Posted by: Mike Cornelius | March 6, 2016

A Good Week For Jang And Scott; A Great One For Both Tours

It’s more than 10,500 miles and thirteen time zones from Singapore to Miami. The LPGA was in the island city-state for the HSBC Women’s Champions this week, wrapping up the first of two swings through Asia on this year’s schedule. Two years ago at this tournament American Paula Creamer won by improbably holing a 75 foot putt for eagle on the 18th green, the second hole of a sudden death playoff. Creamer was back at the Sentosa Golf Club this week, and while she had no dramatic heroics this time, she did shoot par or better in all four rounds, finishing at 7-under in a tie for 15th place, one of seven American women among the top twenty on the final leader board. That group included world number four Stacy Lewis who finished two shots better than Creamer, as well as world number three Lexi Thompson, who rolled to a six stroke victory one week earlier in Thailand.

But this week the Americans and everyone else in the field were all looking up at 23-year old Ha Na Jang. The South Korean started the final round with a one shot lead and then proceeded to record the best round of the tournament, a scintillating seven-under par 65 to win by four. The lone blemish on her scorecard was a bogey at the par-4 11th, which was more than offset by six birdies and an eagle. Three of the birdies came immediately after the one bad score, and she capped her round by challenging the water lining the left side of the par-5 18th. Her hybrid second shot from the fairway landed safely on the green, stopping within five feet of the cup for the eagle finish.

Jang’s goal for this, her second year on the LPGA Tour, was to record not just a maiden victory but to win twice. Just five events into the schedule she’s now met that mark, having won four weeks ago at the Coates Golf Championship in Florida. The twin victories have her well atop the LPGA money list and climbing up the Rolex Women’s Rankings as well, where she now sits in fifth position. She’s setting records along the way. At the LPGA’s opening event in the Bahamas, Jang aced the drivable par-4 8th hole in the final round. It was the first hole in one on a par-4 and just the second albatross in LPGA history.

If Ha Na Jang is the hottest woman player right now, then surely Adam Scott is the hottest golfer on the planet. The apparent and rather unusual secret to the Aussie’s success is to first play really badly. Last week at the Honda Classic Scott recorded a quadruple bogey seven on the par-3 15th hole in the tournament’s third round. Leading by three when he arrived at the tee, Scott trailed Sergio Garcia by one by the time he left the green. But he made a late birdie to start the final round tied, and persevered down the stretch to claim victory.

In Miami this week Scott was the leader at the midpoint of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He watched playing partner Rory McIlroy motor past him with a bogey-free 68 on Saturday while Scott was shooting an indifferent 73 that included three bogeys. Then on Sunday he posted two double-bogeys in just three holes, recording matching sixes on both the 3rd and 5th at Trump National Doral. At that point Scott was barely in touch with the leaders. But he rallied with precise approach shots that defied the gusting Florida winds, making six birdies on the next nine holes to surge to the front.

Having claimed the lead Scott then kept it with a steady putter and some good luck. After going from bunker to rough on the 16th with a second shot that’s best described as a shank, he chipped out and saved par by rolling in an eight footer. Then at the last his tee shot finished behind a palm tree to the right of the fairway. His only play was a dangerous one, aiming out over Doral’s signature lake and trying to fade the ball back to the putting surface. The Titleist didn’t fade enough, landing in the rough between the lake and the green, but somehow it managed to hang up in the thick grass rather than roll down into the water. From there Scott chipped to six feet and calmly holed his final putt for a one shot victory over Bubba Watson.

His back-to-back wins come after Scott was runner-up one week earlier in Los Angeles, and after he finished play in 2015 with two seconds and a fifth in his final four starts. The 35-year old now leads the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings as well as the money list, and moves to sixth place in the Official World Golf Rankings, up there with all of golf’s twenty-somethings.

Even as Jang was winning on one side of the world and Scott was prevailing on the other, the biggest winners of the week in golf were the two Tours and golf fans everywhere. On Friday the LPGA and the PGA Tour shrunk all those miles to nothing by announcing a formal strategic alliance agreement that will include schedule coordination, joint marketing efforts, domestic television representation and the potential for joint events.

The announcement is tremendous news for the LPGA, which can only benefit from a closer relationship with the world’s leading professional golf tour and its enormous resources and vastly larger audience. It’s also a ringing endorsement of the work LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan has done to rebuild his tour after the recession of the last decade nearly eviscerated it. Clearly PGA Tour head Tim Finchem believes the LPGA is offering a product that with greater exposure will help the overall growth of the game. Perhaps he’s been looking at the LPGA’s stats, like the one that shows Lexi Thompson leading in driving distance at 290 yards. Among Finchem’s men there’s a golfer whose average drive this season is 291 yards, almost exactly the same. Some kid named Spieth. As more fans are about to find out, “these guys” aren’t the only ones who are good.

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Responses

  1. Excellent story as always – thanks!

    • Thanks Don. Always appreciate your support. Speaking of golf, did you see Rickie’s ace that won $1M for Ernie’s autism foundation? Good stuff.

      M-

      http://www.onsportsandlife.com

      Michael Cornelius

      603.498.5527


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