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Getting into the World Golf Hall of Fame just got tougher ... and more prestigious

By Ron Sirak

WGHOF-Montgomerie.jpgORLANDO -- The World Golf Hall of Fame is one of the best-kept secrets in the game. A walk through the facility in St. Augustine, Fla., is an inspiring trip through time.

The problem is not enough people are making the walk.

In an effort to make more people aware of the institution and get more people involved, WGHOF chief operating officer Jack Peter announced Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational wide-ranging changes to the selection process.

The main revisions include:

* Instead of being an annual event, induction in the WGHOF will happen biennially beginning May 4, 2015.

* Instead of players being selected by a ballot involving hundreds of voters, including dozens of golf writers, a 16-person Selection Commission, with three writers, will choose the induction class. (Editor's Note: Sirak, the current Golf Writers Association of America president, will be one of the three writers on the committee for 2015.)

* To be elected, candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Selection Commission, or 12 of 16 members. Both Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie (above) were elected to the WGHOF's Class of 2013 with barely more than 50 percent of the vote using the old process.

Related: Varied responses to Fred Couples being named to WGHOF

* The International ballot, which always seemed out of place for a body with the word "World" in its title, has been eliminated. There will be four categories: Male and Female Competitors, Veterans and Lifetime Achievement.

To be considered in the Competitor category, a male needs 15 wins (up from 10) in International Federation of PGA Tours events or two victories in majors or Players Championship.

A woman needs 15 wins on tours that receive Rolex Rankings points or two victories in the five LPGA majors. The 27-point rule will remain in effect for the LPGA Hall of Fame. It is highly unlikely a woman would earn 27 points and not make the WGHOF.

Remaining the same from the previous selection process is the minimum age of 40 for induction or, for retired players, the need to be five years removed from active competition. That means Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa will be eligible for the 2017 class.

The revisions to the selection process come after the WGHOF announced last October it was suspending induction for 2014 to undergo a strategic review of the criteria and make sure it was properly defined to maintain the highest quality of candidate be added to the roster of the game's legends.

"The changes to the process and induction ceremony will serve the long-term interest of the institution well," Peter said. "The changes take the unique nature of the game and its candidates into account and, most important, will continue to allow the Hall of Fame to recognize worthy individuals."

If there is a real flaw in the WGHOF, it is that the public won't start taking it seriously until the players take it seriously. That is another reason for the changes.

Not enough active players and not enough members of the WGHOF show up at the induction ceremony each year. It was hoped that moving the induction from the fall to the Monday of Players Championship week, which was done in 2011 years ago, would fix that. It didn't.

WGHOF.jpgGetting current members of the WGHOF to return to the yearly induction has been a challenge, even after the ceremony was moved to May. (Photo: Getty Images)


The Selection Commission for the 2015 class will be chaired by four WGHOF members: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez. In addition to that four and the three writers, and a representative from the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, Masters, PGA of America, USGA, R&A and, for the 2015 class, the Japan LPGA and Sunshine Tour.

"This is a great step for the Hall of Fame," Palmer said. "I was honored to be a part of the first Hall of Fame class 40 years ago in 1974, and it will be a privilege to serve on the Selection Commission with Nancy, Annika and Gary for the class of 2015."

The process to determine the incoming class will begin with a 20-person Selection Sub-Committee, which will review eligible candidates and pass 10 names along to all WGHOF members, who will whittle the list to five.

Any player receiving no votes from the sub-committee two consecutive years will be removed from the ballot.

The Selection Commission will pick no more than two candidates from each of the four categories and no more than five total for each class.

The hope of involving the WGHOF members in the voting is that if they feel more vested in the process, they might show up to the induction ceremony in greater numbers.

The intent of making induction something that happens every two years also is to generate greater turnout of both active and inactive players by making the event feel more special.

Photo: Getty Images
 


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USGA's Mike Davis takes skeptical LPGA members questions about twin U.S. Opens

By Ron Sirak

PHOENIX -- When the twin U.S. Opens were announced in 2009 it was all blue birds and butterflies. Having the men and women's national championships played on the same course in consecutive weeks would be a great thing for golf.

