Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:55 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:18 pm

Video: LPGA leader hits 'amateur' like shot

By Shane Bacon

There aren’t a lot of times when you are watching a professional golf event and see a shot that gives you flashbacks of your Saturday foursome group, and when you do see terrible shots, they aren’t normally from the leader of an event.

But Angela Stanford, leading the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore did just that on Thursday. Standing over her second shot on the par-5 9th, her final hole of the day, Stanford cold-topped it about 80 yards down the fairway. Don’t believe me? Watch the video.

The craziest part? She went on to make birdie on the hole, finishing at 6 under to take the lead by two shots. Normally when I hit the ball with the bottom of my golf club, I make a number most quarterbacks wouldn’t even wear on their jerseys. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.  

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:38 am

MMSC: Examining the weekend in golf

Phil Mickelson celebrates his birdie on the 18th hole this past weekend with Keegan Bradley. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon 

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Who needed Sunday’s playoff win the most?

Sunday at Riviera, the 2012 PGA Tour season continued its incredible start by pitting three big names in a playoff most thought wouldn’t happen after second shots from the final group found the 72nd green. 

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley brought major-like intensity when they both drained improbable putts to force a playoff against already-clubhoused Bill Haas, the eventual winner when he cashed a similar crazy birdie putt on the second playoff hole. 

So we know Haas won, Mickelson and Bradley lost, but looking back, who needed the win more? 

Why not start with the champion. Haas is one of those quiet players you just know is good. No matter if at times he gets down on his own game, we’ve seen him pull off shots in his last two wins that could make a career, and any son of a PGA Tour star always has that monkey on his back to beat the legacy of his dad. 

Haas needed the win because he keeps winning. This is his third consecutive  year with a PGA Tour title, and he did it quietly against the hottest golfer to date (yes, that would be Mickelson, who ran away with Pebble and looked like he’d go back-to-back if not for some shaky putting to end his Sunday round) and a young guy who just doesn’t seem like he will be a flash in the pan. 

I think Haas needed to win that just to show people that he is damn good. Like, "One of the Best Players on Tour" good. He can and most likely will win a major. He could win three times a season and you wouldn’t be shocked. He showed Sunday that no matter the competition, if he sticks to his game, things turn out well.

Now we turn our focus to Phil. It was a strange week for Mickelson. He started out hot. Needed some eagle magic to keep his charge at back-to-back wins going, and decided at the most critical time in the tournament to forget the speed of the quick Riviera greens (three putts on No. 14 and 15 and a birdie putt on 17 that was dead center but a roll short). 

Mickelson doesn’t really need any more regular-season PGA Tour wins. If he wins, awesome. Free fuel for the 'copter. More sunglasses for the wife. More ridiculous animal-skinned belts to loop around his belly. I think Phil exits these tournaments either happy or sad, and winning isn’t exactly what does that for him. 

His reaction when Bradley matched his birdie on the final hole of regulation shows why he has so many fans. He was so pumped up when he dropped his 30-footer (honestly, the most excited he has ever been on a golf course? I think the walking fist pump was more exclamatory than his horizontal jump at the Masters), but to go over and high-five Bradley after his answered? That was great stuff. For Phil, the only thing that is going to get his legacy deeper is majors, but it would have been fun to see him go back-to-back. That said, he is still in great shape to be the favorite at Augusta, and should be if he continues this. 

No, the answer to my question is Bradley. Yes, he has two PGA Tour wins and yes, one of those was a major, but I think if he would have pulled out this win on Sunday, against one of his idols and a really talented player in a tough playoff, it would have meant more to him than winning the PGA Championship. Yes, you can re-read that, it’s true. 

Winning the PGA was career-making. He will forever be a major winner. He gutted out some birdies when it counted. But I bet it takes you at least 15 seconds to think about who he beat in that playoff (got it yet? It was Jason Dufner, and that was just six months ago). 

If Bradley’s putt on the first playoff hole had just a little less speed, we’d be sitting here talking about a guy that has three wins in under a year and has been on tour for just 13 months. The kid is for real, and a win there would have been enormous for him going forward not just in 2012, but in the coming years after that. 

Now, about all the other Bradley stuff ...

