Tour pros will play for $47 million in total purse money this year, up from $40.4 million last year.

While the new schedule shows four more playing opportunities, there are actually five new cash-checking opportunities with the RR Donnelley Founders Cup featuring a $1.5 million purse this year that players get to keep. Last year, the entire Founders Cup purse was donated to charities as tour pros basically played for free.

The other good news for LPGA’s rank and file is that all of the events added this year qualify as full-field events.

The season will begin at the newly LPGA-sanctioned ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne Feb. 9-12 and end at the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., Nov. 15-18.

The new schedule reflects some hard work in tough economic times for two-year LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. With a recession combining with business relationships gone sour under the previous commissioner’s regime, the LPGA faced a hard setback after a healthy run in 2008. The tour featured 34 events, 23 domestic, with a record $60 million purse, in ‘08. By last year, the schedule had slowed to a wheeze, with just 23 events, 13 of them domestic.

“We’re going in the right direction, and the best news is that I don’t think we are done yet,” Whan told GolfChannel.com. “It is fun announcing this schedule, but it’s more exciting to me knowing there is more just around the corner.”

Whan said it’s possible a 28th event could still be added to this year’s schedule.

“There is at least one more new event people will be talking about very soon,” he said.

That doesn’t include the ambitious new Olympic style event Whan is working on, an idea he wanted to implement this year but isn’t quite ready. He said it’s still very much in the works for future schedules.

“It’s good we’re getting opportunities to play four more events, and with the purse now at the Founders Cup, it does feel like it’s five more events,” said Stacy Lewis, winner of last year’s Kraft Nabisco. “It’s good, because when last year ended, players were frustrated there weren’t more events to play.”

Whan said when the LPGA released its 2011 schedule a year ago, it included events the tour was still working to complete. Though the Tres Marias Championship in Mexico and the Imperial Springs event in China were on the 2011 schedule, they were never played and their status remains in doubt. Whan said this year’s schedule is fundamentally solid and does not include a significant number of events still in the works for future schedules.

“Our incubator feels pretty full,” Whan said. “That’s what I think is most exciting about 2012, the momentum we are creating.”

The tour’s return to Kingsmill is big news for veterans who knew the former stop in Williamsburg, Va., as among the tour’s most popular before the Michelob Ultra Open folded three years ago. The season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Canada and the LPGA Lotte Championship Presented by J Golf in Hawaii are also new to the ’12 schedule. The Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic is returning after a year’s hiatus.

“Going back to Kingsmill, to Jamie Farr, getting those LPGA staples back on the schedule, that’s what we need to do,” Lewis said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

The only event played in 2011 that won’t return is the State Farm Classic.

“It feels like momentum is going in the right direction,” Hall of Famer Juli Inkster said. “I see things going forward now instead of backwards. And it’s great that we’re adding American events. I know we are a global tour, but I think it’s important with a U.S. fan base that we add domestic tournaments.”

Whan is still working on filling gaps in the schedule. On that note, the tour won’t have any three week gaps in this year’s schedule, as it did last year. Still, there are four two-week gaps, the longest breaks between events this season.

“It’s something we still need to address,” he said.

Whan’s fingerprints are all over the schedule. The CME Group Titleholders, his creation as a celebration of the tour’s sponsorship partners in a season-ending event, moves to a new home at TwinEagles Golf Club in Naples this year. The RR Donnelley Founders Cup will continue to honor the tour’s pioneers and contribute substantially to charities. The Evian Masters will become the LPGA’s fifth major in 2013. Whan’s Olympic-style event remains a work in progress.

“When we get all this right, and we start to click, you’ll see us continue to bring in people who left us in the past and new people you didn’t think even knew about us,” Whan said.

Complete LPGA schedule:

Feb. 9-12, ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Royal Melbourne (Australia) GC

Feb. 16-19, Honday LPGA Thailand, Siam CC, Thailand

Feb. 23-26, HSBC Women's Champions, Tanah Merah CC, Singapore

March 15-18, RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, Wildfire GC, Phoenix

March 22-25, Kia Classic, LaCosta R&S, Carlsbad, Calif.

March 29-April 1, Kraft Nabisco Championship, Mission Hills CC, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

April 18-21, LPGA Lotte Championship, TBD, Oahu, Hawaii

April 26-29, Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, RTJ GT, Mobile, Ala.

May 5-6, HSBC Brasil Cup, TBD, Brazil (unofficial)

May 17-20, Sybase Match Play, Hamilton Farm GC, Gladstone, NJ

June 1-3, ShopRite LPGA Classic, Seaview GC, Galloway, NJ

June 7-10, Wegmans LPGA Championship, Locust Hill CC, Pittsford, NY

June 21-24, Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Grey Silo GC, Ontario, Canada

June 29-July 1, Walmart MW Arkansas Champ., Pinnacle CC, Rogers, Ark.

July 5-8, U.S. Women's Open, Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wisc.

July 26-29, Evian Masters, Evian (France) GC

Aug. 9-12, Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, Highland Meadows GC, Sylvania, Ohio

Aug. 17-19, Safeway Classic, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore.

Aug. 23-26, CN Canadian Women's Open, Vancouver GC, British Columbia, Canada

Sept. 6-9, Kingsmill Championship, Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Va.

Sept. 13-16, Ricoh Women's British Open, Royal Liverpool GC, Hoylake, England

Sept. 20-23, Navistar LPGA Classic, RTJ GT, Prattville, Ala.

Oct. 12-14, Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) G&CC

Oct. 19-21, LPGA HanaBank Championship, Sky72 GC, Korea

Oct. 25-28, Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, Sunrise G&CC, Taiwan

Nov. 2-4, Mizuno Classic, Kintetsu Kashikojima CC, Japan

Nov. 8-11, Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Guadalajara (Mexico) CC

Nov. 15-18, CME Group Titleholders, TwinEagles GC, Naples, Fla.

Dec. 9, Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, Rio Secco GC, Henderson, Nev. (unofficial)

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.

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Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Marc Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through the 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise

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Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.

Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout

''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''