Pro Golf Weekly

The Starter: Legends Celebrate, LPGA Goes Hollywood, Memphis Upgraded, and Whatnot

The PGA Tour has a new member, but don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him until today. Not only is the 54-hole lead at Harbour Town a bad omen, The Starter notes you don’t want to even be all that close.

Memphis gets ready for the big stage, the LPGA goes Hollywood and the Legends of Golf celebrates 40.


THREE HEADLINES

Credit: Getty Images/Quality Sports

1. Jon Rahm has a full set of Spanish crowns. The 23-year-old pro becomes the sixth Spaniard to win the Open de España since the European Tour was formed in 1972, joining a list that includes Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia. Rahm previously won seven national amateur titles in his homeland.

2. Say “konnichiwa” to Satoshi Kodaira. Largely unknown outside his homeland, the Japanese pro took advantage of a chance to enter the RBC Heritage via his top-50 status in the world rankings. He left Harbour Town with the tartan jacket – staging a six-shot comeback – and PGA Tour membership

3. The St. Jude Classic gets upgraded to WGC status. With a strong nudge from FedEx, the longtime PGA Tour stop in Memphis takes over the slot now held by the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Akron, which hosts its last WGC this summer, gets the Senior Players Championship as a consolation prize.


THIS WEEK’S LINEUP

Credit: Getty Images/Ryan Young

PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open
Course: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks)
Where: San Antonio
Defending: Kevin Chappell

LPGA Tour: Hugel-JTBC LA Open
Course: Wilshire CC
Where: Los Angeles
Defending: New event

European Tour: Trophee Hassan II
Course: Royal Golf Dar es Salam
Where: Rabat, Morocco
Defending: Edoardo Molinari

PGA Tour Champions: Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf
Course: Big Cedar Lodge (Top of the Rock/Buffalo Ridge)
Where: Ridgedale, Mo.
Defending: Vijay Singh/Carlos Franco

Web.com Tour: North Mississippi Classic
Course: Country Club of Oxford
Where: Oxford, Miss.
Defending: New event


RANKINGS REPORT

Hall of Famer Inbee Park had a chance to return to No.1 in the women’s world rankings by winning Sunday’s Lotte Championship or finishing alone in second. She nearly pulled it off when a 45-foot birdie try on the 72nd hole for solo second went just wide.

Credit: Getty Images/Harry How

Then she missed the short par save, exchanging a tie for runner-up honors for a share of third.

Instead, Park remains unchanged at No.3 in the newest rankings as Shanshan Feng holds on to the top spot for another week. Feng wound up sharing third Sunday with Park, who preceded her Hawaii performance with a Founders Cup victory and playoff loss at the ANA Inspiration.

Feng, Park and No.2 Lexi Thompson all are entered at this week’s Hugel-JTBC LA Open, so the potential for a change at top remains high.

POSITION. PLAYER (LAST WEEK) POINTS
1. Shanshan Feng (1) 7.05
2. Lexi Thompson (2) 6.75
3. Inbee Park (3) 6.67
4. Sung Hyun Park (4) 5.97
5. So Yeon Ryu (5) 5.90
6. Ariya Jutanugarn (6) 5.63
7. In-Kyung Kim (7) 5.37
8. Cristie Kerr (9) 5.25
9. Anna Nordqvist (8) 5.14
10. Hye Jin Choi (10) 4.91


STAT OF THE WEEK

Credit: Getty Images/Streeter Lecka

Satoshi Kodaira’s victory at the RBC Heritage made him the sixth consecutive come-from-behind winner at Harbour Town – and none by a small margin.

Before Sunday, each of the previous five winners had trailed by at least three strokes heading into the final round. Wesley Bryan (2017), Jim Furyk (‘15), Matt Kuchar (‘14) and Graeme McDowell (‘13) all came from four shots back; Branden Grace (2016) overcame a three-shot gap.