The dancing and spitting has to stop 

I know that slow play has been a huge issue the last few years on the PGA Tour. During final rounds, Twitter is basically one big complaint about the pace of play by just about every golf writer out there (which, by the way, just makes complaining about it as annoying as the actual snail pace these guys go about it). 

But Bradley’s little diddy he does before shots, and the spitting routine he has adopted, is really getting under people’s skin, and for good reason. 

No, I’m not going to sit here and preach about it being a gentleman’s game. Golf is a little different and still old school and that’s why I think certain companies aimed at making it younger aren’t ever going to work out (the golf money is older), but you can’t take 17 practice swings before a shot and expect to get away with it. 

Bradley is going to get the Sergio treatment soon if he keeps this up, and it has been going on for a WHILE now. He steps up ... stops ... realigns ... goes at the ball ... stops ... resets. It’s agonizing to watch as a golf fan, just a step lower than when you watched Jean Van de Velde start taking his shoes off at the 1999 British Open. 

The preshot routine needs to quiet down, but the spitting needs to go away now. It’s unnecessary and makes him look like an immature kid.

Yani, Yani, Yani

I’m going to drop in Tweets of the Week here at MMSC when I see fit, and I think this one from LPGA’s Jane Park says it all ...

Tseng is a machine, and how do you know she’s a machine? Because she has reevaluated how she approaches the media after a year SHE WON 12 TOURNAMENTS WORLDWIDE! If I ever had 20 percent of that season I’d probably wear the same underwear to every tournament and she has figured out some ways to improve? Incredible.

Her win this week against a talented field shows that, and we should expect much of the same for the rest of 2012. Don’t be shocked if she gets to 12 fairly late in the summer and piles on. We have seen women’s golf dominated before by big names. I’m starting to think this could be the one that eclipses all those before. 

And what I did this weekend ... 

I was in New Zealand this weekend caddying for a friend of mine playing in the New Zealand Open, and while she played great considering she’s coming back from a year off the tour because of a thumb surgery, it was our house guest that got me the most nervous. 

Alison Walshe, a friend who played at the same college I attended, stayed with us and the entire week was a social experiment for me. It was the first time I could SEE in a person that they expected to succeed. All week she just looked like she had the thing in the bag, and this is coming from a girl that has never won on the Ladies European Tour or LPGA. 

She played well the first round. Tied for the lead the second, and as we were finishing up our round on the front nine, Walshe was coming down 18 needing a birdie to possibly force a playoff (the eventual winner was in the fairway behind her, needing a birdie to get to 10-under and win outright). 

I write about this because I finally get the nerves you see with tour wives and families when they’re watching their loved one with a putt to win. One of the other caddies actually remarked about my pacing and fidgeting because I was so nervous for my friend, who hit an absolutely incredible chip (think Mickelson’s second shot on the second playoff hole, only if the grass was muddy) to six feet and then rolled in the birdie putt to put herself in a position to get into a playoff.

Sure, Lindsey Wright made a lengthy birdie putt a few minutes later for the victory, but it was exciting and a new experience to see someone you know and care about go through the clutch motions and come out successful. I’m confident now you’ll see Walshe holding a trophy before the year is over. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Steve Elling on Twitter.

Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 4:35 pm

Creamer ends '11 in familiar form -- frustration

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Paula Creamer is nothing if not prescient.

She spent a half-hour after the third round of the LPGA season finale on the putting green Saturday night, working on testy little left-to-right putts.

Sunday, it seemed like that's all she saw.

Her prep work notwithstanding, just like the season as a whole, everything mostly broke left-to-wrong.

Creamer, 25, came up two shots short at the CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort, finishing in a tie for second behind first-time winner and largely unknown Hee Young Park of South Korea.

"Every single putt I had today was a left-to-righter," Creamer said. "So just in a weird way, you have one thing that you've been really working on and you're constantly going against it."

That goes double for 2011 in general, a compilation of what-ifs and might-have-beens. With yet another week of frustration, Sunday marked the completion of a second winless season in three years for Creamer, one of the biggest stars in the game, and arguably the most talented American at world No. 7.

It was a fitting end, really. Playing in the penultimate group and two shots off the lead after 54 holes, Creamer three-jacked the second hole from four feet, then missed a three-footer for birdie after a perfect tee shot on the par-3 fourth.

"I wanted it too badly, probably," she said.

