The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, July 2, 2020
Golf is back this month — Interview with Maria Fassi — Must-click links in women's golf
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Golf is back this month
After the news that another event has been canceled on the LPGA Tour, the CP Women’s Open that takes place in Canada, I figured it was about time for some good news to enter the chat. The good news is that the LPGA is back at the end of July!
So in looking back over the last few months without golf, I compiled a handful of things (bold headings below) to watch out for as the 2020 season resumes at the inaugural LPGA Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio from July 31 through August 2.
Maria Fassi and Jennifer Kupcho stood out during the break
The question many have probably asked over the last few months is: how are LPGA players spending their time now that they aren’t playing and traveling every week? Depends on the player—but for some like Maria Fassi and Jennifer Kupcho, playing in events was one way they kept busy. The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion and runner-up have found some success during this break. Is this the kind of sharpening up they need to kick off the rest of 2020 on the right foot?
At the beginning of June, Kupcho earned her first professional win at the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open. She won by three shots over two-time LPGA champion Carlotta Ciganda and took home a nice paycheck of $50,000. In 2019, Kupcho looked to be on the verge of winning with three top 10 finishes (one being a second place finish at the Evian Championship) and earning half a million in her rookie season. When you look at that resume, it isn’t much of a surprise she found her way into the winners circle.
The win for Fassi last week, who struggled in her rookie season and missed two of three cuts in 2020 before COVID-19 hit, seems to mean a little more in my mind. I could see this carrying her into 2020 more confident. Her rookie season consisted of four made cuts in 11 total events played—although she had a career-best finish of T12 at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2019.
The Ladies Scottish Open field
I’m curious to see how the Scottish Open field shapes up. If you look at the schedule, this would be the fourth straight tournament and the very first one overseas of 2020. I would imagine many players aren’t overly confident or comfortable in traveling abroad at this point, for fear of getting sick. The players will also be forced to stay in the same hotel for two weeks and guests won’t be allowed. You also have to consider whether or not restaurants and bars will be open by then. If not, would players be willing to go anyway?
I could definitely see players who are financially okay to skip events, so some of the LPGA’s top players, not play the Scottish Open and guarantee their health for the British Open the following week. If these players don’t enter the Scottish field, guess what that means? It means more room for other players to get into the field, and for other players to even get their first LPGA win. There will be so many different scenarios all year long given life won’t be fully back to normal for awhile; but I think it’s exciting it will open up opportunities for players who may not have otherwise had a decent shot.
Lydia Ko has a new coach (again)
I was just about to say that Lydia Ko hasn’t been the same as she was in 2014 (Rookie of the Year) and 2015 (Player of the Year), yet pulling up her bio and looking at her career stats, it’s still insanely impressive. Her first couple years on tour set the bar extremely high, making the following years seem less impressive when really they are still impressive. Maybe she hasn’t won a major since 2016, but she’s earned over $10 million in her career—which obviously means she’s getting results and her game is still there.
Some of you might remember when Lydia left her swing coach David Leadbetter (who she was with at the peak of her career) in 2016 and some of the drama that unfolded later on. Leadbetter basically called out her parents for being too controlling. Most recently, Lydia was working with Jorge Parada who also coaches the LPGA’s Carlota Ciganda and Ryann O’Toole. But just a day ago, Sean Foley posted a swing video of Lydia, so it looks like she is on to someone else.
Sometimes change is good, but sometimes change isn’t good. It’s something to keep an eye to see if she’s finally found what she’s looking for in a coach—and if this translate to a few wins on the LPGA in 2020.
The Justin Rose Ladies Series picking up momentum
Two of eight events on the Rose Ladies Series have been played, with the third one happening as we speak at Buckinghamshire Golf Club. In that time, Justin Rose and his wife Kate have picked up two additional sponsors to add to the purse fund and they’ve crowned two worthy champions: Meghan MacLaren last week at Moor Park Golf Club and LPGA Professional Charley Hull in the inaugural event.
In the grand finale, originally set for August 6 and 7, it was only yesterday that Justin Rose and his wife announced that it would now be a 54-hole event with another day at their home course (Berkshire Golf Club) on August 5. That is a whole lot of momentum for an event that was just announced about a month ago, wouldn’t you say? It will pretty remarkable to watch it grow and evolve over the years. I wonder if maybe winners of this series could eventually be exemptions at LPGA events for the ones who aren’t already on the LPGA. That would be awesome.
All players who have their cards this year will have it 2021 no matter what
If there’s one thing that LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan wanted to make sure of throughout this entire COVID-19 situation, it’s that it didn’t impact his players negatively in 2020. This means that winning can only help an LPGA players status and/or rankings, but not playing many events (if players aren’t comfortable) or not playing well won’t matter.
