Fred Ridley is now officially in charge at Augusta National, assuming the chairmanship on the first day of the club’s new season. The Florida attorney becomes the seventh chairman in the club’s history, handpicked by predecessor Billy Payne to fill the role he vacates after 11 years. Ridley is the first chairman to have played in the Masters, doing so three times as a former U.S. Amateur champion. He inherits a thriving club that has welcomed women into the fold, expanded its influence in the game and caught up to technology. Perhaps first on Ridley’s list: Whether to use land newly acquired from Augusta Country Club to expand ANGC’s iconic 13th hole.
A year of strange penalty rulings may have reached its nadir in South Korea, where one of its top women’s events – faced with walkout threats if it lifted two penalties or if it didn’t – canceled all scores from its opening round. At issue was difficulty for players to tell the green from the fringe, with two players whacked for marking their ball on the fringe and picking up. Officials later learned four other players had committed the same infraction, but went unpenalized. That sparked the outcry, prompting two meetings before the round was wiped out.
The world’s No.1 women’s amateur cruised through the second stage of LPGA qualifying, but will stop there. Leona Maguire intends to graduate from Duke in May, and LPGA rules require anyone making it through the final stage to turn professional immediately. Advancing through the second stage gives Maguire membership on the developmental Symetra Tour when she graduates, with an LPGA promotion waiting for the top 10 in 2018 earnings.
The U.S. Women’s Open is coming to Pebble Beach for the first time, awarded the 2023 edition as part of a package announcement that also includes the 2027 U.S. Open. They will be the 14th and 15th events brought by the U.S. Golf Association to the quintessential venue, with two still to be played – next year’s U.S. Amateur and the 2019 Open. Pebble Beach has been site of two U.S. Women’s Amateurs, most recently in 1948, but the closest the Women’s Open has come was last year at CordeValle.
The Barbasol Championship is leaving Alabama for Kentucky, setting up shop next summer at Keene Trace Golf Club outside Lexington. The “opposite” event is conducted the same week as the Open Championship, set to begin July 19 next year. The event began in 2015 at the RTJ Golf Trail’s Grand National course in Opalika, Ala. It now becomes the first regular PGA Tour stop since the 1959 Kentucky Derby Open in Louisville. Since then, the state has staged three PGA Championships and the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Defending champion: Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian winner in 18 years since the World Golf Championships were created, a seven-stroke romp for an HSBC Champions record. The Japanese star took a three-shot lead into the final day and built on it with a 6-under-par 66. It capped a three-event run in which he won the Japan Open and finished second to Justin Thomas at the CIMB Classic.
Last week: Thomas added one more victory to his stellar 2017, holding off Marc Leishman’s challenge to win The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on the second hole of a playoff. It was Thomas’ third victory in Asia, along with two CIMB Classics, and No.6 in a 54-week span. … Sergio Garcia won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in front of a partisan home crowd, marking his sixth career win in Spain.
Tour talk: World No.1 Dustin Johnson and Matsuyama top a 78-man field that includes just three others from among the top 10 in the world rankings. Among the missing: Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. … In all, Sheshan International will have 18 of the world’s top 25. … Phil Mickelson, the HSBC’s only two-time winner, returns off an unbeaten Presidents Cup run at Liberty National.
Site: Country Club of Jackson (Dogwood/Azalea), Jackson, Miss.
Defending champion:Cody Gribble, making just the second start of his rookie season, collected his first trophy with a four-shot romp that tied the second-largest margin in tournament history. The former University of Texas standout pulled away with a 7-under-par 65 that included five birdies on the back nine.
Tour talk: With the world’s top 50 qualified for China, William McGirt is the field’s highest ranked player at No.75. … Chesson Hadley, third at the Safeway Open after topping the Web.com Tour Finals earnings, is among 46 entrants promoted to the PGA Tour after the Finals. … First-time winners have become the norm in Mississippi, with four of the past six champions fitting the bill.
Defending champion: Shrugging off a bogey/double bogey start to his week, Tom Pernice Jr. went 15-under par over his next 38 holes to capture the tournament’s inaugural edition. An 8-under-par 64 moved Pernice into contention after two rounds, and a closing 70 left him one shot clear of Colin Montgomerie.
Last week:Bernhard Langer set a personal best with his sixth victory of 2017, winning the Dominion Energy Charity Classic with a curling 18-foot eagle on the final hole. The putt vaulted Langer past Scott Verplank, marking his 35th win on the senior circuit and insuring the top seed in the playoff finale.
Tour talk: Not only has Langer wrapped up No.1 for next week’s Charles Schwab Cup finale, Scott McCarron is locked into the No.2 seed. … No.3 Kenny Perry and No.4 Kevin Sutherland appear safe to finish in the top five – and maybe steal the Cup in Phoenix – but Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez are within striking distance of No.5 Jerry Kelly. … The top 36 in points move on to the finale.
Site: TPC Kuala Lumpur (East), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Defending champion:Shanshan Feng won in Kuala Lumpur for the second time in three years, using a 64-67 weekend to finish three shots ahead of Suzann Pettersen. It was the Chinese pro’s sixth consecutive event finishing no worse than fourth, a run that began with an Olympic bronze medal in Rio.
Last week:Eun-Hee Ji ended an eight-year victory drought in emphatic fashion, winning the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan by six strokes over Lydia Ko. Ji carded 20 birdies on the week, opening with a 66 and closing with a 65 to notch her first triumph since winning the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.
Tour talk: Not only has Feng won two of the past three visits, she hasn’t finished worse than second in Malaysia since 2012. She was runner-up in 2013 and ’15. … World No.1 So Yeon Ryu and No.2 Sung Hyun Park also headline a lineup that features 15 of the top 20 in the world rankings. … After struggling at the start of 2017, Ko now has top-5 finishes in three of her past five starts.