Five shots behind at the turn, Creamer birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 14 to crawl back within two strokes of the surprisingly unflappable Park, 25, but the latter never blinked.

It marked Creamer's seventh top-five finish of the year and her second runner-up result. Denied, right to the very end.

"I gave myself a lot of chances," Creamer said. "I have to be very proud of myself after the start I got off to, to finish where I did."

Creamer already has nine LPGA wins, but only one in the past three years, as she's struggled with assorted physical ailments, like a bad wrist and stomach issues. For a player of her ability, that's an eye-popping statistic. In terms of talent, and certainly popularity, she's clearly a top-five-caliber player.

This year, she's been tweaking her swing, which certainly looked solid on Sunday. But she putted like another famous, former Isleworth resident.

"I gave myself countless opportunities, and that's all I can ask for," said Creamer, who shot a 2-under 70. "Just have to work on those putts."

There wasn't much wrong with the rest of her 13-club tool set. But the Titleholders has come and gone, and she holds no title yet again.

"It's been a year of definitely just, almost there, but not quite good enough for a lot of things," she said. "But I look at it, and these last couple tournaments I definitely played a lot better. My attitude on the golf course this year was 100 times better than I believe it's ever been. 

"Confidence-wise, I think that I'm a little bit back, and when you struggle your confidence tends to go away, and these last couple events I've definitely gotten that back."

Creamer, 25, is playing one more offshore event in Taiwan in two weeks, then is shutting it down for the rest of the year and planning on doing some traveling and decompressing.

"I'm really looking forward to the offseason," she said. "I want to win. I want to be the best, and I know what it takes. Unfortunately I didn't win this year, but next year is another year."

Another one, hopefully unlike the other one.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:17 pm

U.S. Fab Four: Long on glitter, short on wins

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It sparkled, it shined and was surely hard to miss.

Morgan Pressel wore a diamond-encrusted belt buckle during the first round of the LPGA's season finale at Grand Cypress resort on Thursday, and the glint was as impressive as her round, a 5-under  67 that left her one stroke out of the lead.

The buckle appropriately contained the gleaming letters that have not often been seen this year atop LPGA leaderboards: USA.

Even in an era when American players have been scrapping for a place at the premier table for years, it's been a lean 2011 as the tour plays the CME Group Titleholders event this week. In fact, American players have combined for a total of four victories this year, one by a non-member of the tour at the time.

One of the most publicized players in the women's game, Pressel has been stuck on two victories in more than three years. The Solheim Cup regular and her three most famous countrywomen, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie, have collectively posted a glaring quadruple donut this year.

It seems like every year at this time, the question of American firepower is broached, from the decades-long drought in terms of leading the money list or the similar skein in winning the Player of the Year award.

But this is lean by any measure, metric or yards.

"I think that there's just a tremendous depth of talent on our tour," Pressel said. "I don't think that you can really look at any of the champions and think that any of them have been flukes."

Kerr finished with a 4-under 68 and is attempting to extend one of the more impressive accomplishments of her career. A former world No. 1, Kerr has claimed at least one victory in each season since 2004, the longest active streak on tour.

She has eight top-four finishes, battled a wrist issue at the Solheim that caused some discomfort for a few weeks, then returned from last week's event in Mexico with a case of the stomach flu. She spent Wednesday in bed, eating toast, some oatmeal and not much else, and missed the pro-am.

"It's felt like a bit of bad luck," Kerr said. "Some of the tournaments where I finished second I played awesome, and somebody played better. It's been frustrating."

Montezuma's Revenge pretty much cements the sentiment.

"It's kind of the way this year has gone," she said.

Creamer has been a disappointment this season, certainly relative to her career norms, at least. She has nine top-10 finishes, but not many near-misses. Creamer shot 69 and is T6, playing just a few miles down the road from her Orlando home.

Wie, still finishing her senior year at Stanford, could have made it quite a team photo for last-gasp heroics on Thursday, but blew up down the stretch. She was 4 under with seven holes to play and locked into the top five, then made three bogeys and fell to T20 at 1 under.

Minus the four cover girls, at least others have made some noise. Tampa's Brittany Lincicome, probably the fifth-most-famous American player, won twice this year, and promising Stacy Lewis won the season's first major. Teenager Lexi Thompson, who wasn't a tour member at the time, is the lone other Yank with a victory.

