Maria Fassi: Can She Inject Women's Golf With Star Power?

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I’m a believer after watching her remarkable play at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, but she also just missed the cut in her “home” debut in Arkansas.

As Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols writes in an excellent look at Fassi’s prospects, the talent and star qualities are there. Read it all. As a side note, I found two things here interesting:

On Tuesday in Arkansas, she spent three hours working on her wedges with Estes-Taylor, who did the same for Lewis years ago.

It was Lewis who insisted that Fassi get out of the 100-plus degree heat at the U.S. Women’s Open in Charleston, S.C., and save her body. She’ll need truth-tellers like that in her circle.

Fassi missed her first cut as a professional at her “home” event, the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, but handled the disappointment with class.

Whan points to the “long string of can’t-miss college kids that missed” and hopes the degree-toting Fassi puts together a blockbuster career. Lewis remains the only four-year college player to rise to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.

Why The World Golf Hall Of Fame's Street Cred Is Suffering, Files: Hannah Green Declared One Major From HOF Eligibility

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A big congratulations to LPGA rookie Hannah Green on her first win and first major win in the KPMG LPGA Championship, nearly doubling her career earnings and already bringing her within one major win of World Golf Hall of Fame eligibility.

As the World Golf Hall’s Twitter account reminded us:

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Of course we all know Hall eligibility does not ensure induction. Shoot, non-eligibility but amazing lives in the game are not even ensured a place in the Hall.

LPGA's Whan Still Yearning To Get His Tour More Broadcast Network Airtime

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Intriguing stance by Commish Mike Whan’s in believing network television is still the place to get more notoriety and purse growth for the LPGA Tour. From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek story posted after Whan discussed the close on a two-year Golf Channel extension and the PGA Tour’s involvement in handling negotiations:

Whan points to current No. 1 Jin Young Ko as a prime example.

“If you gave me 39 weekends a year, I promise you I could make you love Jin Young Ko,” said Whan. “You’re going to get to know her story and swing. You see her five times a year, she’s just a name I can’t pronounce. That’s a shame. If you give me 39 weeks there’s a lot of guys on the PGA Tour I wouldn’t care about.… When they become people you know, you want to watch them.”

However, as the Nichols story points out, the U.S. Women’s Open on Fox was outdrawn by NBC network broadcasts of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Diamond Resorts TOC, with strong Golf Channel and promotional tie-ins on other NBC outlets, suggesting that a mere broadcast network presence isn’t enough.

It’s also hard to see a broadcast network taking on the LPGA Tour at the PGA Tour’s negotiating insistence when even PGA Tour events do not all get broadcast network coverage. Seems obvious who will get priority in negotiations, but stranger things have happened.

Wie: "I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me"

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Attempting to play on a bum wrist, things did not go well for Michelle Wie in the KPMG LPGA Championship first round (84) and after she suggested her career may have hit a wall.

From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek story on Wie’s comments and player reaction to the possible career ending appearance:

“It’s just one of those situations where I’m not, you know, I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me,” said Wie, “so even on the bad days I’m just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it’s tough.”

Like many I was surprised to see her turn up at Hazeltine after she signaled likely taking the summer off, so kudos to Wie for trying to play.

Amateur Hit With Slow Pay Penalty In Last Group Of U.S. Women's Open

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Fast and complicated greens mixed with threesomes is a recipe for slow play, yet it was still shocking to see three hours for nine with the last groups of the U.S. Women’s Open. The USGA’s time par system, in use at all championships BUT the men’s U.S. Open, earned Stanford’s Andrea Lee a warning and then a penalty, reports GolfDigest.com’s Christopher Powers. However, there was understandable social media outrage over an amateur getting singled out ala Guan at the Masters, reports Golf.com’s Jeff Ritter.

Full broken record mode here: but you combine modern players with faster-than-normal greens, threesomes, and reachable par-5s, and there is almost no chance of breaking 5:30 hours on any tour.

With 11 players within four strokes of the lead, it should be a stellar final round.

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols on the improbable final pairing of Dukies and one-back Lexi Thompson’s adjustments that have put her in a great position to win.