But as the double feature at Pinehurst No. 2 this June grows nearer, the realization of all that also could go wrong looms larger -- and more real.
 

Related: Is the USGA making a mistake with the Pinehurst experiment?

To ease those concerns, USGA executive director Mike Davis addressed LPGA members at a players meeting Tuesday night at the JTBC Founders Cup and for the most part found a quietly skeptical  audience. There were questions about divots around greens and in mutual landing areas as well as about housing and practice time, said sources at the meeting.
 
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According to those in attendance, Davis told them that Pinehurst No. 7 would be open to the players on Saturday and Sunday before the U.S. Women's Open -- and during the U.S. Open -- and that the greens on No. 7 would be set to the conditions the greens on No. 2 will be at for the championship. The players will also be allowed on the practice range at No. 2 beginning at noon on Sunday with access to the locker rooms and hospitality areas.

The biggest fear is a weather interruption that would create a Monday finish for the men. And the worst-case scenario is a Monday finish for the men followed by an 18-hole Tuesday playoff.
 
Stacy Lewis, the top American in the Rolex Rankings, said Davis did not go into what would happen if there was a Tuesday finish in the men's Open -- some say there is a scenario for at Saturday through Tuesday U.S. Women's Open -- but she did reveal his plans if the guys have a Monday playoff.
 
"The playoff would begin at noon and we would be allowed on the course beginning at 7 a.m and then again after the playoff is over," Lewis said.
 
You can't help but wonder what the men will say when they hear that.

Among the reasons the USGA cites for why the Women's Open should go after the men's is that, while women can putt greens at the same speed as men they need softer greens that hold better since they do not spin the ball as much. That can be achieved by throwing water on the green after the men's Open is finished.
 
"Let's see if they can pull that off," Lewis said, adding: "Yeah, I'm still apprehensive. They tried to spin it that everything is under control, but the general feeling of the players is that it is going to be a bit of a challenge. The main concern is divots, both in the landing areas and in the collection areas."
 
Lewis, who has not played No. 2 since it was refurbished, plans to go in a couple of weeks early to play some practice rounds. "And I guess I'll practice hitting out of divots," she said. "There was one point when Davis said, 'Divots are part of the game,' and that got a pretty good giggle from the players."
 
The overwhelming feeling among players, according to Lewis is that the women should have gone first. "But, she said, "we will just have to make the best of it."
 

Related: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses

One hope by the USGA is that having the women go after the men's tournament will provide a public relations springboard into the women's event. That is already the case. Simply the fact people are talking about the U.S. Women's Open in March makes it the most eagerly anticipated women's national championship in years -- maybe ever.

The ultimate gauge of success, of course, will be if the talk after the Twin Opens is about how great the idea it was -- and not about how the women had to play a battered course to crown a champion.

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News & Tours

In naming Jay Monahan deputy commissioner, the PGA Tour appears to have a successor in place for Tim Finchem

By Ron Sirak

There are those who like to bash PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, and for the life of me I don't get them. True, Tim is not Mr. Warmth and he can spin sentences that seem to have no beginning or end -- he is, after all, an economist, lawyer and politician by training -- but in my mind he has one of the best track records of any commissioner in sports.
 
In 1994, Finchem became sort of the Paul Tagliabue of golf. Tagliabue took over for Pete Rozelle as NFL commissioner and his charge was to not mess up a great product. Tagliabue didn't. He made the NFL better. And when Finchem replaced Deane Beman he also assumed a great product -- and he made it better, with purses growing from $56 million in 1994 to nearly $300 million this year.

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The person who follows Finchem will have a difficult job: What's next? Where does the tour go from here? How much more can it grow? The frontrunner for that job now appears to be Chief Marketing Officer Jay Monahan, who Tuesday was named Deputy Commissioner beginning April 1 and will report directly to the 67-year-old Finchem.

