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Bethpage buster: Brooks’ birdie blitz brightens ‘Black’ course

Joy Chakravarty

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American Brooks Koepka shot 65 to take a huge seven-stroke lead after the second round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black late on Friday. Photo: European Tour/Getty Images

Koepka cards five-under 65 to build massive seven-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Championship; Major winners Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth try to keep pace

Dubai: Brooks Koepka was turning the PGA Championship into a romp as the well-built American muscled his way to a record-breaking lead at the halfway stage of the second Major championship of the season.

On a demanding Bethpage Black course, where par came at a premium for most players in the field, Koepka was a birdie-making machine as he opened up a yawning seven-shot gap on his closest rivals. After his 63 was the best round on Thursday, the 29-year-old added a five-under par 65, which was just one less than the best round on Friday (64 by Australian Adam Scott).

The defending champion, also winner of back-to-back US Open titles over the last two years, reached 12-under par 128 after 36 holes, with American Jordan Spieth (66) and Scott (64) tied for second at five-under 135.

The seven-shot lead at this stage of the tournament was a PGA Championship record and also the largest at the halfway point of any Major since Henry Cotton led by nine in the 1934 Open Championship. His 12-under was two better than the 36-hole aggregate record in all Majors.

The largest margin of victory in a Major championship is 15 shots at the 2000 US Open by Tiger Woods, who had a ring-side view to Koepka’s masterclass as his playing partner, but will be out of action over the weekend after missing the cut following a second-round 73.

Dustin Johnson (67) and the 2018 Hero Indian Open champion Matt Wallace (67) were among a group of players tied for the fourth place at four-under 136.

Asian Tour member and Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond (68) was the best-placed among the Asian players alongside Korean Sung Kang (70), winner last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic on the PGA Tour. The duo was tied 10th at two-under par.

Koepka started his round with back-to-back birdies and reached 10-under par on the par-5 fourth hole when he failed to make a 17-feet eagle putt. There was a bit of a stutter thereafter when he made his first bogey of the tournament on the 10th hole and then three-putted for another on the 17th. But he also picked up shots on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th for his 65.

After Thursday’s round of 63, Koepka had said there was still room for improvement, and he called his 65 a ‘battle’. Imagine what would he do if he has two perfect days during the weekend.

“Today was a battle. I did not hit it very well today, I was fighting a bit of a block. I was able to find a couple of fairways and when I did miss, I was in a great lie. I’m still putting really well which is big,” said the World No. 3.

“I feel good, especially the way I battled today, to not have it and get that score I am very proud of myself. I fought hard, I feel great and just need to continue on the weekend.

“Yeah, I’d like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can. I still have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. Keep putting the ball in the right spots and make sure that you don’t make any double bogeys, and I should have a good chance of winning the championship.”

Woods, who won the Masters last month with Koepka finishing second, was all praise for his playing partner after missing the cut by one shot.

“I made too many mistakes and just didn’t do the little things I need to do. I had a couple three-putts. I didn’t hit wedges close and I didn’t hit any fairways,” said the 43-year-old.

“What Brooksy did, he’s driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway. He’s got 9-irons when most of us are hitting 5-irons, 4-irons, and he’s putting well. That adds up to a pretty substantial lead, and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, there’s no reason why he can’t build on this lead.”

Spieth, winless since the 2017 Open Championship and without a top-10 since the 2018 Open Championship, could become the sixth player in the history of the game to complete a career Grand Slam with a win on Sunday.

But the American, who has dropped to No. 39 in the world ranking, insisted he wasn’t thinking about the career Grand Slam.

“It certainly hasn’t. I can’t imagine it will because I haven’t been in contention on a Sunday since The Open last year,” said Spieth after a round that included six birdies and two bogeys.

“If I’m able to put some good work in tomorrow, then I will be in contention on Sunday and at that point it will be just more (thinking) of trying to win a golf tournament. It won’t matter to me what tournament it is.

“I’ll be pleased to be in contention, knowing that the work I put in from being pretty far off has really come back nicely on a very difficult golf course. I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thoughts, but we’ll see. I’m not sure what to expect.”

After his round of 64, which included a late bogey on the par-3 17th hole, Scott felt there was still a chance of catching up with Koepka.

“I think there’s doubles left and right out there once you get out of position. Hey, if the guy (Koepka) can just keep doing that for another two days, then there’s not much you can do,” said the former Masters champion.

“But I think someone, hopefully me, will chip away tomorrow and sneak up in the right direction. If he didn’t have a hot day tomorrow, the gap narrows and there’s pressure over whatever lead he might have or might not on Sunday.

