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19th Hole

Why the LPGA Player of the Year race is must-watch and too tight to call

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We have already had the controversy over the award for the 2021 PGA Player of the Year, that accolade being presented to Patrick Cantlay over the undisputed player of the year (lower case) Jon Rahm, but there can be little argument when the LPGA version is decided in a couple of weeks time – it’s Nelly Korda or Jin Young Ko – and they are very tough to split.

It is no ‘gimme’ that the South Korean 26-year-old will hold on to her slim lead in the Rolex rankings and both results at this week’s Pelican and the following CME Group Tour Championship (where Ko defends her title) will possibly seal both deals, although this cynic wonders if they will ‘somehow’ share the main two titles – world ranked number one and the POTY.

The season has been dominated by these two superstars, but they’ve had two different halves, and that makes it a hugely difficult decision for anyone involved.

From the LPGA.com numbers, we can see there is less than $20,000 between them in prize money won, Ko winning four regular tour events to Korda’s three, yet the younger player has that (maybe) important Major on her card, the PGA.

The main issue may be when they performed at their best.

Korda, alongside sister Jessica, started the season with a bang with three wins by the end of June, including the PGA at Atlanta. Aside from the victories, she notched up five top tens in a run of 11 events before winning Olympic gold at which her ranking rival never got to the pace up front, finishing just inside the top 10.

After a couple of, for her, disappointing top-20 finishes Nelly bounced back with a runner-up at Glen Oaks a few weeks ago and it will be fascinating to see if the three weeks off has refreshed her enough to make a charge to the line. She may also be inspired having been told on Wednesday that she somehow regained her world number one ranking.

The former world number one, Ko, started a tad slower (if five top-10 finishes in 10 starts can be called slow) before her first victory at the Volunteers in Texas, a week after Korda had picked up her third. Take the Evian Masters away, a strangely poor event for the 2019 champion, and recent form has been a revelation, her last six events yielding three wins, a second, sixth and ninth place finish.

The two players are currently one-two for scoring average this season and whilst Nelly is the longer driver, her rival is the more accurate. Either way, they both finish high in greens-in-regulation and within a dimple of each other on the greens.

There are plenty of sub-plots through the next two weeks. Neither player can win the Vare Trophy as they haven’t played the requisite amount of rounds, this award looking almost certain to go to Lydia Ko, currently ranked fourth in the world, and the tite of world number one looks sure to keep flipping until the final hole.

It’s a contest that has proven a worthwhile end to a LPGA season that has grown the women’s game further than at any time before. Both players will be rightful winners and it will be fair should it come down to the last week of the year, perhaps to the final green.

As I write the younger player is a couple clear of her rival through the first third of their first round but we’ve seen how closely they are matched – expect very little in it for the next three days and perhaps for a long time after.

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19th Hole

‘He can think whatever he wants’ – Brooks Koepka responds to McIlroy’s duplicitous claim

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From popular four-time major winner to “full villain”, Brooks Koepka has certainly not held back with his view on moving full-time to the LIV Tour.

At the US Open, he lambasted reporters for asking questions about the league, saying he simply wanted to concentrate on his golf at Brookline, and yet soon after he deleted any connection to the PGA Tour from his Twitter account, prompting Rory McIlroy to call the group of rebels “duplicitous.”

Following yesterday’s LIV press conference, social media, and Twitter in particular, has gone haywire.

No Laying Up reports on the Koepka’s comment, “You guys will never believe me, but we never even had the conversation (on LIV) until after the U.S. Open,”  and questions, “So the conversation *began* on Monday, June 20, and his twitter profile was scrubbed the same day?”

Why has Koepka agreed to join the LIV series as opposed to staying with the PGA Tour?

“Having more breaks, having … more time at home to make sure I’m 100% before I go play an event. I don’t feel like I’m forced to play right away.”

As one Twitter user pointed out, Brooks has “played 10 days of golf in three months.”

As for his response to Rory’s comments, Koepka does show some respect for play of the recent Canadian Open champion, if not his views.

“Look, I got respect for Rory as a player. He’s good. He’s phenomenal. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t see it (the “duplicitous” comment). I didn’t hear about it until basically like a day ago.

So, look, he’s entitled to his opinion. He can think whatever he wants. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family, I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family and can’t hate on anybody for that, and like I said, opinions change.”