Related: The Fox & The Peacock
 
Monahan, 43, joined the PGA Tour in 2008, serving first as executive director of the Players Championship. He graduated from Trinity College in 1993 with a degree in history and previously worked as director of global sponsorships with EMC, a Boston-area tech company, Later he was with IMG as executive director of the Deutsche Bank Championship before joining the tour.

When I first met Jay, he drove me around in a cart at TPC Sawgrass to show me all the new fan-friendly areas that had been built to increase attendance at the Players and improve the corporate entertaining opportunities for the tour's business partners. It was ambitious and impressive. Also impressive was that he knew every worker, vendor and client we crossed paths with.
 
As the tour's CMO, Monahan was responsible for spearheading business development, corporate marketing and partnerships, retail licensing and media sales. It's safe to say the tour has excelled in all of those areas.

Related: The Failed Coup At The USGA
 
"One simple goal: to be the best sports marketing organization among any league or property," Monahan told CMO.com last October about how he saw his CMO job at the tour. "That means the best people, ideas and resources. If we achieve that, the business results will follow. The foundation is making sure we are best-in-class in servicing our current partners and always finding new ways to deliver value that help them reach their business goals."
 
If he does eventually get the commissioner job, Monahan will have a tough act to follow. In addition to leveraging Tiger Woods into several lucrative TV deals, Finchem was the man in charge when the World Golf Village was created as well as the World Golf Hall of Fame, the World Golf Championships, the FedEx Cup and The First Tee. He masterfully steered the tour through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, helped golf get back into the Olympics and forged business alliances with pro tours in Canada, Latin America and China, which are seen as growth areas for the game.
 
Finchem's contract runs through 2016 and while there is a chance he might want to continue on, the general thinking is that he will leave after the return of golf to the Olympics that year. The new commissioner will then have plenty of time to get his feet on the ground before the TV deals with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel expire in 2021. 


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ShopRite to remain LPGA tournament title sponsor through 2016

By Ron Sirak

ShopRite-logoflag-300.jpgThere is more good news for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and Jon Podany, his chief marketing officer who left the PGA Tour in 2010 to work with his former Miami of Ohio football teammate. The LPGA has reached a contract extension with Wakefern Food Corp., the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club and Eiger Marketing Group (EMG) to continue sponsorship of the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer through 2016, sources told GolfDigest.com.

Begun in 1986 as the Atlantic City LPGA Classic, the tournament became known at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in 1992 when Wakefern Food became the title sponsor. It was played through 2006 but was off the LPGA schedule for three seasons before returning 2010. Prior to the extension, Wakefern's sponsorship of the event was set to end after this year's tournament, which will take place May 29-June 1 on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.
 
Five years into his tenure as commissioner, Whan has the LPGA back up to 32 events on its schedule compared to 23 tournaments when he took over at the start of 2010. During that time the tour has attracted international firms such as Airbus, Yokohama Tires and JTBC, a Korean broadcaster, to sponsor U.S.-based events as well as extending several contracts with American companies.

Since 1992, ShopRite has donated more than $27 million to charities through sponsorship of the event. In 2013 alone, ShopRite raised nearly $1.3 million for charitable organizations, aiding hospitals, food banks, educational institutions and other agencies.

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The real PGA Tour season begins at the Honda Classic

By Ron Sirak

About 10 years ago, I was giving a talk to a room full of sponsors at the Honda Classic and I said I thought the PGA Tour should require every player to play each event at least once in a four-year cycle.
 
I got a standing ovation.
 
Back then, the Honda was often the odd-tournament-out when guys needed a week off in the stretch that included Doral, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill and the Players (which was moved to May in 2007) on the way to the Masters.
 
Go back another decade to the early 1990s and that Miami event at Doral was the first spot each new year where the best in the world gathered to begin their prep work for the major season.

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Look at the winners at Doral from 1990 until the World Golf Championships event was created in 1999: Greg Norman three times, Raymond Floyd, Nick Faldo and Steve Elkington -- all major winners.
 
Now that unofficial start to the major season has moved 80 miles north to the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
 
The top six players in the world coming into 2014 -- Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy -- have all committed to play the Honda, although Rose had to drop out with a shoulder injury.
 
