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Opinion & Analysis

Women’s Amateur coming to Augusta… should there be a Women’s Masters?

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On Wednesday of Masters Tournament week 2018, chairman Fred Ridley announced that the Augusta National Golf Club, in partnership with the Champions Retreat Golf Club (also in Augusta), will co-host a women’s amateur tournament in spring, 2019. The event will welcome 72 top amateur golfers to the area. The first two rounds will be played at Champions Retreat. After a cut to the low 30 and ties is made, the final round will be played at Augusta National the Saturday prior to the Masters.

With the excitement of this announcement, many followers of the game wonder if a Women’s Masters is the next step. The answer, succinctly, is no.

The women’s professional game is strong as ever, rivaling the men’s game in everything but prize money and television coverage. The men’s amateur series is thick with tournaments, sometimes hosting three, national-quality events per week from June through September. In stark contrast is the women’s amateur circuit; fewer events exist and they are a challenge to tie together. The Augusta National women’s amateur championship is just the thing to jump-start a proper, women’s amateur series.

Let me first eliminate the notion that a women’s Masters would be a good thing for the game. I have five reasons to dispel this notion: ANA Inspiration, US Open, Open Championship, Women’s PGA, Evian Championship. Five major titles already exist on the combined women’s professional tours. To the credit of the ladies, 40 percent of their majors (compared to 25 percent for the men) take place outside the USA. Adding a sixth major title (could a Women’s Masters be anything less than a major?) would dilute the major title value, and would make a tight schedule even tighter.

The Porter Cup, near my home town, added a Women’s Porter Cup a few years back. It takes place in early June, and brings a fair number of talented amateurs to the event. What about a Women’s Sunnehanna? A Women’s Northeast? I could go on, but you see the problem. Not enough events, outside of the USGA Amateur and the Western Amateur, to tie a true, summer schedule together.

If you look at the initiatives that ANGC has championed over the past decade (Latin American Amateur Championship; Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship; Drive, Chip and Putt; Women’s Amateur Championship) they have sought to fill in gaps. Remember, too, that the original Augusta Spring Invitational (now The Masters) was established during the Great Depression, when the PGA Tour was little more than a skeleton. To force a similar event on the LPGA and LET might not be welcomed by the women who have built these tours into the strong circuits they are today. In contrast, to welcome the top female amateurs of the world to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, is to validate both women and youth simultaneously.

Bravo, membership, for this step. Continue to add events, but be certain that they fill gaps.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    I can’t wait for the first transgender and what Augusta National is going to do about it. Well meant, poorly thought out.

  2. Dan

    Apr 5, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Have you reached out to ANY LPGA athletes to get their feedback?
    I’m certain they would love another major.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 5, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      i wouldn’t pretend to speak for them, and I’m certain that they are busy. From my perspective, having 6 majors to play for makes reaching the Hall of Fame that much easier, and it distorts historic records. When 1/4 of your tour events are major titles, something is wrong, in my opinion.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 4, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    Not Gonna Change,

    I don’t agree with you on identifiable players, traditions and great story lines, but that’s a debate for another time.

    Giving players a shot at 2 more majors than traditionally existed on the LPGA Tour would dilute the product. The Champions Tour has 5, I believe, and it seems like they happen every other week in the summer.

  4. Luke Demaree

    Apr 4, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    I think it’s kind of ridiculous to give the experience of playing Augusta National to amateurs before established pros.

  5. 4Right

    Apr 4, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    They definitely should add Augusta to the LPGA. Maybe a major one day, just like the PGA tour, it wasn’t a major early on I don’t think. But it would probably have the highest TV ratings of any LPGA event. I watch the LPGA more than the men, I feel my swing is more like theirs…

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 4, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      No doubt it would have great ratings, 4Right. I think that contracts would make changing majors difficult. They did it with the duMaurier Classic, but that was due to duMaurier being a cigarette brand.

  6. Not gonna change

    Apr 4, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    You said it best: the LPGA equals the PGA tour in everything but prize money or TV coverage. Let me add to this list : viewership, sponsor money, identifiable players (sans Lexi and Michelle), traditions (see poppy pond debacle) or great story lines.

    There’s no reason to add any more majors to the women’s tour, it simply won’t get too much more popular and will always be dwarfed by the PGA tour… It is what it is

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Podcasts

Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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