Whan: Henderson's future 'in her hands'

By Randall MellJune 23, 2015, 7:49 pm

Brooke Henderson’s quest to play the LPGA full time is right where it ought to be.

It’s in her hands.

That’s LPGA commissioner Mike Whan’s position with a growing legion of her followers believing the 17-year-old Canadian’s victory Sunday on the Symetra Tour is yet more proof she’s ready to play the best tour in the women’s game.

“The bottom line – as I’ve said to Brooke and I’ve said to her father – more than most players I’ve known, she has her future in her hands,” Whan told GolfChannel.com. “She really does. She can play her way on to the LPGA. She can play her way through Q-School. It’s in her hands.”

With Sunday’s victory, Whan granted Henderson a waiver that allowed her to claim Symetra Tour membership. With that, Whan gives Henderson yet more options to play her way to the LPGA.

Yes, Whan hears Henderson’s supporters pressuring him to rewrite his association’s rules and grant her LPGA membership, but the commissioner believes she is traveling a route that is ultimately best for her and his tour.

Whan’s denial last fall of Henderson’s petition for a waiver of the LPGA’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old kept her out of Q-School, leading her to turn pro anyway and try to play her way into the LPGA this year through sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers. While Whan says he is impressed at how Henderson is performing, he is holding firm to a line he drew for teen phenoms Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson.

“I reviewed Brooke’s resume in the fall of 2014, and from my personal perspective at the time, it wasn’t up to par with the others I have approved,” Whan said. “Of the two petitions I’ve said yes to, I’ve probably said 60 no’s. I feel it’s kind of like a legal case. I’m going to set precedent. It’s not just her. I’m going to set a line and most people are going to look and compare themselves to that line. That line now is Lydia and Lexi.”

Ko and Thompson are the only players Whan waived the age rule for since he became LPGA commissioner five years ago, allowing them to play the tour as members before they were 18. They both won LPGA events before he granted them waivers. For Whan, a victory is required before he will even consider saying yes to a waiver.

Whan read Henderson’s father’s comments at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where Dave Henderson urged media to pressure Whan to find a way to grant his daughter tour membership. She tied for fifth at the Women’s PGA, finished third at the Swinging Skirts Classic and tied for 10th at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open.

“Brooke can play,” Dave said. “She can go. That’s what we tell Mike Whan every day. Give us a chance and let us in . . . What more do you want? She is good for golf. She is good for revenues. She brings young people into the game.”

Whan also acknowledges the social media campaign in support of Henderson. He appreciates the excitement she’s generating, but . . .

“When people make the comments they make on social media, they’re talking about a resume they’ve seen the last four or five months,” Whan said. “To her credit, she’s building a resume that’s nowhere near where it was when she petitioned me last fall.”

The truth is, Henderson’s future really is more in her hands than the commissioner’s.

Even if Whan granted Henderson a waiver of the tour’s age restriction today, it wouldn’t come with LPGA membership privileges. The LPGA doesn’t have the special temporary membership rule that the PGA Tour has. Even with an age waiver, Henderson still has to qualify under one of 20 LPGA priority list categories that grant a player access to the tour. Ko and Thompson used their waivers to claim membership via category 7 (non-member win). Henderson doesn’t yet qualify for tour access via any category. She would need the LPGA to change its rules to somehow grant her instant membership.

Henderson gave herself two more routes for getting to the LPGA with Sunday’s Symetra Tour victory. Here are the routes to the LPGA available to her:

• If Henderson wins an LPGA event, she can claim tour membership for this year and through next year, provided she is granted a waiver of the tour’s age restriction. If she wins, the waiver is a virtual certainty, based on Whan’s record and the fact that he just waived the Symetra Tour age restriction for her. Henderson turns 18 on Sept. 10.

• If Henderson accumulates winnings in LPGA events with a cut that are equal to or better than the player who finishes 40th on the final LPGA official money list this year, she will earn membership for 2016 via category 10 of the LPGA priority list. Henderson has earned $317,470 in seven LPGA starts so far this year. If she were a tour member, she would rank 20th on the LPGA money list this week. A year ago, Hee Young Park finished 40th on the money list with $447,658 in earnings.

• If Henderson wins three Symetra Tour events this year, she will earn an immediate promotion to the LPGA. Her victory Sunday at the Four Winds Invitational counts toward that, meaning she needs two more victories to earn the promotion. While this would give her access to LPGA events via category 13 of the priority list, she wouldn’t play as a tour member. She would accumulate winnings as a non-member. There are 12 Symetra Tour events remaining this season.

• If Henderson is among the top 10 on the final Symetra Tour official money list this year, she would earn LPGA membership for 2016 via category 9 of the priority list. Though Henderson’s victory Sunday counts toward a three-victory promotion to the LPGA, her winnings do not count as official money. She starts Symetra Tour membership this week with zero dollars in official earnings.

• If Henderson doesn’t make it via any of the routes above, she can still try to play her way to the LPGA through Q-School this fall.

Henderson is scheduled to play the next three weeks. She will tee it up at the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship in Harris, Mich., this week and at the Symetra Tour’s Tullymore Classic in Stanwood, Mich., next week. She plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club the week after that.

Henderson’s seven LPGA starts this year have come via five sponsor exemptions and through two Monday qualifiers. By LPGA rules, she is limited to six sponsor exemptions a year. She has one left and plans to use that at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August. She is qualified to play the U.S. Women’s Open based on her top-10 finish in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst. She also appears likely to get a special invitation to the Ricoh Women’s British Open that won’t count against her six sponsor exemptions.

As of now, Henderson can’t get into any other LPGA events, except through Monday qualifiers. However, she could qualify for the Evian Championship in September if she is among the top 40 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings as of Aug. 4. She’s currently No. 49 in the world.

There’s a lot of work left for Henderson to do to make it to the LPGA, but her future looks in capable hands.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”