LPGA swings into Bay Area on a high note

By Randall MellApril 21, 2015, 6:30 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – This sweeping saga they call the LPGA keeps making twists and turns that seem destined to define it as the new golden era in women’s golf.

Give these players credit - they are continuing to deliver one dramatic chapter after another this year in an attempt to break out of their little niche in the sports landscape.

Sei Young Kim’s victory at the Lotte Championship on Saturday, with her wild finish of chipping in to force a playoff and then holing out from 154 yards for eagle at the first sudden-death hole, couldn’t have been more spectacular if it had been punctuated with a crack of thunder.

Kim is a 22-year-old rookie from South Korea who now tops the Rolex Player of the Year and Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year point races. How rare is that? Only Nancy Lopez has won the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. She did it 37 years ago.

With the tour moving to San Francisco this week for the Swinging Skirts Classic, another strong field will vie to keep the magical storylines going. There’s almost a major championship feel to the event with 19 of the top 20 in the world rankings teeing it up on a strong test at Lake Merced Golf Club. Jessica Korda is the only player among the top 20 not scheduled to play.

Photo gallery: 2015 LPGA winners

The women gathering here are making this a special time in their game. You could argue we’re already in the midst of a golden era in their sport. While history always has final say in such matters, there’s evidence in assessing just what today’s players are achieving.

The extraordinary nature of this collection of talent can be seen in the records they’re setting.

Lydia Ko is the defending champion this week. At 17, she is the youngest No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s golf. At 15, she was the youngest winner of an LPGA event. Earlier this month, she equaled a modern record in the women’s game, tying Annika Sorenstam’s mark of 29 consecutive rounds under par. Though she turns 18 in three days, Ko will have four chances this year to become the youngest woman to win a major.

Last year, Stacy Lewis became the first American in two decades to sweep the Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money title in the same season.

The year before that, Inbee Park won the first three major championships of the year, something no woman had achieved since Babe Zaharias in 1950. Her run didn’t end until Lewis won the Ricoh Women’s British Open, taking the title at St. Andrews, where she closed hitting one of the best shots in major championship history to make birdie at the famed Road Hole.

You want great shots in majors? These women are practically making a habit of them. Brittany Lincicome is still aglow after making eagle at the 72nd hole to force a playoff that ended with her winning the ANA Inspiration three weeks ago. Mo Martin rattled a 3-wood off the flagstick at the final hole of the Ricoh Women’s British Open last summer, almost closing out her victory at Royal Birkdale with an albatross. She won, instead, with an eagle.

These women have been unrelenting delivering compelling theater for three seasons now, from Park’s historic run of major championship victories, to Suzann Pettersen’s leading the Euros to new Solheim Cup glory to Kim’s amazing finish last weekend.

A year ago, Paula Creamer’s emotional celebration winning the HSBC Women’s in a playoff with a 75-foot eagle putt went viral on the web . . . Michelle Wie broke through to claim her first major on the largest stage a women’s event had ever been played upon, winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst a week after the men played there. She did so holding off then-world No. 1 Lewis . . . At 31, after toiling six years to make it to the LPGA, Martin fashioned a Cinderella story winning the Women’s British Open in her third season on tour . . .  Big-hitting Lexi Thompson beat Wie in a final-round dream pairing to win the Kraft Nabisco for her first major . . . Hall of Famer Karrie Webb won twice . . . Christina Kim fought her way back from injury and depression to win again . . . Spain’s dynamic quartet of Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda and Belen Mozo won the intriguing new International Crown team event and Ko ended the year taking home the largest payday in the history of women’s golf ($1.5 million) as winner of the CME Group Tour Championship and CME Globe.

There hasn’t been any let-up so far this year.

Na Yeon Choi won a dramatic season opener at the Coates Golf Championship in a back-nine duel that saw Ko endure a rare collapse and still vault to No. 1 in the world with her second-place finish. Ko proved she was more than worthy of her lofty new ranking, winning the Women’s Australian Open and LET’s New Zealand Women’s Open in back-to-back starts. There was more riveting action to follow in Singapore as the HSBC Women’s Champions gave us a rare treat with the Rolex world Nos. 1-2-3 players battling in the final grouping of the final round with Park winning. There was more theater when the LPGA returned to the United States, with rookie Hyo Joo Kim taking just about everything Lewis could throw at her in a final-round duel to win the JTBC Founders Cup. Cristie Kerr followed that up at the Kia Classic, winning for the first time as a mother, with her 1-year-old son Mason there to hug at the end. Lincicome’s dramatics came directly after at the ANA, with Sei Young Kim’s fireworks following last week.

With an extraordinary rookie class, maybe the LPGA’s best ever, the women’s game has never been deeper . . . or looked so golden for a while.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 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.