The far more fabled quartet -- each of them blessed with a slew of rich endorsement deals -- has three days left to fill a pretty huge seasonal void.

"The rest of us have been close but we haven't been able to get it done," Pressel said. "We've got one event left, and we'll see what happens. Maybe we'll come out firing next year."

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 11:42 am

National terror Hollis Stacy gets top honor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Former LPGA star Hollis Stacy certainly piled up plenty of national championships in her golfing career, starting at a very young age.

Now she's been given the ultimate global honor.

Stacy, 57, who won an impressive four major championships in an eight-year span, including three U.S. Opens, will be part of the 2012 list of inductees at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., it was announced Thursday at the LPGA's season-ending Titleholders event.

Stacy won 18 times on the LPGA and was inducted via the Veterans Category, created in 2000 for worthy players who might have been overlooked in the past. She also won the du Maurier championship, no longer a major, in 1983.

Since she didn’t qualify for Hall inclusion via the LPGA's points system, she was wondering if the phone call would ever come.

"I had conditioned myself not to think about it," she said. "It bugged me, it just bugged me."

She becomes the second member of the class of 2012, which will be inducted in May. Last week, Phil Mickelson was named as the first inductee via the PGA Tour ballot.

Only four players have won the U.S. Open three or more times and Stacy also won the prestigious U.S. Junior Girls' title three times while competing against the likes of age-group peers Nancy Lopez, Laura Baugh and Pat Bradley.

She got the call about the induction from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan last Thursday.

"I think I said three words -- I'm shocked, overwhelmed and so honored," Stacy said.

Stacy is one of 10 children and promised that the induction would be a joyous experience for her family. Her younger sister, Martha, will handle the introduction.

"That's why I was so shocked when the call came I never thought my mom would live to see me get in because of the politics of getting elected into the Hall," she said.

She amassed 22 of the required 27 points for automatic inclusion via the LPGA system.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 16, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 2:32 pm

LPGA foes praying Tseng hasn't found win formula

Yani Tseng has surely reaped the rewards for her hard work, but it apparently doesn't hurt to have friends in high places, too.

As she does every time she's visited Thailand, the emerging LPGA star this week ventured into Bangkok to worship at a busy Hindu shrine, Chidlom.

With the tour's season opener set for this week at the Honda PTT LPGA, her prayers were short and completely reasonable, given her skill set.

"For sure, it’s [to be] world No. 1, for good health and that everything is good this year," said Tseng, a 22-year-old.

Is there an echo in this shrine? That sounds exactly like her prayers in 2010.

"I ask every year," she laughed. "I came this year to say thanks for my dreams coming true."

Indeed, for the first time, thanks to back-to-back wins in Ladies European Tour events held in Australia over the past two weeks, Tseng has climbed to No. 1 in the women's rankings, just in time for the opener at Siam Country Club.

Over the first four years of the women's world ranking, the No. 1 spot changed hands two times, thanks to the superlative play of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, who stepped away from the game in consecutive seasons.

It fast went from death grip to dearth grip. Since last spring, the No. 1 spot has changed hands 10 times, and in five of those instances, the player on the hot seat was supplanted after one week.

Tseng, who last year became the second-youngest in history to be named LPGA Player of the Year, took over for the first time on Monday -- and nobody should assume her tenure will be brief.

Tseng last year won two major championships, but has struggled over the years to find the same productivity in regular tour events. Her coach even teased her about winning a few minors, having already solved the majors.

It's no stretch to say that Tseng is the most athletically gifted of the top players. The game seems to come easily compared to some. Based on her two wins over the past fortnight, she seems to have rectified some of her consistency, if not concentration, issues.

"I've learned from my mistakes and I know how to win," she said Wednesday. "I know how to hold a lead. I try to stay very patient, focused. Last year was such an exciting year."

Winning isn’t the only thing she figured out. After the LPGA season finale last fall, Tseng enrolled in a series of English courses to hone her language skills. To her credit, the native of Taiwan doesn’t hesitate to conduct interviews in English and understands it's important to assimilate, both for cultural and financial reasons.

"They went really well," she said of the courses. "I was going to school in the morning and practicing in the afternoon for about three weeks. It's very exciting for me. I really hope my grammar is getting better. Some caddies told me today it's getting better and I was so happy to hear that."