Minjee Lee Carves Up Wilshire, Moves To World No. 2

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While 58 of 72 greens is always an admirable number at historic Wilshire CC, but it was Australia’s Minjee Lee’s precision helped her to hold off a charging Sei Young Kim to win the 2019 Hugel Air Premia LA Open. She moves to the Rolex No. 2 spot with her win in Los Angeles.

Following the leading group during the front, I was whining to anyone who might listen that the final round hole locations would stifle excitement. And then Lee would hit a ball six to eight feet when the pin looked inaccessible. Beth Ann Nichols with Lee’s winning story for Golfweek.

And great news from The Forecaddie, Wilshire is on the schedule for years to come, sponsor permitting.

I posted a few shots on Instagram to give you a sense of how special it is to have great players out there testing shots almost identical to how they played 100 years ago. Norman Macbeth and friends would never believe 100 years later how well the course has aged.

Only three birdies were made at the par-3 18th Sunday, and they all came in the three groups. Lee was the last and most notable:

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That winning feeling with @minjee27 @lpga_la.

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Organizers Begin To Consider Moving The ANA Away From The ANWA, Even If It Means Coachella Conflict

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The new Augusta National Women’s Amateur understandably got way more attention than the LPGA’s first major of the year and while the inaugural year must be taken into account, there is a good chance the chance that attention will continue to lean hard toward the “ANWA”.

It’s unfortunate that organizing reps at IMG are suggesting a move is a 50-50 prospect for this reason and not for the reason the ANA needs to move: it’s on the eve of the Masters.

From Larry Bohannan’s Desert Sun report, quoting IMG’s Chris Garrett:

“If I am a tournament sponsor and I am ANA and looking at coverage that was given to ANWA by Golf Channel and certain media outlets, I can understand their concerns that we are golf’s first major and they are feeling overshadowed by an event in its first year,” Garrett said.

ANA has sponsored the major since 2015 and raised the purse to $3 million this year. The airline signed a three-year extension this year through 2022.

Garrett admits that a date change might not be possible as early as 2020 because of all the moving parts involved in the LPGA schedule and TV contracts.

While moving up seems logical, a move to April after the Masters sounds more attractive to golf fans who are always going to be distracted by the Masters.

Wilshire Is Back! A Quick Roundup Reminder Of This Week's LPGA Tour Venue

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The Hugel is back!

Actually it’s the Hugel Air Premia LA Open, or, as we will call it going forward, the LA Open.

The LPGA Tour’s breakout venue of 2018 is back and celebrating its centennial and hosting many of the world’s best women in the heart of Los Angeles.

As I noted last year for Golfweek and here on the blog, Norman Macbeth’s design reminded how much a fresh, interesting and well-presented piece of architecture can add to our viewing pleasure. Sitting in the heart of a big city and the energy that pulled in certainly did not hurt.

Some of Andy Johnson’s drone footage will whet your appetite, as well his analysis of Macbeth’s varied group of holes.

Scoring and tee times here, and ticket info can be found here.

Here are the coverage times and notes:

LPGA TOUR

Hugel-Air Premia LA Open

Dates: April 25-28

Venue: Wilshire Country Club, Los Angeles, Calif. 

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):

Thursday                     6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Friday                          6:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Saturday                      6-9 p.m. (Live)

Sunday                        6-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:

Annie Park to Join Broadcast Booth on Friday: LPGA Tour winner and USC alum Annie Park will join GOLF Channel’s broadcast booth as a guest analyst following her second round of coverage on Friday.

Drive On: LPGA Rolls Out New Slogan To Promote Diversity, Remind Us They Are Not Living Under Par

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On a scale of Live Under Par to 10, I’d give the LPGA’s new campaign a 5. It feels a bit dark but understandably serious given the issues motivating the “Drive On” slogan. In the initial roll-out, Drive On is followed by “This is for every girl” in the first phase of the campaign.

I’m not sure how much an empty-sounding phrase needing another catch phrase to explain puts people in the seats, but that’s the view of players, notes GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell.

LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez wiped away tears watching, saying the campaign captured a message the tour has struggled to properly tell until now.

“We’re finally telling the story,” she said.

Stacy Lewis, who will be featured in a future spot, believes the campaign will help grow the LPGA’s following.

“I think if somebody that's a dancer can find inspiration in a golfer, we’ve found a new fan,” Lewis said. “That's what I see in the campaign, is pulling more fans in from other areas.”

The launch video and styling feel incredibly familiar, but I can’t quite place where I’ve seen this style of ad before other than to know we’ve all seen something like it before. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

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This is for every girl. #DriveOn

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14-Year-Old Tied For Symetra Tour Lead With One Round To Go...

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Alexa Pano, 14, is tied for the lead at -8 heading into the Symetra Tour’s SKYiGOLF Championship’s final round Sunday.

Pano is in the field for the upcoming Augusta National Women’s Amateur and has played one LPGA event when she was 11 and in other Symetra events. Still…a 14-year-old with a chance to win on the AAA circuit for Women’s golf?

For Immediate Release:

ALEXA PANO, 14, CHASING HISTORY AT SKYiGOLF Championship

NORTH PORT, Fla. (March 9, 2019) – Asked if she ever expected to be tied for the lead in a professional golf tournament with only 18 holes left to play, 14-year-old amateur Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Yes, sir,” she politely told a reporter. “That’s why I played in the tournament.”

At the inaugural $250,000 SKYiGOLF Championship, Pano is on the brink of history, trying to become the youngest player ever to win a Symetra Tour event. Hannah O’Sullivan, who now plays college golf at Duke, was 16 years old when she won the 2015 Gateway Classic in Arizona.

The “youngest” thing is something that the uber-talented Pano has grown accustomed to hearing, though on Saturday at Charlotte Harbor National she said she hadn’t heard it in a while.

“It’s something I’m kind of used to it. Playing up in events a lot, I’d hear ‘youngest person ever’ so often,” she said. “It’s actually kind of gone away from me. Now that I’m 14, I’m kind of ‘old’ and can’t win the ‘youngest’ thing. But here we are again.”

Instant Poll: Higher Priority For Tournament Golf: Pace Of Play Or Protecting The Field?

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The recent backstopping incident in Thailand was arguably the worst case yet in terms of optics and in helping a player save a stroke. I wrote about it here for Golfweek.

My colleague Beth Ann Nichols defended the players because of their pure-hearted nature.

Brandel Chamblee and Mark Rolfing were pretty tough on the players involved and you can see the latest incident here if you haven’t already.

Randall Mell agreed this was ultimately an effort to speed up play (on the 18th green?) even as he’s written about the perils of backstopping.

The LPGA issued this statement absolving the players of any wrongdoing.

So I ask, even though Ariya Jutanugarn could have tip-toed to the ball in 20 seconds, walked in 10, and marked, is that time saved more important than the shot lost to the field in the name of faster play?

Higher priority for tournament golf: pace of play or protecting the field?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Amazing: LPGA Purses Top $70 Million in 2019 With 33 Starts And New Formats, Too

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It wasn’t that long ago the Brand Lady was steering the LPGA Tour into the ground with her marketing obsession over substance.

With that in mind, congratulations to Commissioner Mike Whan, his team and the players for another incredible milestone announced today: $70 million in 2019 LPGA Tour purses.

As Beth Ann Nichols writes for Golfweek, the tour is also introducing some exciting new formats, including a team event and a co-sanction of the groundbreaking Victoria Open in Australia. That’s the event where men and women play separate events at the same time for the same purse.

From Nichols’ report, after reporting on the tour’s new tournament of champions even in Orlando:

Also new to the LPGA, the groundbreaking Vic Open on Feb. 7-10, the only professional event in the world where men and women compete concurrently on the same course for equal prize money.

The year’s Vic Open, held at 13th Beach Golf Links in Barwon Heads, Australia, will be sanctioned by the European Tour and ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia (men’s) and the LPGA and ALPG (women’s).

