Surprise candidate emerges in LPGA commissioner search

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2009, 1:35 am

LPGA Tour _newJonathan Ward has quietly emerged as a serious candidate in the LPGA’s three-month search for its next commissioner, according to golf industry sources.

Ward is a golf outsider whose ascent in the interview process has taken industry observers by surprise because he doesn’t have the “ideal experience” the headhunting firm Spencer Stuart identified in the “position and candidate specification” document it released when the commissioner’s search was launched. Ward has not worked in the golf or professional sports business.

Ward, 55, is the senior adviser at the investment firm Kohlberg & Co., and has led corporations before as chief executive officer of ServiceMaster and president and chief operating officer of R.R. Donnelley & Sons. Before moving to Kohlberg & Co. three months ago, Ward was the managing director of the investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co. He has served on the board of directors of Sara Lee since October of 2005.

Not on the search committee’s radar until he earnestly reached out to LPGA officials, Ward won himself an interview, according to sources. Ward made contact with a number of LPGA insiders, impressing them with his corporate expertise, vision and passion to make a difference. He’s impressed the search committee enough that he’s believed to have joined U.S. Golf Association chief business officer Peter Bevacqua among the finalists for the job.

The LPGA search has been tightly guarded with few names emerging from the candidate’s list.

Bevacqua has been believed to be the frontrunner for the job since WNBA commissioner Donna Orender announced she was not interested in the position. Orender and Bevacqua fit the “ideal experience” the search committee sought. The committee identified “business leadership experience in golf or a sports company' as important and 'a passion for and understanding of golf and the relationships within the golf industry' as required.

Ward did not return a message at his New York office seeking comment. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in chemical engineering and also completed the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.

Carolyn Bivens was forced out as commissioner in a player revolt in July. She joined the tour after making her name as an advertising executive at USA Today and later president of a media services agency. When Bivens was forced out, the tour had just 13 tournaments under contract for next year.

Marty Evans moved up from the LPGA Board of Directors to become acting commissioner and led a rally that has seen the number of events under contract for 2010 grow to 18. The tour is projecting it will feature a schedule of 23 to 25 tournaments next year. That’s a drop from 27 this year and 34 a year ago. The tour hasn’t put out a schedule with fewer than 25 tournaments since 1971.

Total prize money for LPGA pros could plunge to as low as $40 million next season, according to industry experts. That would be more than $24 million less than the women played for last year.

All of that brings into focus the importance of the tour’s next hire as commissioner.

“It is the most important hire in the tour’s history,” said one LPGA insider. “With all the mistakes they’ve made, the tour can’t mess this up. They’ve got to take the time to make sure they get the right person.”

The LPGA hasn’t revealed when it will announce the hire of its next commissioner, but sources expect the announcement to come before the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship begins on Nov. 19.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.