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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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a 27East.com report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

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Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

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"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."