And finally, this summer’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational will be the first official team event in tour history. With a pair of sister acts winning on the LPGA in 2018, it’s sure to offer plenty of compelling teams and storylines.

(Mercifully) RIP Soon: Caddies Lining Up Players

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GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell says goodbye to the peculiar LPGA player tendency to have their caddies line them up for a shot, a casualty of the 2019 rules of golf changes.

As most commentators have told us, no one can recall when a player was actually called off a shot by a caddie. Mostly, it just provided an annoyance to television viewers and gave some the perception that female professional golfers needed this odd crutch.

Mell writes of Brittany Lincicome’s use of caddy alignment confirmation throughout her career:

So why do it? For most players like Lincicome, it’s just reassurance. If the rules allow it, why not make sure? For Lincicome, it also has become part of her pre-shot routine.

“It’s really more like a trigger,” Pederson said. “It’s something she will just have to re-establish for next year. I don’t foresee it being a problem. She plays off weeks and in the off season without me lining her up, and she’s fine.”

Lincicome was irritated when she first learned of the rule change, mostly because it was sold as a way to speed the pace of play. Lincicome is one of the fastest players on tour.

The LPGA Has Had Better Q-Schools...

I’m not sure why the concept of Q-School has drifted so far. At one times tours had a season-ending tournament where players shooting the lowest score got a card for the following year. Sometimes it took a few stages and some terrible stress to get there, but it all worked pretty well.

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We know by now how the PGA Tour has turned their legendary Q-School into a Web.com Tour field filler, and this year it was the LPGA Tour’s turn to make everyone scratch their heads with exemptions for college players.

Seven of the eight amateurs who qualified for the eight-round finals earned full status for 2019, meaning they will skip the spring. With the top five women in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings given an opportunity, their likely imminent departures will be a tough blow for college golf and not necessarily the way to run a Q-School. At least one player—naturally a Bruin—was not comfortable with the effort to expedite pro careers.

From Beth Ann Nichols’ report for Golfweek:

“You’re kind of making the decision for them,” said Kristy McPherson, a South Carolina grad and LPGA veteran who earned back her card at this week’s Q-Series.

UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit (above) was in the running for College Player of the Year last year as a freshman. She actually hesitated in coming to Pinehurst at all for Q-Series.

“My heart and soul was not in this tournament,” said Tavatanakit, who told her dad as much after the third round.

And now there is the headline-making story of a player’s mother spotted moving a ball from out-of-bounds to in-bounds. Randall Mell on the DQ of Doris Chen, the 2014 NCAA Champion.

An LPGA source familiar with the information provided for the ruling told GolfChannel.com that a homeowner along the course who was watching the event observed the infraction and provided a description of the woman he saw moving Chen’s ball. The LPGA, the source said, later identified the woman as Chen’s mother, Yuh-Guey Lin.

Chen won the NCAA Championship while at USC in 2014. In three seasons on the Symetra Tour, she has combined to make just $12,050.

Chen couldn’t be reached for comment.

That all said, there were success stories noted here by Golf World’s Ryan Herrington.

The Kordas And The Amazing Winning Siblings Feat

Nelly Korda wins: some trophies are easier to kiss than others.

Nelly Korda wins: some trophies are easier to kiss than others.

We don’t want to get too far removed from the weekend’s action without pausing to consider the remarkable feat of siblings winning on the same tour.

I’m fairly certainly this is Final Golf Jeopardy material here, from Al Lunsford of the LPGA:

With her win, Nelly Korda joined her sister, five-time LPGA winner Jessica Korda, in the winner’s circle on Sunday, making the Kordas just the third set of sisters to win on the LPGA Tour in history.

Annika Sorenstam (72 wins) and Charlotta Sorenstam (one win) were the first to accomplish the feat in 2000, and were joined by Ariya Jutanugarn (10 wins) and Moriya Jutanugarn (one win) earlier this season when Moriya won the 2018 HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.

Imagine that. Two of the three pairings to have done so accomplished the feat in 2018.