“Yeah, I know he’s won three Majors. I know he seems impenetrable at the moment in this position, but at some point he’s got to think about it.”

The 23-year-old Janewattananond was clearly enjoying his experience.

“I am out here without expectations. So even if I shoot 90 tomorrow, I won’t mind it. You know, just being here is already good,” said the Thai star.

“My expectation was to come out here and have some fun and see what Majors are all about. It’s the first time on the East Coast. I am enjoying myself. I am really happy I put up a good score, so it exceeded my expectations for sure.”

Leading Scores (After Round Two, par-70 course)

128 – Brooks Koepka (USA) 63-65

135 – Adam Scott (Australia) 71-64, Jordan Spieth (USA) 69-66

136 – Kelly Kraft (USA) 71-65, Daniel Berger (USA) 70-66, Dustin Johnson (USA) 69-67, Matt Wallace (England) 69-67, Luke List (USA) 68-68

137 – Justin Rose (England) 70-67

138 – Harold Varner III (USA) 71-67, Jazz Janewattananond (Thailand) 70-68, Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) 70-68, Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) 70-68, Erik Van Rooyen (South Africa) 70-68, Rickie Fowler (USA) 69-69, Sung Kang (Korea Republic) 68-70, Tommy Fleetwood (England) 67-71, Danny Lee (New Zealand) 64-74

139 – Bronson Burgoon (USA) 73-66, Scott Piercy (USA) 72-67, Charles Howell III (USA) 72-67, Xander Schauffele (USA) 70-69, Patrick Cantlay (USA) 69-70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (France) 68-71, Chez Reavie (USA) 68-71

140 – Matt Fitzpatrick (England) 74-65, Francesco Molinari (Italy) 72-68, Lucas Bjerregaard (Sweden) 71-69, Tyrrell Hatton (England) 71-69, Zach Johnson (USA) 71-69, Gary Woodland (USA) 70-70, Keegan Bradley (USA) 70-70, Matt Kuchar (USA) 70-70, Jimmy Walker (USA) 70-70, Phil Mickelson (USA) 69-71.

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Golf Governance Committee chief Kavita Singh vows to make IGU more transparent

Rohit Bhardwaj

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WGAI president Kavita Singh speaks at the Hero Women's Indian Open press conference on Thursday.

New Delhi: She wears her passion for golf on her sleeves, so to say. From starting the Tour with just nine girls in 2007 to having 40 girls on the domestic circuit now, Kavita Singh has seen women’s golf grow to impressive heights. Indian girls have already won four Ladies European Tour (LET) titles—including a treble by Aditi Ashok (2016 Hero Women’s Indian Open, 2016 Qatar Ladies Open, 2017 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open) and one title from promising rookie Diksha Dagar (2019 Investec South African Women’s Open)—in the last decade.

With consistent performances, Aditi earned full playing rights on the lucrative LPGA Tour and became the first woman’s golfer to represent the country in the prestigious 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Being the president of the Women’s Golf Association of India, Kavita has always believed in creating a proper golf ecosystem that would encourage more girls to pick the sport professionally.

“It’s been quite a journey. We are glad that our girls are getting recognised—the scores are getting lower with each tournament. The domestic tour supported by Hero MotoCorp has seen the number of tournaments increase to 15 legs. We will be hosting the 13th edition of the Women’s Indian Open this year. It will be the 10th edition with our esteemed sponsors Hero MotoCorp. It is only because of the support and vision of Mr. Pawan Munjal that women’s golf has grown to this level,” Kavita tells Sports Lounge at a press conference to announce the Hero Women’s Indian Open here.

The Women’s Indian Open has seen the prize money jump five times ever since Hero MotoCorp pledged their support in 2010. From a US $100,000 event on the now defunct Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) to being added on the LET in 2015, it has enriched itself in terms of competition, audience and reach. The Women’s Indian Open was, in fact, broadcast live on all four days by Discovery Sport channel.

However, being a pragmatic and transparent human being she minces no words and happily admits like Robert Frost’s verse “And miles to go before I sleep”.

“Finance shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone to excel at something, that’s the system I want to create. Good number of our girls are gifted, I can see. Wherever you go outside the country you have public courses, public playing areas, chip and putt areas. We are a huge country, we have to win more medals, for that we need to make a sport like golf more accessible,” she says.

Kavita has long advocated the need to have alternate career options for women like caddying but despite much efforts she has not been able to break the glass ceiling.

“The main challenge is financial. I wish I could do so much more for the girls with more government and corporate sponsorship. The Ministry of Tourism had agreed in principle that they would support us the moment we went live with the caddy programme. There was good amount of transition going on in various govt. department that it became difficult,” she says.