The last man to convert a 54-hole lead at Harbour Town was Carl Pettersson, who cruised to a five-shot victory in 2012. One year earlier, Brandt Snedeker caught Luke Donald from six shots back to win a playoff.


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

The forerunner of what’s now the PGA Tour Champions circuit, the Legends of Golf got its start 40 years ago as an exhibition reuniting several of the game’s past standouts for a weekend in Austin, Texas.

Sam Snead and Gardner Dickinson captured that 1978 inaugural, finishing one shot ahead of Peter Thompson/Kel Nagle in the better-ball format. With a purse of $400,000, the exhibition paid better than any PGA Tour stop that year.

One year later, Julius Boros and Roberto de Vicenzo prevailed in a six-hole playoff over Art Wall/Tommy Bolt in which the first five extra holes were halved with birdies. A sixth birdie by Boros/de Vicenzo was the clincher.

The buzz after that event spurred PGA Tour chiefs to create a schedule for the over-50 set, starting with four official events in 1980. The tour grew to as many as 39 stops at one point, eventually leveling off to this year’s 27-event set.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

Credit: TPC San Antonio

No.9, TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks)
Par 4, 474 yards
2017 average: 4.25 (3rd toughest)

The only hole on the Oaks layout without a bunker, No.9 has proven to be hazardous enough by ranking among the PGA Tour’s 50 toughest holes in four of the past seven years. Last season, it was 47th on the list.

The hole took a place in the spotlight in 2011, when Kevin Na stubbornly required 16 strokes to escape two trips into the deadwood and underbrush right of the fairway. It remains the PGA Tour’s highest score ever recorded on a par-4 hole.

To his credit, Na returned to No.9 a year later armed with a chainsaw for a good-natured publicity shoot.

More typically, No.9 is a second-shot hole featuring a deep, narrow green with steep falloffs on both sides. The putting surface also has a distinct back-to-front slope, so anything aimed toward downtown San Antonio will be fast.

2017 Valero Texas Open: no eagles, 40 birdies, 290 pars, 111 bogeys, 17 double bogeys, 4 higher


DID YOU KNOW

Credit: SPGA

The LPGA returns to the Los Angeles market after a 12-year absence with this week’s debut of the Hugel-JTBC LA Open, set for historic Wilshire Country Club less than three miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The tour has not been to Los Angeles since 2005, when the Office Depot Championship ended its five-year run on the schedule. Annika Sorenstam captured three of those five tournaments, including its 2001 debut at Wilshire CC.

Hee-Won Han prevailed in the tournament’s final edition, which brought the LPGA to Trump National Los Angeles.


CALLING ALL U.S. CHAMPS

Credit: Getty Images

The U.S. Golf Association will shine a spotlight on all of its various 2017 winners with the debut of a new “Celebration of Champions” event that organizers will incorporate into U.S. Open week.

The Tuesday event features a four-hole exhibition of two-player mixed teams, taking place on the back nine at Shinnecock Hills. Defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka won’t play but will serve as co-host alongside Jack Nicklaus.

The exhibition, to be shown as part of FS1’s pre-Open coverage, is slated to become an annual event.

Among those who have committed to the exhibition are Kenny Perry (U.S. Senior Open), Doc Redman (U.S. Amateur), Sophia Schubert (U.S. Women’s Amateur) and Massachusetts firefighter Matt Parziale (U.S. Mid-Amateur).


END QUOTE

“When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta, it wouldn’t be to just show up and walk around. I wanted to win this tournament. I’ve been blessed to be national champion from 16 to all ages in Spain. To round my amateur and pro career together in this way and win the last one I had to win and join that prestigious list of Spanish winners, it’s hard to explain how good it feels.”
– Jon Rahm

Jeff Shain

Jeff is a contributor to Pro Golf Weekly. He is the managing editor of Prime Sports, and a weekly contributor to PGATour.com. As a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America, Jeff has covered golf for nearly two decades, including stops at the Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina.

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