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LPGA Debuts New Tournament This Week

Monday April 21, 2014
You may have heard the name Swinging Skirts before - it has appeared on some pro-am tournaments in other parts of the world. Particularly Taiwan, where the Swinging Skirts organization - which promotes women's golf and tries to encourage more women to take up the sport - is based.

This week, the first Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic takes place in San Francisco at Lake Merced Golf Club. The tournament is notable not just for its maiden outing, but because it is cosanctioned by the Taiwan LPGA. It's the first LPGA event played in the U.S. that is cosanctioned by another tour. (Which means that a handful of golfers from the Taiwan LPGA will join the 120 LPGA golfers in the field.)

Michelle Wie, coming off victory in the Lotte Championship last week, headlines the field. Alas, Lexi Thompson is skipping a tour stop for the second consecutive week. But most of the other big names are playing, and Suzann Pettersen will attempt to play after missing time with back problems.

The PGA Tour is in Louisiana for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The defending champ is Billy Horschel. The field also includes Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Patrick Reed, Nick Watney and Justin Rose.

The European Tour is playing the Volvo China Open this week. The defending champ is Brett Rumford. The field is topped by Henrik Stenson, Jason Dufner and Ian Poulter.

Stellar Final Round Gives Michelle Wie Win in Hawaii

Saturday April 19, 2014

Michelle Wie does the hula after winning the 2014 LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii

Michelle Wie is finally a winner again on the LPGA Tour and, for the first time, in her home state of Hawaii.

Wie's two previous victories were at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 Canadian Women's Open. And now she adds the 2014 Lotte Championship to that list. The wait was a long one, but it was worth it for Wie and her fans.

Wie earned this victory with a stellar final round. She entered Round 4 trailing leader Angela Stanford by four strokes. But while Stanford had some shaky holes, particularly on the front nine, en route to a 73, Wie was outstanding throughout the round. She shot a 67 that included six birdies and no bogies until a meaningless one on the final hole.

Wie's score on the day could easily have been lower. She was all over the flags on Saturday, hitting 15 of 18 greens and giving herself many good looks at birdie.

So now Wie has three LPGA wins and has made three Solheim Cup appearances. That's pretty good! Not the stuff of legend, but Wie still has plenty of time. Even though we've been watching her since she was 12 in 2002, Wie is still only 24 years old.

It's been a very good 2014 so far for Wie, who was runner-up two weeks ago in the first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her finishes thus far have been 13th, 4th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 2nd and 1st.

How is she doing it? Surprisingly, Wie's putting has not improved in 2014. Her putting average is slightly higher than in 2013 and her putts per GIR identical. But she ranks a respectable 41st so far in putts per GIR.

Wie's improvements have been in accuracy in the long game. Off the tee - where she routinely sacrifices distance - Wie's fairway percentage has improved from 62-percent to 69-percent. But it's her iron play that has been outstanding in 2014. Last year she ranked 32nd in GIR, hitting 69-percent of greens. But this season Wie was hitting 80.8-percent of greens entering the Lotte Championship - best on tour - and she led the field this week, hitting 59 of 72 greens.

When you're giving yourself that many looks at birdie, you don't have to be a great putter to score well.

And Wie is scoring great this year: She also leads the LPGA so far in scoring average (69.75 entering the Lotte).

The Lotte victory will push Wie back into the Top 15 in the world rankings; she ended 2013 at No. 61.

Photo: Michelle Wie gets her hula on after winning the 2014 Lotte Championship. (Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

On the Web:
The Lotte Championship on LPGA.com

See also:

'Major' Change: Players Championship Goes to 3-Hole Playoff

Thursday April 17, 2014
Is The Players Championship a major? Right now, the answer is no. There are only four majors in men's golf, although many people refer to The Players as "the fifth major." The same way some people were once called "the fifth Beatle" when they weren't actually in the Beatles.

But there's no doubt the PGA Tour wants The Players Championship to be thought of as a major. And someday, the tour might just declare it to be a major. Eventually, such a declaration would pull everyone else - golfers, fans, media - along. There's recent precedent in the elevation of The Evian Championship to the fifth major in women's golf.

The PGA Tour took another step in that direction on Tuesday by announcing that the playoff format for The Players Championship is changing from sudden death to a 3-hole, aggregate score.

In years past, playoffs at The Players started at the island-green 17th and were sudden death. Now, they'll start at No. 16, continue to Nos. 17 and 18, and the total score over those three holes determines the winner. (If they players are still tied after three, they'll go back to the 17th and enter sudden death.)

The only tournaments in pro golf that don't use sudden-death playoffs today are majors: an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open, a 4-hole playoff at the British Open, and a 3-hole playoff at the PGA Championship. (The Masters uses sudden death, but The Masters could stage its playoff on a putt-putt course and much of the golf world would still call it the most wonderful thing they've ever seen.)

Is this a good move for The Players Championship? Well, if the goal is to someday start calling it a major, absolutely. In terms of the drama on the course? On that count I'd say yes, as well. Holes 16, 17 and 18 at TPC Sawgrass constitute a fantastic closing stretch, and now a fantastic playoff stretch. The sudden-death format combined the pressure of a playoff with the pressure of hitting into the island green to create a very special tension. That tension is still there under the new format, but is now joined by that intimidating tee shot on the 18th. Which makes the risk-reward value of the 16th all the more important.

Start Planning Now If You Want 2015 Masters Tickets

Monday April 14, 2014
If you've been lucky enough to attend a Masters Tournament, no doubt you want to go back. And if you've never been? Then you're probably already dreaming of heading to Augusta National for the 2015 Masters.

The first thing you need to know for 2015 is when The Masters will be played next year. The tournament dates are April 9-12. Masters week (and practice rounds) begins on Monday, April 6, 2015.

Now you just need tickets. The tickets page on Masters.com notes that 2015 ticket applications are not yet available. But you can go ahead and register your online account in preparation for the application process. Go here to do that.

If you've previously registered, no need to do it again. Once the application for 2015 Masters tickets is available, all those registered receive an email notification. Then you can fill out the application and hope. And tickets directly from the tournament aren't that expensive, especially for practice days. Most people reading this will find them affordable.

The catch is that the odds of getting practice day tickets directly through this online process are slim; the odds of getting tournament day tickets are vanishly small.

So hope for the best, but assume you'll miss out. Then what will you need? Money, and plenty of it, to buy 2015 Masters tickets through the secondary market (i.e., ticket brokers). If you're well off financially, that won't be a problem: You can buy the tickets you want. If, like most people, your budget is tight, then start saving now. Open a new savings account (or place a new shoebox under your bed) and add $30 a week to it. By tournament time next year you'll have around $1500 saved, and you might need all of it. Prices on the secondary market vary widely, and can swing wildly. What day you want to attend (practice day or tournament day? practice day tickets are much cheaper), how many tickets you want and your timing (2014 prices dropped dramatically after Tiger Woods withdrew) will affect prices. A single tournament day ticket can cost in the thousands on the secondary market, a practice day tickets in the hundreds - but availability and timing can drive those prices up or down.

Of course, you'll still to have to make travel and lodging arrangements (start early on that, too). Hey, nobody said it was easy to get to The Masters.

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