Do social taboos also have a role to play when it comes to girls taking up caddying? With more health and financial benefits would it lure more girls? Kavita replies, “I think there should be dignity of labour, irrespective of whether you are a man or woman. When I travel overseas for golf, very often I pull my own golf cart with the set. I have even carried sets on my back for certain events. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. We have to bring about that social change, seeing this our girls will start taking it up over time. Once you have reached your peak and are on the downward curve, that’s the time because golf is in your blood. If they see a certain Simi (Mehra) or Gaurika (Bishnoi) doing it they will say why can’t I.

“In the government-owned facilities like Qutab Golf Club at Lado Sarai they must hire women as caddies, assistant professionals. You have women in clubs who are locker assistants then why not on the course. DLF has tried to do encourage it in the last few years but the women come and then leave. The caddies at DLF are looked after in the best possible manner so I am puzzled why girls find it difficult to take up a caddy’s job. Maybe good education and grooming would help erase the taboos attached with the job,” she says.

L-R: Hero MotoCorp Sports Advisor J. Narain, WGAI president Kavita Singh, WGAI secretary general Champika Sayal and DLF Golf & Country Club’s Vishal Bharti at the Hero Women’s Indian Open press conference on Thursday.

Also Read: SPORTS LOUNGE IMPACT: IOA forms committee to run affairs of ‘unruly’ Indian Golf Union

Gloomy future awaits Indian Golf Union after ‘derecognition’ and violation of Army guidelines

Kavita Singh was recently appointed as the chairperson of the Golf Governance Committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to overlook the restructuring of the defunct Indian Golf Union (IGU), which was de-recognised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MYAS) for non-compliance with the National Sports Development Code 2011.

Interestingly, there has not been a single meeting of the Golf Governance Committee since it’s formation in early July.

“The Sports Ministry and the government is very aware that work needs to be done even in golf. They want our boys and girls to play international tournaments. The whole thing is that we are such a huge nation of 1.3 billion people yet a medal tally if you look vis-a-vis other countries is so much smaller. Our girls are playing amazingly well now and that why it is so important.

“I won’t say it (the committee) is formed to reform the IGU, I don’t want to get in the politics of it as I have not had a meeting with the other board members. But I do know that they want to restructure it. We can do even more work, make it more transparent. The IGU has not been disbanded or banned. They want to restructure it in such a way that it complies to the national sports code. I have no complaints against the IGU, whenever we required any support, they have helped us but there’s much more they could do for the amateur game. I don’t want to pinpoint on anyone or nitpick, everyone is trying and we can definitely do better,” she says.

Sports Lounge had highlighted the plight of Indian golf under the IGU, heavy Army influence and government interference which is why various private courses across the country are up in arms—filing legal cases—for being neglected in their revamped governance structure.

The Golf Governance Committee (GGC) was entrusted with the job of selecting amateurs for various international tournaments as well as overlooking the preparations for the Olympic Games scheduled to be staged in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9. However, there have been reports of IGU conducting the trials for tournaments like the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the Queen Sirikit Cup at the Noida Golf Club a week back despite being a ‘de-recognised’ body.

“Honestly I can not say anything as I have not had a meeting yet with the GGC board members. The reason why they requested me to become part of it because we (WGAI) are very transparent—be our finances or functioning—I am here for the love of the game and have no bias or personal agendas for anything. We will go strictly by the book and the Order of Merit when it comes to selecting amateurs for various international tournaments. We are going to have a meeting next month, where all board members will meet. I have not had one discussion on the trials and selection procedures. What they (IGU) want now is a very even board, may be one from the Army and one from the civil services, one from a different zone or different fields,” she assured.

WGAI secretary general Champika Sayal insisted that fair practices were the need of the hour for the sport to grow.

“Fair practices and governance is the need of the hour. It’s not just about golf and IGU, apart from IGU other federations like Archery and Equestrian are also going through a clean up phase. At the same time we need to understand that we are all stakeholders of golf—IGU, WGAI or PGTI—and we need to stand together,” Champika says.

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Becky Morgan to defend Hero Women’s Indian Open title

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game reading
Tvesa Malik (from left to right), Neha Tripathi, Amandeep Drall and Gaurika Bishnoi at Hero Women's India Open.

The tournament will have a prize purse of $ 500,000 and will tee off on October 3 game reading

New Delhi: Title holder Becky Morgan will be back to defend her title at the Hero Women’s Indian Open, which will complete 10 years on the Ladies European Tour with the 2019 edition. game reading

The tournament held at the Gary Player layout of the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurugram from October 3 to 6. The US$ 500,000 prize purse tournament began in 2007 and became a part of the Ladies European Tour in 2009.

