Players earn LPGA cards, shot at Olympic glory at Q-School

By Randall MellDecember 7, 2015, 12:07 am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Nobody passed the Olympic torch to Mexico’s Gaby Lopez when she walked off the 18th green Sunday after earning her tour card at the final stage of LPGA Q-School.

Maybe somebody should have.

Lopez could have passed it on to Israel’s Laetitia Beck and the Philippines’ Cyna Rodriguez.

They may have been the biggest winners of all earning full LPGA membership, because their tour cards put them on a fast track to qualifying for the Olympics next summer.

“I came on a mission,” said Lopez, who closed with a 1-over-par 73 to tie for 10th. “I came to Q-School to open myself to the chance to get to Rio. That’s my ultimate goal.”

A pathway to Brazil opens wide now for Lopez, Beck and Rodriguez, because the LPGA is a greased track to the Olympic Games for players from evolving golf nations like Mexico, Israel and the Philippines. That’s because Rolex Women’s World Ranking points are used as the qualifying standard for Olympic women’s golf, and the LPGA offers so many more world-ranking points than any other tour in the women’s game.

The LPGA offers about four times as many world-ranking points as the average Ladies European Tour event and about three times as many as the average Japan or Korean LPGA event. That’s a substantially greater differential than the PGA Tour offers over other men’s tours.

With golf powerhouses like South Korea and the United States limited to a maximum of four players per country and most nations limited to two players, the Olympics will reach deep into the world talent pool to fill its field in golf.

The top 60 on the International Golf Federation’s Olympic women’s rankings as of July 11 qualify for the Olympic Games next August. The IGF rankings are based on the Rolex rankings but adjusted for eligibility. While there are 23 South Koreans inside the top 60 in the Rolex rankings, only the top four eligible for the Olympics are included in the IGF Olympic women’s rankings.

Lopez is No. 437 in the Rolex rankings as an amateur, but she’s already No. 61 on the IGF Olympic women’s rankings. With full access to the LPGA now, Lopez can accelerate hard up those rankings.

“This is why Gaby came here this week,” said Gabriela Lopez, Gaby’s mother, who wrapped her daughter in a long, tearful hug aside the 18th green late Sunday. “It wasn’t about the money she could make playing the LPGA. It was about the chance to represent her country in the Olympics.”

Lopez, a senior at the University of Arkansas, finished runner up at the NCAA Women’s Championship last spring. She came to LPGA Q-School with an eye on turning pro a year earlier than expected if she earned her tour card. She announced her intention to turn pro after Sunday’s round.

“Every sport in Mexico, it’s aimed at the Olympics,” Lopez said. “This is a huge chance to open golf for Mexico.”

Same thing in Israel, where earlier this year Beck became the first player from that country to compete on the LPGA’s tour.

“It would mean so much to me to represent Israel and the Jewish people in the Olympics,” Beck said Sunday after closing with a 71 to tie for eighth. “The first time I saw my name with the flag of Israel beside it on the leaderboard this year, I almost cried.”

Beck is a perfect example of how the LPGA can work as a fast pass to the Olympics. She didn’t have a single point starting her LPGA rookie season earlier this year, but if the Olympic women’s field was decided today, Beck would qualify. Though Beck finished 111th on the LPGA money list this past year, with one top-20 finish, she still soared inside the Olympic qualifying ranking.

Beck is No. 347 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings but No. 54 in the IGF’s Olympic women’s ranking. By earning back full LPGA status Sunday, she will be better able to protect and improve her ranking next year.

Rodriguez is No. 927 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings but can make giant moves upward now that she has full access to LPGA events.

“This is life changing,” Rodriguez said. “That’s how I would describe it.”

With the Olympics looming so large next summer, Sunday’s conclusion was even more life changing than normal for Q-School.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.