And all of those six but Stenson are major winners.
 
This once embattled tournament has gained in stature for several reasons. For starters, it was flipped on the schedule with Doral, which is now the WGC-Cadillac Championship, making it the first stop on the Florida swing. That helped Honda without hurting Doral.

Related: More from Ron Sirak
 
There is also the hard work Jack and Barbara Nicklaus have put into the Honda through the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, and the fact that the event has settled on the Champion Course, a layout to the liking of many tour pros. The tournament has a whole new energy to it.
 
And then there is the fact that for a lot of players -- Tiger and Rory among them -- this is a home game. And never underestimate the importance of convenience when PGA Tour players are making a decision.
 
So if Honda and Doral both gained, who lost? That's easy: The West Coast Swing.
 
Of those top-six players who committed to the Honda, only Mickelson, who lives in California, played three times on the eight-event Hawaii-California-Arizona leg of the schedule.
 
Woods, Stenson and McIlroy played once, and Scott and Rose twice. Three of them -- Woods, Scott and Mickelson -- even skipped the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
 
The Accenture was the only West Coast events with more than three of the top 10 in the world (six), and the only one on the continental United States with more than two. Simply put, the West Coast Swing has been hurt by the success of the PGA Tour.

Related: Best (and Worst) of the West Coast Swing
 
The creation of the WGC events in 1999 initially a boost for the Left Coast because it got the Match Play, which started at La Costa in California, and that brought some big names west.
 
But then in 2007, two things happened: Doral was given WGC status and the FedEx Cup was created. Suddenly, between the WGC, FedEx Cup playoff events, the Players and the majors, the best in the world had a lot of spots on their dance cards filled -- 13 weeks.
 
Beginning with the Accenture in late February and ending with the British Open in mid July, there is one top tournament a month for six months with the Cadillac, Masters, Players and U.S. Open sandwiched in between.
 
Then things get really busy. This year, August and September are crammed with the WGC-Bridgestone, PGA Championship, four playoff events and the Ryder Cup.
 
And, just to complicate things more, the WGC-HSBC Championships in China falls in November. No one goes to Asia without playing more than one event. It's too far to travel otherwise, so that means top players making the trip are committing to a second start.

Rosaforte Report: Honda tournament director's bold moves rewarded

Is it really any wonder that by the time the new calendar year starts -- and let's not even factor in the wrap-around schedule here -- guys are looking for time off?
 
But none of that really matters this week, except in a good way. For a variety of reasons, the Honda Classic has one of the sexiest fields on the PGA Tour.
 
So just enjoy it. Settle in, crank up the TV machine, watch some great golf and play a drinking game involving "Bear Trap" mentions. The Honda has become a must-see tournament.

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With a retooled game and a new outlook, Paula Creamer could be ready to snap her winless streak

By Ron Sirak

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- Can it really be that this is Paula Creamer's 10th year on the LPGA? And can it really be that she is nearly four years removed from her last tour victory?

Time certainly has a way of flying.

When Creamer won the 2005 Sybase Classic on a raw, blustery Sunday at Wykagyl CC in New York, she became the youngest winner of a multi-round LPGA event at 18, a record later broken by both Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko.

Two months later, after going to her high school graduation, Creamer picked up victory No. 2 at the Evian Masters in France then partied with Juli Inkster in town, despite being barely older than Juli's daughters.

And in 2010, Paula magnificently dominated the final six holes of an extremely difficult Oakmont CC to win the U.S. Women's Open. No one would have guessed then that, 42 months later, she would still be stuck on nine career LPGA wins.

But at the 2014 season-opening PureSilk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Creamer, now 28 and on the verge of marriage, is showing signs of returning to her best.

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She opened 71-65 to be one stroke off the lead going to the weekend and was still sitting in that position when she made a sloppy triple-bogey 8 on No. 15 during Saturday's third round.

Still, she never quit and when she hit a 5-wood from 227 yards to three feet on the par-5 18th on the Ocean Course, she finished with an eagle for a 71 that put her at 12 under par and within three strokes of Na Yeon Choi's lead going to Sunday.