I think this begs the question: how will this impact players’ mindsets once play begins again? This basically sets them up to play without any pressure or fear of losing their LPGA card. This sets them up to play free. Similar to how this year’s fields probably won’t be your standard ones, because of the players that skip out on certain weeks or simply just don’t want to travel as much, there’s a lot of room for opportunity, and for new faces to shine, the rest of this season.
The rest of 2020
Ready or not, here the LPGA comes. As you have probably seen since the PGA Tour resumed, it’s pretty much impossible to completely avoid players testing positive for COVID-19. The longer this carries on, the more it seems like most of us will eventually get it. You look at how much PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has mitigated risk on the road, and has done everything to make operations as safe as possible, yet players are still having to quarantine and pull out of tournaments. Of course this ultimately does come down to players following protocols, and maybe they aren’t.
It won’t be much of a surprise if the storylines are similar for the LPGA once it resumes. So much of the current COVID-19 environment now is figuring out how we can live with this virus, as opposed to completely shutting off from everyday life. All of our hope is that players and caddies continue to make the best decisions, and LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan continues to handle the situation like has the last three months—responsibly and with a whole lot of empathy and understanding.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
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LPGA loses another event, this time the CP Women’s Open. (via Golf Channel)
Maria Fassi celebrates first professional win on her home course. (via Golf Digest)
Cheyenne Woods did a live Q&A for the LPGA. Here are the highlights. (via LPGA.com)
How Alena Sharp found her voice, success on the LPGA. (via Sportsnet)
USGA announces exemption categories for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open. (via LPGA.com)
ICYMI: Clemson golfer saves a woman from drowning in Arkansas. (via Golfweek)
Ron Sirak looks back at some of Michelle Wie’s most impressive career accomplishments. (via LPGA.com)
Two-time MLB All-Star Mark Mulder answered fan questions about his transition to competitive golf among other things. (via LPGA.com)
This is wild. This LPGA pro put on five disguises to test golfers bias’. (via Golf Digest)
Meghan MacLaren captures Rose Series title at second event. (via LPGA.com)
The Marathon Classic released patron protocols for tournament in early August. (via The Courier)
The Berkshire in the United Kingdom will co-host the final event of the Rose Ladies Series. (via Berkshire Golf Club Twitter)
The USGA is transferring all media rights to NBC from Fox. (via Golfweek)
Mike Whan expresses his confidence in the tour’s preparation ahead of return. (via Sports Business Journal)
How you and your course can be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. (via Golf Digest)
The “Chip Shot Challenge” is helping raise funds for the Golf Emergency Relief Fund. (via PGA.com)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Maria Fassi
I’m throwing it back to an interview with Maria Fassi at the beginning of her rookie season last year. What’s ironic is Fassi and every other 2019 rookie is essentially still a rookie given they have hardly had a chance to play in 2020. I’m excited to see how her career shapes up—and think her win in Arkansas last week will hopefully propel her into a strong season.
I. On the start of her rookie season: It’s been a little bit different just because we have some other obligations that we didn’t necessarily have as an amateur. But golf wise, it’s been very similar. I’ve tried to stay very true to my process and what got me to where I am today. Because I know that works. I haven’t tried to change anything if I know it is working. But there are some other things outside of golf that have definitely changed, probably taking away some of my personal life and time. I’m still getting used to that.
II. On her practice routine and mentality: Practice wise, I’ve tried to stay very organized with what I’m doing and managing my time as best I can. Just because we have some other things to do like pro-am parties or playing in a pro-am; those things we weren’t used to as amateurs but now we have to fit into our schedule. When I’m practicing, I try to be 100% present. I know some days the time I have to practice is limited. I enjoy this better now. Let’s say it’s three hours, then it’s three really in depth three hours to get me ready for the week.
III. On sharing her rookie season with Jennifer Kupcho: We’re great friends and I know we help each other out not only as golfers but as people as well. Our friendship has grown over the years and it’s getting better and better; I’m very excited to share my rookie year with her and to see her every other week and compete, play practice rounds, go out to dinner and forget about golf for a minute. Just be regular people.
IV. On her goals as a rookie: My only goal for the year is to stay healthy and play tournaments with 100% body and 100% mental. If I do that I’m going to be giving myself good opportunities to be on top. I trust my game. I think I have a good game plan week in and week out. I’m just sticking to my process. If I do what I do best, if I enjoy it with a smile on my face, the results are going to come. So for me it’s just staying healthy and enjoying it and playing for the little girl that got me started 14 years ago.
V. On her coaching: I worked with my coach and actually changed my putter. It feels a lot better now. I feel more comfortable with some of the things I didn’t necessarily feel great about. I can hit a lot of drivers—I feel comfortable off the tee—which gives me a lot of confidence. I’m just tightening some things up around the green like my wedges. I think my game is where I want it to be.