Major Losses Overshadowing Victories

As I watched the television coverage from the Masters I noticed that when analysts recalled the 2016 Masters, they did not speak of Danny Willett’s win, they focused on Jordan Spieth’s meltdown. Spieth had a five shot lead when he came to the back nine then disaster — bogeys on 10 and 11 followed by a quadruple-bogey (seven) on hole 12. Willett shot a bogey free 67 but that doesn’t matter because most golfers remember Spieth losing the Masters. Plus, it doesn’t help that Willett has played horribly since winning.

The ANA Inspiration is another example. Can you name the winner of the 2017 ANA? I bet if you are a golf fan you vividly remember that Lexi Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty due to a Rules infraction that occurred during Saturday’s third round which was “phoned-in” by a fan watching the broadcast. Thompson played through tear-filled eyes to give herself a chance in a playoff against So Yeon Ryu and Ryu won.

As with the Masters, much of the golf coverage leading up to the 2018 ANA championship focused on what happened to Lexi Thompson in 2017 thus taking away from the normal focus on the previous winner.

I cannot remember who won the  2012 Kraft Nabisco (now called the ANA Inspiration) but I remember the image of I.K. Kim missing a one-foot putt for the win. I had to look up the winner – I.K. Kim lost to Sun Young Yoo. Or should I say Sun Young Yoo won the 2012 Kraft Nabisco in a playoff.

I would guess most golf fans cannot tell you who won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open but they will remember Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty because a television viewer “phoned-in” that her club had grazed the sand in the bunker. This did impact the championship outcome with Brittany Lang coming out on top.

A true golf fan will know the name Jean Van de Velde. Van de Velde is famous for his meltdown at the 1999 British Open. Every year the video of Van de Velde’s meltdown is shown sometime during the week of the British Open. I had to look up the winner, it was Paul Laurie.

Even Jordan Spieth’s 2015 U.S. Open win at Chambers Bay will always have an asterisk noting Dustin Johnson’s 3-putt on the 18th hole causing him to lose the championship. Most golf fans were not shocked that Spieth won but how he won was shocking. Of course, redemption came when DJ won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

The bottom line is “a win is a win” (as the saying goes) but it must be frustrating for a winner who’s victory will always be overshadowed by the story of the person that lost.

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Ricoh Women’s British Open: Forget the weather forecast – it’s time for women’s golf to shine

Due to the 2012 Olympics the Ricoh Women’s British Open was moved from July to September and time of year might have a major impact on the final results.  Why?  Because right now the big story reported from Royal LIverpool at Holylake is the weather. The players faced cold, wind, and even hail during the Pro-Am. Here is a quick video Natalie Gulbis posted from yesterday’s Pro-Am.

Of course after bad weather comes beauty as shown in this tweeted photo from Brittany Lincicome.

LPGA Player, B. Lincicome, tweets a photo of a rainbow from Royal Liverpool GC

Given the tough conditions of the weather, which golfer will shine?  What will be the “big story” (other than the weather) at the end of the tournament on Sunday?  The questions on my mind are:

(1) Will Yani Tseng win back to back Women’s British Opens and end the slump she has been in the last few months?  At the beginning of the golf season all the golf pundits were predicting another big run for Tseng but she shocked the golf world with her poor play this summer.

(2) Can Paula Creamer rebound after the loss to Jiyal Shin last week at the Kingsmill Championship?  It was a disappointing blow to Creamer to 3-putt on the final hole which forced her into a sudden-death playoff and ultimately lost with another 3-putt on the 9th playoff hole.

(3) Will Stacy Lewis win another major and finally get the respect she deserves?  Lewis is the top ranked American player and ranked #2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings yet she still does not seem to get the exposure that other lesser ranked players get from the golf media.  However, I was happy to see that the Adam Schupak wrote a New York Times article yesterday titled Women’s Golf Money Leader Could End U.S. Drought.

(4) How will Lydia Ko perform playing links golf and will she outshine the professionals?  She has the buzz coming off her amazing win at the Canadian Open this year.  The golf writers are already focused on Ko based on the tweet (below) from Kraig Kann, the Chief Communications Officer for the LPGA.

Lydia Ko is already facing big crowds  in the Media Center at Royal Liverpool

(5) If not the youngest player, Lydia Ko, will one of the “seasoned” players have a moment of glory?  Juli Inkster is at the open on a “medical exemption” (i.e. she is back after recovering from elbow surgery and has not played the full year so she was given a special exception).  I don’t think Inkster will contend given the short amount of time she has played this year.  Perhaps another “grand dame” might have a go at it.  I’ll be keeping my eye on Laura Davies, a 48-year-old British golfer with 45 careers wins (including 4 Majors and 20 LPGA tournament wins).  If the wind is up and experience counts, Davies might just have a chance to tame the links.

There are so many other scenarios that could take place.  Another Asian golf star (other than Yani Tseng) could win.  A player that has been struggling all year (Michelle Wie comes to mind) could suddenly get her game back and win.  Or a rookie (hopefully, Lexi Thompson) could thrill the crowd and get her first major. Of course, we can’t forget all the excellent Ladies European Tour (LET) players that could hold the trophy at the end of tournament.

Whatever happens this weekend, let’s hope it is an exciting tournament because the Women’s British Open is the major golf event this weekend; and with the PGA taking a week off before the tour championship, this is an opportunity for women’s golf to take the spotlight and shine.

Lydia Ko makes history, again. Is Ko an “amateur” in name only?

It was amazing to watch Lydia Ko win the CN Canadian Women’s Open.  However, what was really surprising was that Ko was the lead story on Golf Channel’s wrap-up show, Golf Central.  It is rare that a ladies event overshadows a PGA event, but Lydia Ko’s win overshadowed Nick Watney’s win at the Barclays.

