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Women Golfers Are Embracing the Power Era. Is That a Good Thing?

Emma Talley had never concerned herself with length off the tee until after her rookie season on the L.P.G.A. Tour.

She had always been an accurate hitter and that year, 2018, she finished 52nd on the money list, which earned her more than $420,000 in prize money. She had four top-10 finishes and was off to a great start as a professional golfer.

But playing among the best women golfers in the world, she began to wonder if her game could get even better if she could hit the ball farther.

“When I first came out here, I was a little above average distance-wise, but I wasn’t a long hitter,” said Talley, who will be at this week’s Amundi Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club in France. “At the end of my rookie year I looked at the top five players and they all hit it long. So, I tried to gain distance.”

She watched players like Nelly Korda and Ariya Jutanugarn hit their tee shots 20 or 30 yards past hers, which in turn left them shorter and easier second shots into the green. “I started hitting it all over the place,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out how to gain distance with the accuracy I had had before.”

By the end of her second season, she had lost her tour card and had to earn back her playing privileges.

Distance in golf is the holy grail: The longer a player hits the ball, the more it fascinates fans and fellow players. Like a sprinter’s time or a home run in baseball, a player’s length off the tee is a statistic that stands out against all others.

“The L.P.G.A. Tour is typically a straight hitters tour,” said Grant Boone, a commentator on the Golf Channel. “There have always been women who hit it far. Laura Davies is the first to come to mind, and Mickey Wright could really move it 50, 60 years ago. But what we’re about to see on the L.P.G.A. Tour is what we’ve seen on the men’s tour. We are entering a power era.”

It may be coming, but the ranks of successful women golfers show something that is not seen among professional male players: a huge disparity in length off the tee. But hitting with more power does not necessarily determine who wins a tournament. Sometimes it’s the more accurate golfer. Of course, combining the two can make a player formidable.

The difference between the longest hitter on the L.P.G.A. Tour and the 168th ranked player, who is the last one on the list, is 60 yards. On the Ladies European Tour, which co-sanctions the Evian with the L.P.G.A., the difference is 79 yards between first and 168th place.

But even those numbers may downplay how far the longest hitters drive the ball, because the bombers do not always have to reach for their drivers to get maximum distance; they can play it safe with a 3-wood or iron and still be way out there.

By contrast, the difference between the longest hitter on the PGA Tour and number 168 is 33 yards. And almost all of those players are capable of hitting the ball 300 yards or more.

Some of the shortest hitters on the L.P.G.A. like Inbee Park, No. 156, and Paula Creamer, No. 166, have had some of the longest and most productive careers. Park has hovered within the top 10 in the world for most of her career, reaching the top spot four times. She also has 20 wins and seven major titles, including the Evian in 2012.

Creamer, who won the Evian in 2005, has 10 wins and a major, winning the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.

Davies, 57, is still one of the longer hitters on the L.P.G.A. Tour, even though she is competing against women half her age (or younger). She said distance was never a disadvantage, but she said hitting it long at L.P.G.A. and LE.T. tournaments did not present the same advantage it did on the men’s tours.

“You don’t have to hit it miles to do well, said Davies, who has won 85 tournaments worldwide. “On the men’s tour, they all hit it a long way, and then you have super long-hitters like Bryson [DeChambeau] and Dustin [Johnson]. Whereas on our tour, there’s a substantial distance between Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson.”

Davies won the Evian in 1995 and 1996, but will miss this year’s event because of Covid concerns. She said the setup of courses like the one at the Evian golf club would benefit from challenging the longer hitters to hit more risky shots, knowing their misses could be more costly.

“I’d prefer a few longer par 4s and some reachable par 5s,” she said. “Our par 5s are so inaccessible that’s its frustrating. On the PGA Tour, it’s eagles here, eagles there. Make the par 5s into risk-reward holes for us.”

Grant Waite, a former PGA Tour player who now coaches several top L.P.G.A. players, including long-hitting Patty Tavatanakit, said female players were making distance gains greater than those of professional men. It’s the result of creating swings that are more efficient and launch the ball higher for greater distance.

Waite said that the typical amateur male player swings about 94 miles per hour, while typical female professional golfers swing only slightly faster at around 96 miles per hour. But the L.P.G.A. pro hits the ball 20 to 30 yards farther than the average amateur man.

Female pros “learn to swing a certain way so they can hit up properly on the ball,” he said. “They’re also doing it by being very precise in a way that few can do.”

He singled out Park, who he called the best player of the past 10 years. “She doesn’t hit it very long,” he said. “She drives the ball straight. She doesn’t make mistakes with longer irons, and she’s very good with wedges and her putter. It’s a pretty simple model.”

Easier said than done. Gerina Piller, who turned pro in 2010, said she used to not worry about length, but that younger players have her thinking differently about how she trained and prepared for tournaments.

Piller, 36, said that when she first came out on tour there were four categories of players: “Girls who get it out there. Girls who hit it great. Girls who hit it long. And girls who bomb it.”

Now, she said, there’s not a huge difference between the long hitters and the bombers. She credits club technology, but also the acceptance of working out to get stronger.

“Now it’s all the craze, and I’ve jumped on that boat,” she said. “I haven’t gained a bunch of yardage, but I’m getting older, and my body needs that stability.”

