Thompson heating up on, off golf course

By Randall MellAugust 14, 2014, 9:15 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – She’s atop another leaderboard in a major championship.

She’s co-starring in an edgy, racy new Puma commercial that’s airing globally with Usain Bolt, Rickie Fowler, Mario Balotelli and other elite Puma athletes.

Whether it’s what she’s doing in golf spikes or in a bikini, Lexi Thompson’s creating quite the buzz at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Bombing and gouging her way around Monroe Golf Club, Thompson set herself up in an early run to win her second major championship this season. With a 6-under-par 66, she shares the first-round lead with Meena Lee. They’re one shot ahead of Brittany Lincicome, Lisa McCloskey and Jennifer Kirby and two ahead of Cristie Kerr and Shanshan Feng.

Thompson, 19, broke through to win the Kraft Nabisco for her first major in dramatic fashion back in April, beating Michelle Wie in a head-to-head Sunday duel. She won at Mission Hills overpowering the Dinah Shore course and she has the same game plan working early this week.

Wegmans LPGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

“I knew this golf course was going to set up good for me,” Thompson said. “I get to hit driver on every hole.”

More like mash her driver.

Thompson is the LPGA’s longest hitter, leading the tour in driving distance with an average of 271.2 yards per drive. With Monroe Golf Club’s generous fairways, Thompson pounded drivers into 10 of 14 fairways, leaving her mostly short irons into all the par 4s on a course playing long at 6,717 yards. She hit 16 greens in regulation.

“Getting that Kraft Nabisco win has helped me out so much,” Thompson said. “Just pulling it off that Sunday, being relaxed and staying with it one shot at a time, gave me a lot of confidence going into every other tournament after that, especially majors.”

Thompson created a buzz before she hit her first driver this week. Her new Puma commercial began airing last week.

Titled “Calling All Troublemakers,” the commercial begins with Bolt sitting in a hot tub with three bikini-clad women. He makes a call to “all troublemakers for danger, risk and possible fugitive status.” The commercial winds and cuts its way through scenes with a number of Puma’s top athletes, including Thompson, who is shown in action hitting a golf shot before a quick cut to her sitting in a hot tub between two men with candles aglow around them. She's holding a driver over her shoulder.

“Impossible odds? ... Inevitable,” Thompson says as one of the commercial’s mantras.

Bobby Kreusler, Thompson’s agent, says it was a triumph to get women’s golf in the mix with these other athletes from big-time sports. She flew to Germany earlier this year to meet with Puma officials, and then flew to Milan, Italy, to film the commercials.

“It’s the largest advertising campaign in Puma history,” Kreusler said. “It was a huge coup to get a woman golfer in this Puma ad. We want to get people interested in women’s golf, and this takes women’s golf outside the golf niche.”

The nature of the commercial’s sex appeal harkens back to the debate Jan Stephenson created almost 30 years ago when she stepped naked into a bathtub to pose for a photo provocatively covered with golf balls. Kreusler said he understands the sensibilities the Puma commercial may challenge in golf circles.

“It’s going to shock some people, because some people still think of Lexi as the 15-year-old who turned pro,” Kreusler said. “She isn’t 15 anymore. She’s 19. She’s all grown up. ... We very much thought it was done tastefully, with some sophistication, and that there’s nothing wrong with showing that these world-class athletes are also beautiful women.”

Thompson hasn’t hid her fashion interests. She uses Twitter and Instagram to post photos of her in dresses and gowns she wears to galas and other formal functions. She even posted a photo of herself in a bikini in an Instagram encouraging her followers to check out her new Puma commercial. She said after Thursday’s round that she has interest in doing some modeling.

“I think the commercial came out amazing,” Thompson said. “I think it was quite an honor to be on a big Puma ad campaign with Usain Bolt and Mario Balotelli. It was an amazing experience.”

Thompson was asked what she wants people to know who might be uncomfortable with the ad’s sex appeal.

“I felt pretty comfortable doing it,” Thompson said. “I go in a bathing suit to the pool or the beach. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it was different. I’m hoping to get a little bit out of the golf world and not just be known as a golfer. Puma has done great doing that and being different.”

If Thompson wins another major this week, the opportunities to stretch her appeal beyond golf are likely to keep growing.

Getty Images

Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

Getty Images

Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

Getty Images

McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”

Getty Images

Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.