Bob Irving, the ‘voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ wasn’t shy in giving his view on the presser:  

“Just watched the LIV pressers with Perez, Reed, Koepka, who basically all said they’re glad they don’t have to COMPETE for their money anymore because so many millions are GUARANTEED by the Saudis. What a bunch of losers.”

The second LIV event starts tomorrow at Pumpkin Bridge, Portland opposite the John Deere Classic and Irish Open, and the controversy looks as if it’s not going to die down quite yet.
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19th Hole

LIV stars give bizarre non-answer to Chamblee’s prize money claim before moderator steps in

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There has been much debate in regard to whether the LIV Golf Series players get to keep their prize money, or if the tournament winnings come out of their signing bonus.

The rumblings began when Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee claimed that Charl Schwartzel “didn’t actually win 4.7 million for his victory at LIV Golf’s inaugural event at the Centurion Club.

 

(Note: This tweet has now been deleted by Chamblee)

Former Tour caddie Michael Collins responded to Chamblee’s claim, stating that he was lying about the subject.

On Tuesday’s pre-tournament press conference for LIV Golf Portland, Brooks Koepka was asked to clarify whether or not the prize money was in addition to the signing bonus, strangely responding “I don’t know — it’s irrelevant”

Q. It’s been reported by people that there is a — your signing bonuses versus the draw, meaning what you win comes out of your signing bonus or vice versa. That’s supposedly in your guys’ contracts. Can you confirm if that’s actually true or not?

Koepka: That’s not — no. No.

Q. Just to confirm, Brooks, you’re saying it’s not the case?

Koepka: No. I don’t know — it’s irrelevant.

Q. Okay. And the rest of you guys?

Perez: (Shook head).

Q. The only reason I ask you is because both Keith Pelley, Jay Monahan and you can name other people keep saying that we’re miss- reporting stuff all the time, and the reason is is because every time we ask a question we can’t get answers or people don’t want to talk about the specific issues. That’s why I’m asking.

Koepka: I heard that rumor on Monday morning at the U.S. Open. I also heard I was in London on Saturday or Sunday before. I mean, that was on Monday. Just saying. You can’t believe everything you hear.

After that the contentious exchange, the moderator entered the conversation to clarify the answer while telling the three LIV players they should know since it’s in their contract.

Moderator: I just wanted to address Alex’s question earlier when you were asking about the prize purses and if they are in addition to the contracts. The prize purses are in addition to. There is no draw at LIV Golf on any finances.

Perez: Chamblee was banging that drum the other day.

Moderator: We just wanted to, on the record, it’s in addition to. And while you guys have, this is your first event, but you should know that from your contracts. You can attest to it. Thank you guys.

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19th Hole

Pat Perez shuts down reporter with ultra blunt response at LIV presser

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Whilst golfers are never meant to be politicians, the furore over the LIV Golf Series has meant players’ press conferences have created one hell of an uproar on social media.

From Phil’s infamous comments to Rory’s disappointment over ‘duplicitous’ players, from the USGA permitting LIV players into the PGA Championship to the most recent alliance between the PGA and DP World tours, press conferences and releases continue to go back and forth. Words are important.

With just two days to go to the start of the second LIV event at Pumpkin Ridge, Portland, a LIV presser involving Pat Perez, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed has grabbed the headlines.

After mentioning the “club players that have resigned” and the “9/11 survivors” who have protested against the Saudi involvement in golf, a reporter asked new recruits Perez and Koepka, “whether golfers should be participating in this?”

He continued, “Do you have any comments that you are supporting a country with a really bad human rights?”

Perez bluntly states, “No.”

Asked to explain, he is blunt in his response.

“I’m playing golf. This group has given me the opportunity to play golf and have a different schedule. That’s my only concern.”

To silence, the 46-year-old perhaps realizes the effect of his initial statement.

“So yeah, I understand the topic you are trying to bring up and the horrible events but…I’m here to play golf. That’s my job.”

Again, a moment of silence before four-time major champion, Kopeka, speaks:

“Pretty much spot on what Pat said – same thing. I mean we’re here to play golf – we’re excited about it. We’re going to put on the best show we can put on and hopefully one of us is up here on Saturday with the win.”

As Porter says on his tweet, an “incredible answer.”

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