The three-time major winner will be paired in the first round Thursday with American star Paula Creamer, the reigning U.S. Women's Open champion. Most of the Yanks haven't played in months, whereas Tseng must be feeling unbeatable.

"I feel pretty good right now," Tseng said. "The last few tournaments were very successful and gave me a lot of confidence. I played today and I played good. The course is in great shape. I’m really looking forward to the next four days."

If not the entire year.

Category: Golf
Posted on: January 14, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2011 1:56 pm

Thompson, 15, can't shed LPGA training wheels

A carefully considered appeal to the LPGA for more starts for 15-year-old Florida junior golf star Lexi Thompson was denied Friday by the tour commissioner for unspecified reasons.

Thompson, who has turned pro and is limited to six starts until she is old enough to become a tour member at 18, sought double that amount in an appeal filed last month to the tour by her management team at Blue Giraffe Sports.

Wrote LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan in an email: “After careful consideration of Alexis (Lexi) Thompson’s petition requesting ‘limited membership’ and doubled sponsor exemptions, from six to 12, I have decided to deny that request for 2011.
“Lexi has remarkable skills for a 15-year-old, and if she continues to grow and develop, I believe that she should have a great future both on and off the golf course. This season, Lexi still will be able to secure up to six sponsor exemptions for LPGA sanctioned events, and also may choose to pursue additional playing opportunities through our ‘open’ Monday qualifier format.
“I appreciate the thought and passion that Lexi, her family and her management team at Blue Giraffe Sports put into their petition. It's clear to me that Lexi and her team have a quality, long-term vision."

He did not elaborate regarding his reasons for denying the proposal, however.

Had Thompson been a member, she would have earned enough in her limited starts last year to retain her card for 2011.
Category: Golf
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:46 pm

Tseng's star ascending in any language

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Taiwanese golf star Yani Tseng will celebrate the most meaningful award on the LPGA in a somewhat curious fashion.

She's getting up at 7 a.m. on Monday to attend a class in English, which she hopes to polish over the next month, with three hours of classes every weekday.

Although she got a jump-start on it Sunday, when she pulled a five-page thanks-you speech out of her pocket when she accepted the tour's 2010 player-of-the-year award after the LPGA Tour Championship concluded at Grand Cypress Resort.

Tseng broke down sobbing several times, particularly as she thanked her parents, who were in attendance, for their support in helping with her meteoric ascent. Tseng won rookie-of-the-year honors two years ago and dodged threats from Cristie Kerr and Na Yeon Choi on Sunday to secure the top-player trophy, which is based on a seasonal points total.

"Me and my parents, in our family, we never say, 'I love you' to each other," Tseng said later. "We always keep [our emotions] in mind, and we didn't hug many times. And I just said I couldn't remember, when is the last time we've been hugging tight?"

She hugged her mom on the 18th green at the award ceremony, which capped a breakout year for Tseng, who had three wins, including two majors.

At 21, Tseng is the youngest to win the top-player award since Nancy Lopez in 1978. Lopez was six days younger than Tseng when the 1978 season ended in mid-November.

She has another big trophy to put in the case she inherited from Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, from whom she bought her Orlando house a few months ago. Sorenstam, who still lives across the same fairway, was instrumental in Tseng's rise this year, too.

"I think she really helped me a lot and she always e-mails me to encourage me when I was in the British Open or this week or some other weeks when I needed," said Tseng, who won the British Open over the summer. "She's always, saying, 'You know where I live, you can just stop at my door and just ask me a question.'

"But I was shy to go ask. I knocked on her door one time because I want to give her a card, and then I was glad she's not at home because I don't know what I'm going to say, I was so nervous. But she's just so nice, such a nice people, and I'm really happy that she's enjoying her life right now and still supporting the LPGA, supporting golf and to help everybody out."

The card Tseng was giving to Sorenstam was a check, a donation to one of the Swedish star's charitable efforts. Everybody else, she thanked in her speech Sunday. Seemingly by name. But she earned right to maximize the moment.

"I was like, 'I feel bad for everybody,'" Tseng laughed in perfect English, "because this takes so long."

Her rise to the top of the LPGA pecking order didn't, did it?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com