With Olympics and majors, LPGA facing a sizzling summer

By Randall MellJanuary 27, 2016, 11:07 pm

Stacy Lewis is figuratively taking a deep breath heading into Thursday’s Pure Silk Bahamas Classic and the LPGA’s season opener.

With golf returning to the Olympics, Lewis knows this summer is going to be crunched full of more historically significant events than the LPGA has ever seen. For the game’s best players, this season is all about pacing oneself and peaking at the right time.

With a well-placed hot run, a player could conceivably jam the equivalent of a Hall of Fame career into this one remarkable summer. In a 10-week spell stretching from June through August, a player could win three major championships and a gold medal. In a 16-week spell extending into September, a player could win four majors and a gold medal.

“It’s going to be hard trying to pace myself early in the year,” Lewis said.

This promises to be a golden year for somebody in women’s golf, with an Olympic gold medal at stake for the first time in the history of the women’s game. Yes, the first time. When Margaret Abbott won first place in Paris in 1900, the first time golf was played in the Olympics, she didn’t win a gold medal. She won a porcelain bowl. It was the first time women were allowed to compete in the Olympics, but according to Olympic historian Paula Welch, even Abbott didn’t know she was playing an Olympic event. The competition was so loosely organized that participants thought they were playing in an exhibition sideshow to the world’s fair. Women’s golf was dropped from the Olympics after that first year, with only the men going on to play golf in 1904, the last staging of the game as an Olympic sport before its return this year.

The Olympics come as a sort of curveball to the summer slate of women’s big events.

“The schedule’s going to be a huge challenge for everybody,” Lewis told GolfChannel.com. “I’m going to play six events in a row this summer, which is the most I’ve ever played.”

Lewis is going to play the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, the Cambia Portland Classic, the U.S. Women’s Open, the Marathon Classic, the UL International Crown and the Ricoh Women’s British Open in consecutive weeks before getting a week off and then heading to the Olympics, almost a certainty given she’s the highest ranked American woman in the world today. Olympic qualifying off the Rolex Women’s World Rankings ends July 11.

“If you’re hot, it’s a good stretch to play,” Lewis said.

Inbee Park is looking at juggling events to fit the Olympics into her busy summer run.

“Everything is just so bunched together,” Park said. “I’m probably going to miss more tournaments than before, just scheduling out, but it’s a special year, isn’t it?”

"Gold" is the operative word in women’s golf.

You could argue Olympic gold is coming to women’s golf at the perfect time, with a new golden era of the women’s game appearing to unfold. The LPGA enjoyed golden memories from its founding, with Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Betsy Rawls and Patty Berg leading the tour’s start. There was a golden era with Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth leading the way in the '60s. They were great players, in great times for the LPGA, but the women’s game has never been deeper than it is now. There has never been the breadth of international talent that there is today.

Americans dominated in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and much of the '90s.

Since the Rolex Women’s World Rankings were put into place in 2006, players from Sweden (Annika Sorenstam), Mexico (Lorena Ochoa), Taiwan (Yani Tseng), South Korea (Jiyai Shin and Inbee Park), Japan (Ai Miyazato) and New Zealand (Lydia Ko) have reigned as No. 1. Lewis and Cristie Kerr are the only Americans to hold the top ranking.

Exactly how Olympic gold’s importance will weigh in the minds of players this summer depends on the player and where that player is from.

Lewis isn’t yet certain how the Olympics measure up to majors.

“I don’t know,” Lewis said. “It’s up there with the majors. It’s just that it will be different, and nobody knows what to expect. It’s in August. We have four majors before we even get to the Olympics. We have the International Crown. I think once we get closer, we’ll be a little more ready and a little more excited for it.”

So take a deep breath, the race to summer begins Thursday in the Bahamas.

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McIlroy 'committed to everything ... ran out of holes'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy summed it up: “I don’t really feel like it’s a defeat. I feel like it’s a good week.”

McIlroy, in search of his fifth major, tied for the lead at The Open late on Sunday at Carnoustie when he made eagle on the par-5 14th hole. An hour later, he had made five consecutive pars to close out a 1-under 70 and tie for second place with Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

That group ended two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. McIlroy thought it was realistic to squeeze one more shot out of his round, but he never though it was possible to squeeze out two.

“I committed to everything,” he said. “I hit the shots when I needed to. I made good swings on 17 and on 18. I just ran out of holes.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy hasn’t played poorly this year, but this hasn't been a year that would rank as a total success. He took the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and collected a second-place finish at the BMW PGA Championship. He had a legitimate chance to win the Masters before a terrible Sunday round, and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Sunday at Carnoustie, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first five holes and quickly became an afterthought. When others faltered, McIlroy birdies Nos. 9 and 11, then eagled 14 to vault back into the picture.

“I’m happy with how I played,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a great start, but I hung in there, and I battled back.

“So I’ll look back at this week and be very encouraged about what I’ve done and the golf that I played. I feel like that will stand me in good stead for what’s coming up.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks, followed by the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.

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Edoardo, other pros congratulate Francesco on Twitter

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:54 pm

Francesco Molinari played a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie to claim Italy's first claret jug.

His rock-solid performance in the final round earned him his share of social media plaudits.

Here's a collection of Twitter hat-tips, and we start off with Frankie's brother, Dodo.

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Woods: Fan who yelled had 'tipped back a few'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 6:37 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods stood on the 18th tee and thought he needed birdie to have a chance to win The Open. He pulled driver out of his bag, a sign he wanted to boot the ball as far down the fairway as possible.

Woods took a mighty swat and - right in the middle of his downswing - someone yelled. Woods flinched.

Luckily his ball still found a decent spot just off the right of the fairway.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I’ve had things like that happen a lot in my career with people who just tried to time it,” Woods said Sunday at Carnoustie after shooting 71 to tie for sixth place. “They tipped back a few, and it’s late in the day.

“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game. People are trying to yell out things to try to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it may be. That was too close to the game of play.”

Woods hit his approach to 6 feet and missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par to shoot even par and finish 5 under for the week, in a tie for sixth.

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Pros melt down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:30 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and, for a little while, took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

His fellow pros were watching and tweeting like your average fans.

We compiled some of their missives below:

Woods would go on to finish in a tie for sixth at 5 under par for the week.