Would a fourth major give Park a Grand Slam?

By Ryan LavnerJuly 1, 2013, 3:45 pm

What a year for the LPGA to add a fifth major. 

Now that Inbee Park has completed the rarest of hat tricks, winning the U.S. Women’s Open, her third major in a row, in a dazzling display of robotic consistency, we head to the home of golf wondering what, exactly, is at stake there.

Is Park attempting to complete the traditional Grand Slam … or is she trying to capture the fourth leg of the newly created Super Slam? 

Here’s another question, this one with no clear answer: If Park wins the British Open, but not the Evian Masters, then what will it all mean, historically? 

“It would be great if I could win five, but I still think four means a Grand Slam,” she said Sunday night. “I think four out of five is very big.” 

Very big, indeed, but it’s an unsettling scenario for the LPGA brass, which two years ago announced that the women were joining the likes of the Champions Tour and creating a quintet of majors. 

The Evian is a fine event. It’s played in mid-September. It’s played on a scenic course in France. There’s a hefty purse. But it doesn't deserve to be a major, not yet anyway, and certainly not just because the title sponsor pushed for a status change and the LPGA (after giving tournament officials a lengthy list of required changes) finally relented. 

This is relevant now, of course, because Park is on the verge of transcending gender and rewriting the sport’s record books, no matter if her season ends in an Almost Slam, a Grand Slam, a Super Slam or a Golf Historian Body Slam. 

The hottest athlete in all of sports just tamed the toughest test in women’s golf, thumping the nearest competitor by four strokes and the rest of the field by seven, and the possibilities seem endless after her stroll at Sebonack. 

Consider this: In her last 28 tournaments, Park has eight wins (including three majors), six runners-up and 20 top-10s, a stretch that conjures memories of Tiger Woods’ sustained brilliance earlier this century. As she said after her sixth title of the season, “It’s scary to think what I’m really capable of doing.” 

Indeed, at the Aug. 1-4 British Open, Park, 24, will attempt to become the first player, male or female, to win four professional majors in a calendar year. 

Regardless of what happens on the famed links, she already has matched Babe Zaharias, who won the first three (and only) majors in 1950, and Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986), both of whom captured three majors in a season, albeit nonconsecutively. On the men’s side, only Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) have won three majors in a season in the Masters era. That’s it. 

What looms now, however, is a different kind of challenge. The U.S. Open, which Park just won at 8-under 280, may be billed as the most grueling examination of skill, but the British is unquestionably the quirkiest and most difficult to win. It’s the major most affected by luck – the conditions, the draw, the bounces, everything. 

After all, that’s what derailed Woods in 2002. He arrived at Muirfield having won the year’s first two majors, and after 36 holes that year he was just two shots off the lead. But that Saturday he was blown off the course, signing for an 81 when the wind howled, the temperature dropped into the 30s and the sideways rain made standing upright, never mind shooting a decent score, a near-impossible feat. 

No other major promises such unpredictability. A miserable few hours can dramatically alter history. 

As competitors, that’s easier to digest because, essentially, it’s out of their control, as it was for Woods in ’02. But the possibility of a wind-blasted bid for the Slam should stress even Park’s most ardent supporters, especially since she’ll be back home in Korea the week before the British, celebrating what has been a record-smashing season. Already she concedes that she “might not get too much time to myself” that week, which would seem a warning sign with a major – a potentially historic major – on the horizon. 

Of course, Park has been so good, and so dominant, this season, a deviation from her usual pre-major routine might matter little; Angela Stanford on Sunday wondered whether the unflappable world No. 1 ever hits the ball sideways. Unfortunately for Stanford and others, the answer is not often, which makes the contenders’ task all the more daunting at the British. 

Though it remains the only major she has yet to win, Park has a solid record across the pond – four top-11 finishes in six years, including a (distant) runner-up last year at Royal Liverpool. 

Meanwhile, we wait to see if another challenger will emerge. Stacy Lewis is No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings but hasn’t performed well in the first three majors this season; Suzann Pettersen is immensely talented but maddeningly inconsistent; Yani Tseng, the former world No. 1 who vacuumed up four majors in 2010-11, hasn’t won a title of any kind in 15 months. Some other player, perhaps emboldened by the thought of denying history, could step forward and hoist the trophy. But not like this. Not if Park is on her game. 

In the run-up to the Open she’ll be bombarded with questions about the significance of her pursuit, about whether a victory there completes the Grand Slam or merely the fourth leg of the Super Slam. 

What’s not in dispute, however, is that another major title would mean Park has captured the career Grand Slam, at age 25, at St Andrews, no less. That’s where Woods wrapped up his own career slam, in 2000. And the way she’s been playing lately, it’s a fitting parallel.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.