For the second consecutive year, the tournament will be played over 72 holes in four days. The tournament would be telecasted live globally for the second consecutive year. game reading

Apart from the United Kingdom’s Morgan, 2017 winner Camille Chevalier of France will be the other star overseas player in the tournament, apart from the Solheim Cup players, including current captain Catriona Matthew.

Other leading international participants include Beth Allen and Becky Brewerton, both former LET Order of Merit winners. Other LET winners such as Meghan MacLaren, Marianne Skarpnord, Kanyalak Preedasuttijit, Astrid Vayson de Pradenne, Florentyna Parker and Linda Wessberg will also be in the fray. game reading

Giving these international names stiff competition would be India’s top female golfers like Tvesa Malik, Neha Tripathi, domestic Hero Order of Merit leader Gaurika Bishnoi, 2019 South African Women’s Open winner Diksha Dagar, Amandeep Drall, Ridhima Dilawari among others. game reading

The field will also include Indian stars from the domestic tour and the leading amateurs.

“The Ladies European Tour is extremely proud to continue our long-term involvement in the Hero Women’s Indian Open and on behalf of the LET, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Hero MotoCorp and the WGAI for their continuous support over the last 10 years and into the future,” Ladies European Tour CEO Mark Lichtenhein said.

“Our members are delighted to be able to contribute to the championship’s increasing profile and status, which provides the perfect platform to present this exciting sport both locally and worldwide.”

Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) president Kavita Singh expressed satisfaction to be able to hold the 13th edition of tournament. game reading

“It gives us great encouragement to see the event and the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour grow year on year, and to see the Indian players do well.

With an increase in prize money last year and its live telecast worldwide, the Hero Women’s Indian Open has truly become a marquee event on the Ladies European Tour. On behalf of WGAI, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Hero MotoCorp, the Ladies European Tour and the many other sponsors and well-wishers for their continuous support.”

Hero MotoCorp Corporate Communication head Bharatendu Kabi said, “Women’s Golf in India has been witnessing a surge in the number of quality players and tournaments in recent years. Women golfers from India are already making their presence felt on international tours, and the future looks quite promising.

“Having supported the sport around the world for over two decades, we at Hero MotoCorp take a lot of pride in seeing this growth of golf. Tournaments such as the Hero Women’s Indian Open have proved to be a major enabler of this growth and we hope that the tournament will inspire more budding golfers to take up the sport as a preferred career. We thank the Ladies European Tour for their support to this tournament as well as women’s Golf in India over this past decade.”

 

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Chinese Taipei’s Pan secures historic Presidents Cup ticket

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C.T. Pan became the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to be selected for the prestigious Presidents Cup to be held at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club this December. Photo: PGA Tour/Getty Images

Medinah, Illinois: C.T. Pan wrote a small slice of golfing history after becoming the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to qualify for the Presidents Cup as his PGA Tour FedExCup Playoffs campaign ended at the BMW Championship on Sunday.

The 27-year-old, who enjoyed a maiden PGA Tour win at the RBC Heritage in April, finished T31 after ending the week with a level par 72 at Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 Course. He needed to finish 12th or better to advance into the final week of the season where the FedExCup champion will bag US $15 million.

However, Pan safely earned his place amongst the top-8 players for the International Team to face the United States Team at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this December when qualifying ended on Sunday.

“Yeah, it’s great. I mean obviously I didn’t play well the last couple weeks. I played okay, mediocre but to be able to lock-down this spot (for the Presidents Cup), that means a lot to me. It means I can make sure and plan my schedule to get ready for the Presidents Cup,” he said.

Apart from his breakthrough victory, Pan enjoyed six top-25s to end the season in 37th place  on the FedExCup points list. He was determined to make it to the Tour Championship after also missing out on the top-30 spots by a few rungs last season.

“It’s been great year, I would say. I won, achieved my dream to win a PGA Tour event and played well and got a spot on the Presidents Cup team. That means a lot to me. It’s very special year for me. But, you know, looking at my stats and my goals, I still have things I need to work on. I want to make sure I get better every day,” said Pan.

He will take a short break and start planning his schedule for the new 2019-20  PGA Tour Season which begins in September. He said he would take into consideration the Presidents Cup and ensure he is battle-ready to help the International Team wrest the trophy from the United States team.

“I was deciding whether to come back to the U.S. after the three events in Asia to get ready here in U.S. Now, with the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, I kind of want to stay in the same time zone, make sure my body will adjust to it,” said Pan.

“It will be wild. We will have a lot of fans to cheer for us, I’m sure. My family for sure, friends, too.”

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