Big sister Jessica was a blubbering mess after the win:

Trophy Wrap: Schauffele Takes The HSBC, Champ Claims Sanderson, Nelly Nabs The Swing Skirts

Xander Schauffele is primed for a Ryder Cup berth after…oh wait, sorry. Presidents Cup! He’s in like Flynn! Your WGC HSBC winner…

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Some birthday week eh, @xanderschauffele?

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Cameron Champ has arrived, taking the Sanderson Farms and a fantastic bookend for his coffee table book collection.

Nelly Korda becomes an LPGA winner in Taiwan and has a fantastic glass plate to show for her effort.

Scott Parel won the Invesco QQQ and the member-guest crystal that goes with winning a Schwab Cup playoff event.

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Trophy No. 2 for @parelgolf. 🏆🏆

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Reuters: Chinese Golfers Urged To WD From Taiwan Event By Higher Ups

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This week’s friendly (cautionary) tale for a world of golf eager to cash in on all things golf in China comes in the form of a Reuters report by Peter Reynolds. The short version: sources say someone “high up” in China urged the golfers to pass on this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship.

China, which views self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province, has ramped up pressure to assert its sovereignty. Ties have deteriorated since 2016, when President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party came to power.

The United States sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Monday in its second such operation this year, as its military steps up the frequency of transits through the busy strategic waterway, despite opposition from China.

Shanshan Feng and rookie Yu Liu are the two players, both given billing on tournament websites. Reynolds quotes Liu as saying the late WD was not for personal reasons.

Trophy Wrap: Leishman Is CIMB Worthy, Pepperell Takes British Masters, Chun Claims The Hana, Langer Wins No. 38 In The SAS And Tennant Wins US Senior Women's Am

Marc Leishmann fended off—who else?—but Justin Thomas along with 54-hole co-leaders Gary Woodland and Shubhankar Sharma to take the CIMB Classic and the solar panel trophy for the winner.

Because it was just too bloody cold for anyone to go back outside, Eddie Pepperell posed inside Walton Heath’s clubhouse to celebrate his Sky Sports British Masters victory. Alistair Tait with details of the win for Golfweek.

In Gee Chun takes the turquoise jacket and a matching lamp base in the KEB Hana Bank:

Bernhard Langer won again on the PGA Tour Champions, his 38th title. This time it’s the SAS Championship and a piece of crystal he can pawn to buy a non-white belt with.

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Trophy No. 38 for @bernhard.langer. 👏🏆

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And it was a few days ago, but congrats to Lara Tennant for winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. The 51-year-old had her father on the bag! Scott Lipsky with the the story of Tennant’s 3&2 win over Sue Wooster.

Trophy Roundup: Tway Takes Safeway, Bjerregaard Is An Old Course Winner, Crowns For Korea, Kanya Claims The APAC

Kevin Tway claims his first PGA Tour title in a playoff over Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker at Silverado. As Kevin Casey notes in this Golfweek roundup of notes and quotes, it was Tway’s steadiness that benefitted from Brandt Snedeker losing a five-stroke lead.

For the effort, Tway gets a fantastic foot rest for his mancave:


Lucas Bjerregaard, who attended the Ryder Cup as a spectator, gets to do the Swilcan Burn trophy shot before figuring how to get that shipped home to Denmark. This is his second European Tour title.

Takumi Kanaya is the Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion and highest ranked Japanese amateur currently:

America! Angela Stanford Becomes Second Oldest LPGA Major Winner, USA Players Thrive At Evian

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Maybe they heard the early week discussion about what an awful year Americans were having on the LPGA Tour, because six Americans finished inside the top nine of the Evian Championship, led by the feel-good story of long time major contender Angela Stanford.

A pair of weekend 68s and a rough finish from Amy Olson allowed Stanford to become the second oldest player to win an LPGA major.

From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek game story:

She became the second-oldest player in LPGA history to win her first major, behind Fay Crocker, who won the 1955 U.S. Women’s Open at 40 years, 11 months. Stanford turns 41 on Nov. 28.

“I have no idea what just happened,” said Stanford through heavy tears after her win at Evian-les-Bains, France.

Highlights of the crazy finish: