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USGA, Pebble Beach open important door for women's golf

By Randall MellOctober 24, 2017, 7:13 pm

Another important door opened to women in golf Tuesday.

The USGA announced that Pebble Beach Golf Links will host the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time in 2023.

Yes, Pebble Beach is a facility open to the public on a daily basis, but this is different. This is a major championship. This is women getting to play their national championship on one of the most historic venues in the game.

“It’s great news,” Juli Inkster, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion from Northern California, told “It’s great for women’s golf. It’s great anytime we can play historic courses like this.

“I wish it would have happened a while ago, but now we have the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club [in San Francisco in four years] and Pebble Beach in ’23. That’s two West Coast golf courses with history, and we are going to be a part of that.”

These historic venues matter immensely to the women.

“I think it’s great,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “I think, for a long time, women should have played a U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. So much, historically, has happened there in men’s golf. This gives credence to women’s golf.”

Inkster agrees.

“It gives us validation,” she told this summer in a conversation about the importance of women playing historic venues. “It’s important to the women’s game, the recognition that comes playing these courses.”

The USGA and Pebble Beach Golf Links have been in discussions to host the women for more than a decade, with Pebble Beach officials acknowledging back in 2010 that a deal appeared to be getting closer. That initial acknowledgment led to disappointment in the women’s ranks when year after year passed with no announcement, but Tuesday’s news changes everything.

“If you can win a U.S. Women’s Open on a course where Nicklaus, Watson, Woods and Kite won, it matters,” Inkster said. “People have watched majors there over the years, and they want to see how the women will play it.”

Give credit to USGA executive director Mike Davis and USGA president Diana Murphy for forging this deal during their reign. They came under fire this summer with the U.S. Women’s Open being played at Trump Bedminster, with women’s activist groups aggressively protesting the staging of the event at a facility owned by President Donald Trump. Pebble Beach is an opportunity that bodes well for women who hope other historic venues that haven’t yet hosted a women’s major will follow suit.

“There probably isn’t a more iconic course that could host a women’s major than Pebble Beach, outside Augusta National, and I don’t think that’s on the table,” Rankin said. sought out some of the game’s greats this summer to ask them how they felt about the PGA of America stepping up to give women more opportunities at historic venues. The PGA got involved in women’s majors three years ago, taking over the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The PGA has already taken the women to Sahalee and Olympia Fields.

It matters that the Old Course at St. Andrews hosted the Women’s British Open for the first time in 2007, when Lorena Ochoa won, and again in 2013, when Stacy Lewis won. It matters the Women’s British Open regularly takes the women to venues in its men’s rotation, to Carnoustie, Turnberry, Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It also matters that Oakmont hosted a U.S. Women’s Open for the first time in 1992, when Patty Sheehan won, and welcomed the women back in 2010, when Paula Creamer won.

“It’s important to play these great courses, not only for the women to test their games, but for the fans who tune in to watch,” Hall of Famer Beth Daniel said. “People tune in not just to see the LPGA, because they know the course. It makes the telecasts more interesting for everyone.

“And as a player, I know I was super inspired playing a great golf course.”

Christina Kim, who grew up in San Jose, just 70 miles north of Pebble Beach, was among LPGA pros thrilled by Tuesday’s news.

“I’m so pumped,” Kim said. “I’ve always hoped that one day Pebble Beach would host the women for our national open, having grown up in the area. I’m excited for my fellow competitors to get to see another example of how spectacular, breathtaking and challenging golf courses are in Northern California. I can’t wait to help showcase how the world’s best female golfers handle a course so drenched and storied in history.”

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open

Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."