"I'm proud of how I finished mentally," Creamer said. "You can hit it into the hazard and still make a bogey," she said about her adventures on No. 15. "There was no reason to make a triple."

At her peak, Creamer was not only one of the best players in the woman's game but also the most marketable -- a title she still holds today. She is the only woman on the 2014 Golf Digest 50 All-Encompassing money list, thanks to deals with TaylorMade, SAP, Ricoh and CDW among others.


Some swing tweaks and a new TaylorMade driver have added distance, and Creamer is still one of the best iron players on tour. If she can get her putter -- once her best club -- a little more reliable, that winless streak will end very soon. 

Perhaps on Sunday.

"I am in such a great place," Creamer said about her mindset going into the new season after recently getting engaged with 33-year-old Derek Heath, a pilot from Newport, Calif. "I'm so happy. Derek just makes me want to be a better person. This is my 10th year out here, and it's just kind of a refreshing new thing. I needed something to kind of help with things."

That new attitude -- call it a recharging of her batteries -- combined with a renewed commitment to the game have translated into results for Creamer.

"Well, I pretty much broke down my golf swing before we went to Asia last year," Creamer said. "I just wanted to stick with those changes, and I put a new driver in. I'm hitting the ball a little bit further. But [it's] just trusting what [long-time swing coach] David Whelan and I have been doing. I became way too technical. I needed to become a player again, and I lost that for a while."


The fact that Heath is a graduate of the Air Force Academy will make for some interesting discussions at family gatherings. Paul Creamer is a pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy, and he has pride in his branch of the service.

"You know the difference between an Air Force pilot and a Navy pilot?" Paul once asked me. "My runway is bobbing up and down in the middle of the ocean," he said about landing on an aircraft carrier.

I wonder if he has told that joke to Derek yet. I'm guessing he has.

It is all part of Paula's new life, and the first returns could come in the Bahamas, where she played her way out of the title -- and then right back into it.

The Pink Panther might be back.


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Salas continues journey from humble beginnings to LPGA success

By Ron Sirak

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- As Lizette Salas approached the 18th green in her Solheim Cup singles match against Suzann Pettersen last August at Colorado GC, her parents, Ramon and Martha, struggled with their emotions as they watched with other family members of the U.S. team.

"You can't imagine what a big deal this is for us, two Mexican immigrants, to see our daughter play for the United States," Martha said. "We are so proud of how well she represents us, our new country and our homeland."

lizette-salas-300.jpgSalas, 24, started her third year on the LPGA this week at the PureSilk Bahamas LPGA Classic, where her second-round 67 in windy weather on The Ocean Club Paradise Island left her at seven under par going to the weekend.

Related: LPGA stats and scores

Her great score amid the breezy conditions came despite playing far less than 100 percent.

"I woke up in tears," she said. "I had flu symptoms, a high fever. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to play. But I'd rather be on the course than in bed crying, feeling sorry for myself."

Her solid round was thanks to a hot putter that included a momentum saving 20-footer for par on No. 16, the hardest hole on the course, and an up-and-down for par from a bunker on No. 17.

"The wind helped me stay cool," said Salas, who finished feeling better but still slightly feverish. "I like using my imagination on the golf course, so playing in the wind challenges me in a way that I like."

Salas' career in golf has been all about challenges, each and every one of which she has conquered. She moved from No. 51 on the 2012 money list to No. 15 last year. Her best finish in a major was sixth in the 2013 Ricoh Women's British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

What she isn't doing is moving away from her humble roots, where challenge came in daily doses.

Ramon Salas has been a mechanic at Azuza Greens public golf course in Azuza, near Los Angeles, for more than 30 years, and at one point bartered extra work to get golf lessons for his three children. Now, every Tuesday that she is home, Lizette teaches youngsters at Azuza Greens.

"I felt like a weird flower out on the golf course," Lizette says on her website about when she first started playing tournament golf.