I wrote about Lydia winning the US Women’s Amateur just a few weeks ago.  Ko is an amazing golfer; but what is really surprising is her demeanor on the golf course and during her press conferences.  She has a lovely personality.  She smiles all the time (and said in the press conference she tries to smile even when she makes a bad shot).  She is quick to acknowledge all the people supporting her golf career and seems to recognize that her amateur schedule is like a job.  She stated in various interviews that she has missed many months of school with all the world traveling she is doing for golf.

As I watched Ko play, I noticed she had a Srixon logo on her golf cap and a New Zealand Golf Logo on her shirt.  I did a bit of research and found the New Zealand Golf website.  As an amateur Ko cannot have sponsors but what she does have is the support of the New Zealand Golf Federation.  Lydia Ko is one of the shinning stars of the New Zealand Golf Federation’s National Development Program (or better known to the golf viewing public as the “Srixon Golf Academy.”)

When you read the details of the “National Development Programme” on the New Zealand Golf Website, you realize how much of an advantage players supported by a national federation have over an amateur without such support.  The website states “The National Development Programme is the pathway that assists young emerging talent from throughout New Zealand to succeed on the international stage.”  Here is what the website states a Srixon Golf Academy player can expect:

  • Primary coach
  • Sports psychologist
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Golf specific physiotherapist
  • They will also have funding assistance to ensure their attendance at national events throughout their term in the Academy.
  • For the very best of the Academy there will be a contestable ‘International Tournament Campaign Fund’ to help assist them create and manage their own international tournament campaigns.  (Note: the website even lists specific tournaments in Asia, UK/Europe, Canada, and the USA).

Wow, given the “funding” support it is hard to call Lydia Ko an Amateur.  Clearly, the financial support to travel all over the world to compete against the worlds best golfers is a luxury most American amateurs would love.  Actually, I think a lot of “journeymen” players and “rookies” on the professional tours would love that kind of financial support.

The support Lydia Ko receives does not take away from her talent or her win.  She is still a 15-year-old playing an individual sport and it is her talent and mental fortitude that has allowed her to win at the highest level of golf.  However, the support Ko receives “outside the ropes” is not something all amateurs get.  Judy Rankin, Golf Hall of Fame member and commentator for LPGA golf events, often comments during her on-air TV analysis that international amateurs (supported by golf federations) have an advantage over American amateurs.  The lack of international travel and opportunity to play against the best in the world is a big issue for the development of American Amateurs.

Is Lydia Ko like other Amateurs at all?  One way Lydia Ko is a normal amateur is that she does not have the pressure a professional has to win.  Professionals feel pressure because golf is how they make their living.  Maybe a good example is Lexi Thompson.  In 2007, at age 12, Thompson was the youngest golfer to qualify for the US Women’s Open and turned pro at 15 but did not have her LPGA card. Thompson was entering LPGA tournaments on sponsor exemptions. Thompson made history when she won her first LPGA event (the Navistar LPGA Classic) at 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old.  Given her win, the LPGA waived the age minimum/restriction and granted Lexi Thompson her card.  But as a professional, Thompson has struggled this year and missed the cut at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.  The other past “amateur phenom” to miss the cut this week — Michelle Wie.

Is Lydia Ko an amateur in name only?  I say yes because she plays like a professional, she travels and competes worldwide like a professional, and she has “financial support” that mirrors the economic benefit to cover travel costs that a sponsor deal might cover (without the official sponsor).

Who knows when Lydia Ko will become a professional.  Until that time, I’m sure Lydia Ko will continue to amaze the golf viewing public with her amazing talent.  The next big question is when she does turn professional, will she continue her phenomenal rise?  Will Ko be the next Annika or Tiger?.  Only time will tell.  One thing is for sure —  the golf world will be watching.

Waiting on the Ladies

The golf world is all a buzz that the golf season has begun with the start of the PGA tour, the European tour, and the Champions tour (or senior men’s tour). But there is not much talk about the LPGA because the ladies season doesn’t begin for a few more weeks.

In my opinion, I think many golf fans, myself included, don’t pay as much attention to the “official” start of the LPGA (this year begins with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open).  For me, the LPGA starts with the first major, The Kraft Nabisco Championship on March 29.  The other tournaments I pay attention to, at least in terms of marking my calendar, are the other three majors for the women.

It’s not that the women are any less talented than the men but there is less “excitement” in the non-major tournaments.  Actually, the lack of excitement has the same feeling that the PGA tournaments had a few years ago — when Tiger wasn’t playing in many tournaments or playing well; and there were no young guns grabbing anyone’s interest.

The LPGA has suffered since Annika retired and Michelle Wie, who got all the hype as the next “Annika”, could not live up to such unrealistic expectations. There are other great women golfers but the LPGA needs a “big star.”  A “big star” is important to any tour — it’s the Annika and Tiger factor that make the average golf fan turn on the TV or buy a ticket to a tournament. When Tiger announced he would play at the 2012 AT&T Pro Am, ticket sales jumped 35%.

Let’s hope 2012 is the beginning of the turning point for the LPGA because they have some really great talent in Yani Tseng (number one women golfer in the world who many believe could possibly break many of Annika’s records) and now the LPGA has their own young guns getting buzz.  In particular, Lexi Thompson.

Lexi Thompson has been called a “golf prodigy” and the proof was in her play last year when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic at the age of 16 as a non-member of the LPGA. Thompson was the youngest women to win any LPGA event.  After her win she petitioned the LPGA to waive the age requirement (members must be at least 18 years old) to become a member. She was granted full membership.

This just might be the year that I (and many other golf fans) pay attention to more than just the majors for the ladies.