A Solheim Cup Finish For The Ages: Pettersen Makes The Ultimate Walk-Off Winning Putt

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I feel like we’ve had more “sad someone had to lose” events in golf in recent years, and you can add the 2019 Solheim Cup to the list. Team USA and Team Europe—once they actually hit their shots—put on valiant efforts under intense pressure. Everyone really should get a trophy for the show they put on.

But it was the final 45 minutes, where the outcome was in doubt and a screenwriter seemingly scripted the series of events in brilliant coordination with Golf Channel, that makes this one so unforgettable. (It replays at 11 am ET Monday.)

Beth Ann Nichols of Golfweek captured the magical day here very well, and in this paragraph summed up the stunning composure of Bronte Law and Suzann Pettersen, along with the brilliant captaining by Catriona Matthew to place them in the last to singles slots.

Everything down the stretch had to go Europe’s way. Bronte Law, an English lioness who sprinted out the tunnel and onto the first tee, walked in a birdie putt on the 16th hole and closed her match against alternate Ally McDonald on the 17th to leave the fate of the Cup in Suzann Pettersen’s hands. They are cut from the same mold, Law and Pettersen. High-octane players who feed off of moments like this, particularly in team competition.

Ron Sirak has seen has share of great moments and writes “you’d have to search far and wide to find a more dramatic finish anywhere in the history of sports.”

Suzann Pettersen was blocked out on 18, wedged out, wedged close and made the winning putt. A controversial captain’s pick, she returned from a maternity leave and announced her farewell soon after the matches, writes Alistair Tait.

Brentley Romine with the Sunday singles roundup…each match mattered.

As with all team events, the day yielded many emotion-laden images.

As for Sunday’s strategy, Michelle Wie made her TV debut and confidently questioned Juli Inkster’s decision to middle-load the USA lineup with veterans while Matthew clearly looks brilliant for backloading hers with the most fiery competitors:

Golf Central’s highlight package:

This Week In Game-Killing Pace Of Play, Slowheim Cup Edition

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Four-ball play has become a glacial-paced nightmare at all team events, yet appears to be festering in new and amazing ways at the 2019 Solheim Cup, writes Golfweek’s Beth Nichols.

The day one debacle, which did not improve as day two conditions deteriorated and matches barely finished in daylight, earned this rant by Golfweek’s Alistair Tait.

Snails, turtles and tortoises move faster than some of these players, especially in the fourball matches.

Yet only one player was given a bad time.

Just one!

How slow were they? The first fourball match featuring Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam against Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas took 2 hours and 57 minutes for nine holes. Nine.

They took five hours and 11 minutes to play 16 holes.

USA Captain Juli Inkster added:

"Yes [it was an issue], it's painfully slow out there," said Inkster. "I know we had maybe a couple on our side that are maybe a little bit slower, but they have a few on their side, too, that are a little slow. So I don't know, I don't know what to do.

During Saturday’s play, pace talk took up much of the broadcast as players often took shockingly long over putts and poor weather added to the misery.

That said, the matches are tied heading to Sunday singles and things should move faster.

Ratings: Women's British Most Watched Women's Pro Event Since 2014; Wyndham Final Round Down

Great news for the thrilling AIG Women’s British Open Sunday broadcast on NBC: a 1.0 rating despite the midday slot on the east coast (11:30 am to 2 pm ET). The 1.67 million average audience was the highest rated LPGA telecast since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open won by Michelle Wie at Pinehurst.

From Golf Channel PR:

According to SBD, the Saturday broadcast earned a 0.7.

The PGA Tour continued a rough ratings run since The Open, with the 2019 Wyndham earning a 1.4 overnight rating, down sizably from 2018’s final round 1.9.

The third round’s 1.0 was down from 2018’s 1.1.

Did Shibuno Pull Off The Women's Major Championship Equivalent To Ouimet At Brookline?

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It may not be mentioned with Ouimet’s shocker at Brookline, Jack’s comeback in 86 or Tiger’s two most triumphant Masters wins in 1997 and 2019, but as far as golf tournaments I’ve watched Hinako Shibuno’s win at the 2019 British Women’s Open will rank with the wackiest, most improbable and most inexplicable.

She’s also just the second Japanese player to win one of golf’s major championships.

I’m going to step out of the way now and let some crack pro writers who were there explain what happened, but just remember, Shibuno had never competed outside of Japan. At 20, I’m not thinking she’s multiple buddies trips to the heathland or linksland, so to say she was a tad green would not be rude.

Anyway, it was a joy to watch, a real bummer for two LPGA stalwarts in Lizette Salas and Morgan Pressel, and a true heartbreaker for Jin Young Ko looking to win a third major and second in two weeks. Yes, this was zany!

Beth Ann Nichols for Golfweek.

British fans were captivated by the speedy player with the double-jointed arms and a sweet tooth who never stopped smiling. They rose to their feet and roared when she drained an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to slip past American Lizette Salas by a single stroke on a day of riveting golf. It was a fairy-tale finish for the ages by a player nicknamed the “Smiling Cinderella” by Japanese media.