"At first, it was really intimidating because I was the only Latina," she says. "My parents helped me through that. I'm from a city that is predominately Hispanic. I want to be a positive role model for the girls in my community and change the stereotypes placed on Hispanics."

And that she is doing. Lizette used golf to earn a scholarship to Southern California, where she became the school's only four-time All-American in any sport, male or female. She also became the first person in her immediate family to graduate college, earning a degree in sociology in 2011.

Now, the 5-foot-4 fireplug who loves Latin dancing is emerging as one of the better players in women's golf, and certainly one of the most-compelling stories.

"I was feeling it and I was rolling it out there today," Salas said with a sly smile after her Friday round that seemed to say, "I just gave you a money quote, be sure to use it."

Lizette comes from outside the golf cookie cutter in just about every way. In that way, she is reminiscent of Lee Trevino and Nancy Lopez, two Hall of Famers also with Mexican roots. Whether or not Salas achieves that greatness, she has already been a great role model for her community.

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Who is Patrick Reed? Get to know the Humana leader a little better

By Ron Sirak

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- If Patrick Reed were any more grounded he'd have dirt growing over his feet. Ask the 23-year-old Spring, Texas, resident his favorite quote and he'll give you a line by his wife, Justine: "Nerves just mean you're prepared."

Related: What's in Patrick Reed's bag

Ask him to identify his favorite golf memory and he doesn't give up his only PGA Tour victory at last year's Wyndham Championship, when he defeated Jordan Spieth with a birdie on the second playoff hole, but rather the 6-0 record he had in match play in leading Augusta State University to two NCAA championship.

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And when prompted to comment on his back-to-back 63s that gave him a two-stroke lead going into the weekend at the Humana Challenge, Reed reaches back to the mindset that helped him Monday qualify for six PGA Tour events.

"It's pretty easy to get into that Monday qualifying mindset, due to the fact that you're playing three different courses," Reed said in advance of his Saturday third round on the Nicklaus Private course.

"The first day it's like, all right, well, let's see how we do against the guys on my course today there, try to go beat them," he said after making 17 birdies, an eagle and one bogey through 36 holes. "And the same thing every day. You can't really judge yourself off everybody until everyone has played all of the same courses."

One of the more memorable moments in golf from 2013 was the touching sight of Reed wining the Wyndham with Justine at his side, lugging around his golf bag. That's not the case this week since she's due to give birth around Memorial Day.

Related: Photos of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

"[On Saturday] we're going to go with the same game plan," Reed said, "try to hit some fairways, hit some greens, and see what the putter can do."

In fact, the format of the Humana does seem to play perfectly in the mindset of Mr. Monday Qualifier. Not only do they play three different courses, before finishing on the Palmer Private on Sunday, but all three -- the Palmer and Nicklaus along with La Quinta CC -- yield a ton of birdies. You have to play aggressive golf.

"The good thing is even though we are playing great, I feel like there is still room for improvement out there while I was playing," Reed said. "[On Friday], I felt like there was three shots [I left] out there, [and Thursday] I thought there was one or two out there."

Reed says he is playing with a higher confidence level this year, in part because he feels totally in tune with his new Callaway clubs and because of the work he has done with his swing coach Kevin Hart as well as with Stuart Leong of shotstohole.com.

Related: Holly Sonders turning heads at the Humana

"With my group, my team that we worked with in the off-season, it's showing, it's showing the improvements we have made," says Reed.

No matter what the outcome, Justine won't be carrying his bag when he walks up the final fairway. But her words about being nervous likely will be rattling in his head. It's all part of how prepared Reed as made himself to compete on the PGA Tour.

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Rickie Fowler: "I definitely don't want to be remembered as a one-time winner"

By Ron Sirak

LA QUINTA, Calif. - When it comes to building a brand, fan-friendly Rickie Fowler is among the best on the PGA Tour. His long hair, bold use of color in his clothing and willingness to endlessly sign autographs has made him an inspiration for junior golfers, who are hard to miss in tour galleries as they display their loyalty by wearing the same bright colors and Fowler's trademark flat-brim Puma hats.

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All Fowler needs now is to win more.

