Thinking big is Whan's key to growing the LPGA

By Randall MellJanuary 14, 2014, 10:15 pm

The USGA found the right LPGA commissioner to risk its grand experiment with this season.

For all the good feelings attached to Mike Whan’s release of the 2014 LPGA schedule, it’s noteworthy that the oldest event on the schedule comes with the riskiest proposition as the women get ready to begin their new season next week in the Bahamas.

The U.S. Women’s Open isn’t until June, but it promises to be the most scrutinized test of women’s skill in the 69-year history of the championship.

That’s because, for the first time, the U.S. Women’s Open (June 19-22) will be played the week after the U.S. Open (June 12-15), on the same golf course, at Pinehurst No. 2.

The back-to-back major championship tests offer an intriguing juxtaposition, a chance for the curious to compare how the men and women will fare against Pinehurst No. 2s formidable defenses.

With that intrigue, however, there’s daunting questions. Will the women ride the wave of attention the men will create the week before? Or will they crumple and crash beneath it?

With the men’s and women’s games so different, the event’s potentially fraught with logistical and political nightmares.

How fast will the USGA set up Pinehurst No. 2’s greens? Will officials push them to the brink for speed the way they normally do knowing the women will be coming in the following week? How will the width of fairways be configured? What about the rough? Will the men beat up landing areas and pin placements in a week of play and practice? How will the crosswalks for fans configure for the men vs. the women? What about the availability of hotel rooms for women coming in the weekend the men are finishing? What if the men need an 18-hole Monday playoff?

Whan’s team asked all these questions when his executive staff met with the USGA’s staff in a meeting in Orlando last month.

“Of course, 90 percent of our questions, the USGA already thought of,” Whan told GolfChannel.com.



While there’s big risk in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Whan believes the time is right for the women to do this. With Whan steering the LPGA back on to a solid foundation, with 33 events on the schedule this year, up from 23 just three years ago, the time is right to seize the attention this venue can bring his women.

“I think we’re finally in a spot where we can dream big,” Whan said. “A few years ago, we had to dream about recovery. We aren’t talking about recovery anymore. We’re talking about: `How high is up?’ That’s when it really gets fun.”

Now that the LPGA schedule is rebuilt, Whan said his attention turns to creating more interest in his tour, in growing the fan base.

“Doubling the fan base,” Whan said. “I think doubling it is more than realistic.”

That’s where Whan sees the upside in the big risks this U.S. Women’s Open offers. Back-to-back championships weren’t his idea. They were the USGA’s, but he likes the bravado in it.

“I say this to our players a lot, that you can’t dream big and be afraid of making mistakes,” Whan said. “They are not mutually exclusive.”

This is a commissioner who has proven he has the guts to push the envelope with a radical idea if he believes the upside is worth it. This is the guy who created a tournament to honor the LPGA’s founders and then asked his pros to play in it for free to fund its charity that first year. Whan risked a revolt asking players to make a great financial sacrifice to play in the inaugural RR Donnelley Founders Cup in 2011. It took some nerve with the tour’s playing opportunities down to an anemic 23 events. Whan’s risk, though, paid a large reward, with RR Donnelley so enamored with the concept that it stepped up the next year to fully fund the purse and charity.

This is a commissioner who infuriated traditionalists declaring the Evian Championship to be the tour’s fifth major last year.

This is a commissioner who took advantage of the LPGA’s Asian and international ties, even trumpeted them, when critics were pounding the tour for its domestic failures.

With all the handwringing taking place over this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Whan has his concerns, too. But, he’s focusing on what’s possible.

“People talk about the concerns, the course setup, and I get that, but there’s an opportunity here,” Whan said Tuesday in his Golf Channel appearance on Morning Drive. “We get to follow a typical 6-point rating for the U.S. Open, where the whole world really engages in the men’s open.”

Whan is working with the USGA to give his players opportunities to be injected into coverage of the U.S. Open, to talk about how the U.S. Women’s Open will unfold a week later. He also has invited USGA Executive Director Mike Davis to host a forum with his LPGA pros in their first players meeting of the year at the Founders Cup in March.

“We’ve talked about how to make the most out of this unique opportunity, in terms of exposure for the women worldwide,” Whan said. “I think we have an opportunity to have more people watch the U.S. Women’s Open than have ever watched it before. I’m really looking forward to seeing how many people we can carry over into week two.”

Maybe this won’t work. Maybe U.S. Women’s Open week will begin with the LPGA feeling like players in one of those pairings stuck behind Tiger Woods in a PGA Tour event, where everyone’s leaving the tee box just as they’re arriving.

Though back-to-back championships weren’t Whan’s idea, he’s grateful the USGA is thinking a little bit like he does.

 “I’ve said many times, I promise you I’ll be the commissioner with the most failures in my time, but it won’t be because I wasn’t willing to think bigger.” Whan said. “I’m trying to encourage a team and a player body that says, `Hey, let’s take some bigger swings so the upside for the next generation is bigger.’ So, whether it’s playing a fifth major, or playing a tournament without a purse, or playing back-to-back major championships, I can’t be sure how things will work out, but they’re done for all the right reasons.

“Some of them won’t work, but you’ve got to be able to take chances. You have to be willing to fail.”

It's the price of dreaming big.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”