And then there was the day she did it, prompting this simple question from Randall Mell at GolfChannel.com:

Has anybody ever made it look more fun playing the back nine on the Sunday of a major while tied for the lead?

Ron Sirak for LPGA.com:

This sensational Sunday had more subplots than a Charles Dickens novel. All six of the players in the final three twosomes had a chance to win.

The last hole birdie, though it doesn’t really capture the quality of the play by all down the stretch and the amazing stories of Salas, Pressel and Ko that added to the insanity of the whole thing.

And her remarks after…



Links! Porthcawl Joins Troon As Next Two Women's British Open Venues

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The early voting says you want links courses only to secure the Women’s British Open’s identity going forward and while I’d like to say the R&A heard you, this one obviously had been in the works for some time: Royal Porthcawl will host the 2021 edition. And Golfweek’s Alistair Tait says this should be a precursor to finally bringing The Open to Wales.

For Immediate Release:

ROYAL PORTHCAWL CONFIRMED AS VENUE 

FOR 2021 AIG WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN

31 July 2019, Woburn Golf Club, England: Royal Porthcawl was announced today as the venue for the 2021 AIG Women’s British Open, following on from Royal Troon, which makes its debut on the Championship roster in 2020. 

Royal Porthcawl is renowned to be as challenging a course and as hospitable a club as you will find and has held many amateur and professional tournaments on its famous links. In 2014 the Club hosted the first ever Major in Wales, The Senior Open, which returned again for the 2017 edition won by Bernhard Langer. 

Among others, the Club has hosted The Amateur Championship, The Walker Cup, The Curtis Cup, The European Team Championship, The Men’s Home Internationals, The Vagliano Trophy, The Women’s Amateur Championship, The Dunlop Masters, The Penfold, The Ladies European Tour and The Coral Classic.

As South Wales’s first 18 hole golf course, Royal Porthcawl was awarded the privilege of the prefix ‘Royal’ in 1909, only the second course in Wales and one of only 66 clubs around the world to have that distinction.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said: “We are very much looking forward to taking the AIG Women’s British Open to Royal Porthcawl for the first time in 2021.  We have a very exciting couple of years ahead with the Championship also making its debut at Royal Troon in 2020. Both courses will present outstanding tests for the world’s best women’s golfers.”

Speaking on behalf of the Welsh Government, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “We are delighted with today’s news and look forward to the honour of welcoming the AIG Women’s British Open Golf to Wales in 2021. Wales has built its reputation as an outstanding destination for major international events and the AIG Women’s British Open event will help to maintain this momentum and highlights our commitment to bringing world class women’s sport to Wales. We are committing funding to work with the R&A, Wales Golf and clubs and schools across Wales to use the event and the Curtis Cup in Conwy in June next year to inspire more women and girls to take part in golf.  Having these two great events in successive years at two fantastic venues like Conwy and Royal Porthcawl is a great boost for golf in Wales in general and women’s golf in particular.” 

Royal Porthcawl Club Captain, Rhys James, added: “We are thrilled that the AIG Women’s British Open will be coming to Royal Porthcawl in 2021. Hosting our first women’s Major is a tremendous honour for the Club and we cannot wait to welcome the world’s best golfers to Wales. Being here at Woburn this week and seeing the impressive scale and quality of the Championship makes us look forward to it all the more and to seeing how these fantastic players handle all the challenges our course in two years’ time.”

The Women’s British Open was founded by the LGU in 1976 and has been staged in conjunction with IMG, the world’s largest sports marketing company, since 1984. The event has been co-sanctioned by the LPGA and LET since 1994 and gained Major status in 2001. The Championship is now owned by The R&A.

Poll: Should The Women's British Open Be Contested Only On Links Courses?

That was the case I made today on Golf Central’s Alternate Shot while Matt Adams said there are plenty of great options in the UK to not limit the event going forward.

In 2020, the women’s major played this week will be run by the R&A entirely after merging with the Ladies’ Golf Union.

Here is our debate:

So…

Should they be open to some heathland and inland courses or only play links? Results will be here.

Should The Women's British Open only take place on a links?
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Evian Nightmare Continues: Lexi Leaves Passport In Her Golf Bag And All Hell Breaks Loose

As if the disaster that is the Evian-as-a-major hasn’t been embarrassing enough for the LPGA’s Commissioner. After all, Mike Whan forced the event into a new date to avoid September’s regular rains (so it rained) and the fifth major—designated so by him—was played last week as a precursor to this week’s Women’s British Open.

Nothing screams quality like back-to-back majors.

And it’s not like this is the first time for the Evian as a major…debacle.

Slow play issues went viral and course conditioning gripes plagued the event again, but mercifully this substandard product was seen in the wee hours on Golf Channel or CNBC, where the event had to go because the schedule had long been set with the Senior Open, WGC FedEx and Barracuda.

And now, this.

I could try to describe the scenario explained by Randall Mell at GolfChannel.com, but I’ll trust you to hit the link and find out how Lexi Thompson’s missing passport caused forty players to not have their clubs at the Women’s British on Monday.

Drive on!

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?
 
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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.