The 25-year-old matinee idol who grew up in Murrieta, less than an hour from here, before attending Oklahoma State, returned to the desert to begin 2014 at the Humana Challenge. And he comes home with a new attitude that's as strident as his fashion choices.

"I have one tour win, but I definitely don't want to be remembered as a one-time winner," Fowler said after an opening 68 Thursday at La Quinta CC, one of the three courses upon which the Humana is played.

Related: A closer look at Rickie Fowler's swing

"So we'll see what we can do here," Fowler said after a four-under-par round that was outside the top-30 and, in this birdie-fest, pretty much amounts to an even-par effort. "We got a few good starts here on the West Coast, and we would like to get one [win] close to home."

As part of his renewed commitment to be more than just another pretty face, Fowler has started working with swing coach Butch Harmon on what Rickie says are "no major changes, just taking what I have and cleaning it up, making it consistent and more repeatable."

Fowler says the essence of the effort is to get started in the right takeaway position and to shorten his backswing a bit. "My tendency," he says, "is to get a little long and the club gets stuck behind me."

While winning more than $10 million since turning pro in 2009 and banking millions more in endorsement and appearance money (he was No. 35 on the 2014 Golf Digest 50 all-encompassing money list), Fowler has had just that one victory (the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship) and 23 top-10 finishes in 107 PGA Tour starts.

When he talks about goals, Fowler mentions contending in the majors, where his best finish is T-5 in the 2011 British Open, and returning to the Ryder Cup, where he played in 2010.

As perhaps a sign of his new relationship with Harmon, Fowler, who now lives in Jupiter, Fla., is staying at the exclusive Madison Club this week. That's where another notable Harmon client -- Phil Mickelson -- stayed when he played the Humana last year.

Related: The 11 best golfers without a major

At a very tender age, but as a relative veteran on tour, Fowler seems determined to hit the reset button on his career and, as Harmon says, "be known more for his golf than his clothes."

That will give all those kids in his gallery something to cheer about.

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LPGA adds $1 million points bonus to Tour Championship

By Ron Sirak

140107-lpga-tour-championsip-shanshan-fing.jpgIn the depths of the Great Recession, when the LPGA schedule dipped to 23 events, veteran tour pro Janice Moodie memorably noted: "I now have a part-time job." And she was correct.

Now, not only has commissioner Mike Whan gotten the schedule back to 32 tournaments for 2014, he's adding the Race to the CME Globe, a year-long points race formally announced Jan. 7 that will bring a $1 million bonus to the top player after the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

The top 72 players on the Race to the CME Globe points list will qualify for November's Tour Championship plus anyone who has won an LPGA event in 2014. Only LPGA members, however, are eligible for the $1 million bonus, a significant sum considering the leading money winner in 2013, Inbee Park, earned $2.5 million.

The Race bonus will be unofficial money. Anyone who makes a cut in a full-field event gets points; 500 for the winner of a regular tournament, 625 for a major victory. The top 40 in limited-field events get points as do the top 20 at the Lorena Ochoa tournament, which at 36 entrants is the smallest field of the year. Majors are worth 25 percent more points overall.

Related: LPGA announces 32-tournament schedule

The top three players in the points race will control their own destiny at the Tour Championship -- win it and you get the $1 million bonus. Only the top nine entering the event at the Tiburon GC in Naples, Fla., will have a chance to win the $1 million. Bonuses will also be paid to the second-place ($150,000) and third-place finishers ($100,000) on the points list.

It's possible, according to Whan, that the $1 million first prize could be decided in a sudden-death playoff after the Tour Championship has concluded. "We wanted to make our season-ending event even more fun and more dramatic," Whan said. "The points will be reset but not to zero. There is no doubt season leaders will have a significant advantage, but they won't have it locked up."

The Wounded Warrior Project, which assists injured service members and their families, is expected to receive up to $250,000 from the season race, with CME Group donating $1,000 for each eagle during the season and $5,000 for each eagle at the Tour Championship. The points race starts with the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Jan. 23-26.


[Photo: Getty Images]

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July 28, 2014

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