Cut Line Playoffs pro-ams and curious picks

By Rex HoggardSeptember 4, 2010, 2:52 am

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NORTON, Mass. – Golf finally has an answer for that age-old question: If a PGA Tour player misses his pro-am tee time would anyone hear about it? The answer, at least if you’re Jim Furyk and you have Phil Mickelson as your champion, is a resounding yes.

Pro-am-gate reached a crescendo this week, interrupted only by Colin Montgomerie’s curious captain’s picks and a hurricane named Earl. And the Tour was worried about the start of football season overshadowing its playoffs.

Made Cut

Playoff volatility. Six guys played well at The Barclays and moved into the top 100 and into Boston for the second postseason event. Conversely, six guys meat-handed their way out of a TPC Boston tee time. If that doesn’t scream playoffs, we’re not sure what would.

Although the playoff experiment still seems to be a work in progress, the volatility the Tour tinkered so hard to achieve has created the desired movement, that is to say two-way traffic.

In fact, one could argue that there is not enough volatility. Consider Tiger Woods began the playoffs 112th on the points list, finished tied for 12th at The Barclays to move on to Boston and likely needs to finish better than 57th this week to make it to the BMW Championship. For a Tour player, any Tour player, that’s not exactly do-or-die time.

U.S. Amateurs. On Sunday Peter Uihlein won this year’s U.S. Amateur, former champion Matt Kuchar hoisted a 7-iron to inches in a playoff at Ridgewood and the most important hardware of his career and Edoardo Molinari blindsided a field in Scotland, to say nothing of Monty’s wildcard selection party.

Jack Nicklaus often counts his two U.S. Amateur titles among his Grand Slam accomplishments. Sunday was certainly a major day for U.S. Amateur champions past, present and future.

Tweet of the Week. @stewartcink “Weather must be deteriorating at TPC Boston now. I’m pretty sure I just saw (Weather Channel reporter) Jim Cantore by the range.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods may still be the world No. 1 and the game’s alpha male, but Lefty has become the Tour’s E.F. Hutton, and when he spoke out against the pro-am rule that sent Jim Furyk packing from The Barclays Camp Ponte Vedra Beach listened.

But when Mickelson bailed from this week’s pro-am under a provision that gives top players two get-out-of-a-pro am cards it just seemed like overkill.

Perhaps Lefty had a legitimate reason to miss Thursday’s outing, the second time this year he’s used the provision, but it just seems like he was trying to make a point that had already been made.

European Tour. Competitive integrity has become the new buzz word on Tour these days and the decision to announce Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s three wildcard picks just as things were getting interesting at The Barclays smacks of indifference, or worse, petty politics.

Luke Donald, who landed one of the coveted picks, charged out with a 28 on Ridgewood’s front nine, learned he’d gotten Monty’s nod at the turn and proceeded to bogey his next two holes and finished with a 40.

Paul Casey figured he’d gotten passed over when he saw Padraig Harrington’s wife give the Irishman a thumbs up and struggled to keep his emotions in check.

The announcement could have waited until the day after the final round like they do on this side of the pond. It’s the right thing to do, if not for the PGA Tour than for Europe’s own players.

Nationwide. The insurance giant has been a good corporate partner for the Tour for nearly a decade and maybe it was time to move on and leave sponsorship of the Tour’s secondary circuit to someone else.

It’s just that the move this week has the feel of a jilted prom date when combined with Nationwide’s new commitment to the Memorial tournament.

“We’ve been very, very happy over the last eight years with the Nationwide Tour, but when we had the opportunity to step up and become sponsor of the Memorial it was too good to pass up,” said Jim Lyski, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer. “When you look at that and the inventory we have in golf you reach a point of diminishing returns if you just keep adding and adding.”

Our gut tells us the 200 or so guys who play the Nationwide Tour are about to learn a thing or two about diminishing returns.

Missed Cut

PGA Tour. Nothing happens fast in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., not rounds at TPC Sawgrass, not traffic on A1A and certainly not decisions within the circuit’s halls of power. All of which made last week’s real-time 180 on the pro-am rule that cost Furyk his start at The Barclays curious.

In six years, only seven players have been disqualified for missing their pro-am tee time and it happened just once this year (Furyk), which means the problem was neither chronic nor pressing.

Even Woods, who normally avoids controversial Tour issues, suggested the move was premature, while others were stunned.

“I’m embarrassed the commissioner waffled so easily on the rule that he convinced the (Player Advisory Council) and the player directors was so desperately needed,” one veteran member of the PAC said.

Colin Montgomerie. Some suggested Monty could throw three darts at a board and come away with a threesome of fine captain’s picks, and yet somehow his selections just seemed wrong.

Harrington and Donald certainly deserved consideration, but when the ninth-, now eighth-, ranked player in the world (Paul Casey) and another who has won two marquee PGA Tour events this year (Justin Rose) will be watching the matches from the sidelines something is wrong.

Even Paul Azinger, Captain America who knows a thing or two about wildcard picks, knows that dog won’t hunt. “Shocking, Monty leaves Rose and Casey off team for arguably third-best Englishman to not qualify,” he Tweeted.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.

Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.

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Davies sweeps senior majors with Sr. LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second behind Inbee Park in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

''I wish there were more of them to play,'' Davies said about the two senior majors. ''This was a real treat because I've never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think 2 under par was a really good score.''

Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship

Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course. She birdied three of the four par 5s in the final round, making an 8-footer on No. 18.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Davies earned $90,000 for her 86th worldwide professional victory. She won four regular majors.

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For Korean women, golf is a double-edged sword

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2018, 10:30 pm

There is always a story behind the tears.

For In Gee Chun, it’s a story about more than her victory Sunday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

It’s about the other side of the Korean passion that runs so deep in women’s golf and that makes female players feel like rock stars.

It’s about the unrelenting pressure that comes with all that popularity.

Chun explained where her tears came from after her victory. She opened up about the emotional struggle she has faced trying to live up to the soaring expectations that come with being a young Korean superstar.

Her coach, Won Park, told on Wednesday that there were times over the last year that Chun wanted to “run and hide from golf.” The pressure on her to end a two-year victory drought was mounting in distressing fashion.

Chun, 24, burst onto the world stage when she was 20, winning the U.S. Women’s Open before she was even an LPGA member. When she won the Evian Championship two years later, she joined Korean icon Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA titles.

Following up on those victories was challenging, with Chun feeling as if nothing short of winning was good enough to satisfy Korean expectations.

After the victory at Evian, Chun recorded six second-place finishes, runner-up finishes that felt like failures with questions growing back home over why she wasn’t closing out.

“There were comments that were quite vicious, that were very hard to take as a person and as a woman,” Chun said. “I really wanted to rise above that and not care about those comments, but I have to say, some of them lingered in my mind, and they really pierced my heart.”

Chun struggled going from the hottest star in South Korea to feeling like a disappointment. She slipped from No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings to No. 27 going into last week’s KEB Hana Bank Championship. Maybe more significantly, she slipped from being the highest ranked Korean in the world to where she wasn’t even among the top 10 Koreans anymore.

“Some fans and the Korean golf media were hard on her, mostly on social media,” Park wrote in an email. “It caused her to start struggling with huge depression and socio phobia. She often wished to run away from golf and hide herself where there was no golf at all.”

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Socio phobia includes the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others, according to the Mayo Clinic’s definition of conditions.

Though critics of South Korea’s dominance have complained about the machine-like nature of some those country’s stars, we’ve seen quite a bit of emotion from South Koreans on big stages this year.

After Sung Hyun Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in July, the world No. 1 with the steely stare uncharacteristically broke into tears.

“This is the first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said back then. “It’s been a really tough year for me.”

It was the second of her three victories this season, a year in which she also has missed seven cuts.

“A lot of pressure builds up,” said David Jones, her caddie. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.”

While American players admire the massive popularity Koreans enjoy in their homeland, they see what comes with it.

“Koreans really do elevate their women players, but at the same time, they put a ton of pressure on them,” American Cristie Kerr said. “There’s pressure on them to not only be good, but to be attractive, and to do the right things culturally.”

So Yeon Ryu felt the pressure to perform build as high as she has ever felt with Koreans trying to qualify for the Olympics two years ago. The competition to make the four-woman team was intense, with so many strong Koreans in the running.

“This just makes me crazy,” Ryu said back then. “The biggest thing is the Korean media. If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. But if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Ryu didn’t make that team, but she went on to share LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors with Sung Hyun Park last year. She also won her second major championship and ascended to world No. 1.

LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park was under fire going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was coming back from injury and there was growing criticism of her. She was hearing clamor to give up her spot to a healthy player, but she went on to win the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” said Na Yeon Choi, a nine-time LPGA winner who was doing analysis for Korean TV. “Inbee had so much pressure on her.”

After the Koreans won the UL International Crown two weeks ago, there was as much relief as joy in their ranks. Though viewed as the dominant force in women’s golf, they watched the Spaniards crowned as the “best golfing nation” in the inaugural matches in 2014 and then watched the Americans gain the honor in 2016. There was pressure on the Koreans to win the crown at home.

“There were some top Koreans who didn’t want to play, because there was going to be so much pressure,” Kerr said.

Chun got the nod to join the team this year after Inbee Park announced she was stepping aside, to allow another Korean a chance to represent their country. Chun was the third alternate, with Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko saying they were passing to honor previous KLPGA commitments.

Chun went on to become the star of the UL International Crown. She was undefeated, the only player to go 4-0 in the matches.

“In Gee made up her mind to devote herself to the team and played with an extremely high level of passion and focus,” Won Park wrote in an email interview. “She took the International Crown as a war in her heart. She did not play, but she `fought’ against the course, not against the opposing team . . . During all four winning matches, she gradually found her burning passion deep in her heart and wanted to carry it to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank.”

Park explained he has been working with Chun to change her focus, to get her to play for herself, instead of all the outside forces she was feeling pressure to please.

“She was too depressed to listen for a year and a half,” Park wrote.

So that’s where all Chun’s tears came from after she won the KEB Hana Bank.

“All the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up,” Chun said.

Park said Chun’s focus remains a work in progress.

“Although it will take some more time to fully recover from her mental struggle, she at least got her wisdom and confidence back and belief in her own game,” Park wrote. “This is never going to be easy for a 24-year-old young girl, but I believe she will continue to fight through.”