Piller, who is in the middle of the field in terms of distance, said what’s become more important to her than chasing distance was practicing with an idea of what she wanted to improve.

“A lot of players at our level, we’re told we have to put the hours in, but we’re not told what to do,” she said. “You kind of have to experiment and find that out. Now I feel like I’m sharpening and shining every part of my game. But there are still some dull parts that I’m shining.”

Golf, of course, is a game where perfection is attainable only occasionally, and truly great days are elusive.

After regaining her tour card, Talley said she went back to her old coach and began trying to recreate the swing that had served her so well in the past. After all, it had made her a college standout at the University of Alabama.

“I look back now and say that was so silly to chase distance,” she said. “In my second year on tour, I would have known the golf courses better. I would have been used to traveling the world. Looking back I regret it, but I did learn a lot about myself.”

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Boxer Manny Pacquiao Joins Filipino Presidential Race

MANILA — Former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has shuffled his way into the presidential race in the Philippines.

Mr. Pacquiao, the country’s best-known athlete, already holds a seat in the Senate but faces tough opposition as a presidential candidate. He was formerly the president of the PDP-Laban, the ruling party in the Philippines, before being ousted by a faction loyal to President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government Mr. Pacquiao has accused of corruption.

“To government officials who continue to rob government coffers, you will soon find others in jail,” Mr. Pacquiao warned on Sunday when he announced his candidacy. “Your time is up.”

The constitution bars Mr. Duterte from seeking a second six-year term in the May election. He has instead said he would run for vice president, in what some analysts have described as an attempt to avoid prosecution from the International Criminal Court. The I.C.C. last week announced an investigation into Mr. Duterte’s antidrug campaign, which critics have said was marred by extrajudicial killings.

Christopher Lawrence Go, a senator and Mr. Duterte’s longtime aide, was considered a party favorite for the presidential nomination, but he has yet to announce his candidacy. The president and the vice president are elected separately in the Philippines. If both men were to win, analysts said, Mr. Go could step aside for Mr. Duterte or let him rule the country by proxy, allowing him to escape prosecution.

Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter and the mayor of Davao City, said she would not seek the presidency if her father continued with his plans to run for vice president.

All candidate must submit their final filings in October.

Mr. Pacquiao, 42, signaled a break with Mr. Duterte earlier this year when he accused the government’s health department of corruption tied to the coronavirus pandemic and the purchasing of face masks and other protective equipment. The senator, who as a boxer won world titles in a record eight weight classes, was once an ally of Mr. Duterte, but recently became more critical of the president.

“We are ready to rise to the challenge of leadership,” Mr. Pacquiao said on Sunday when he accepted the nomination from his faction of the party.

“It is now time for the oppressed to win,” he said. “It is now time for the country to rise up from poverty.”

Aries Arugay, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said that he was not surprised by Mr. Pacquiao’s announcement but that the boxer may be in over his head. While Mr. Pacquiao is internationally recognized, “he is not ready” to be president, Mr. Arugay said, adding that Mr. Pacquiao had not passed any major legislation.

“His performance at the Senate was underwhelming,” he said. “However, that has not prevented people and politicians in the past from winning public office.”

Mr. Pacquiao has also been a vocal supporter of Mr. Duterte’s bloody antidrug campaign.

The Commission on Elections will have to settle the matter of the separate factions of the PDP-Laban before the final candidacies are filed in October. If Mr. Duterte’s faction emerges with a clear mandate, Mr. Pacquiao will likely step aside or run as an independent, chipping away at Mr. Duterte’s chances of regaining public office, Mr. Arugay said.

Melvin Matibag, the general secretary of PDP-Laban and the leader of the pro-Duterte wing of the party, said that Mr. Pacquiao was acting against the party’s wishes by announcing his candidacy.

The meeting on Sunday during which Mr. Pacquiao announced his candidacy was “not sanctioned nor called by the party’s chairman, President Duterte,” Mr. Matibag said Monday on national radio.

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In a Scheduling First, Pac-12 and SWAC Plan Home-and-Home Basketball Games

Pac-12 leaders similarly welcomed the home-and-home agreement, which Bernard Muir, Stanford’s athletic director, predicted would “open our eyes and our fan bases to an opportunity that we don’t traditionally get.”

“Certainly, there’s games that occur between Power 5s and H.B.C.U.s, but to do this across the board in both conferences, I think it’s really unique,” he said.

Dana Altman, Oregon’s coach since 2010, said he expected the trips to become important learning experiences for players in the two leagues. In an interview, he recalled a 1999 trip to Mississippi Valley State, in Itta Bena, Miss., with one of his Creighton teams as revelatory.

“It was good at the time, just that our guys went to a small campus in a very small town,” said Altman, who once had Florida A&M’s coach, Robert McCullum, on his staff at Oregon. “I think this trip will be good for our players, especially when they learn about the school and get some of the history of the school.”

Some SWAC schools, officials said, are considering playing their home games under the arrangement at bigger, off-campus arenas in their areas.

Although the SWAC commands large home crowds for football games — the most of any conference outside the Power 5 or Group of 5 leagues that dominate Division I football — it has struggled to draw audiences for men’s basketball. For the 2019-20 season, the league ranked 29th of the 32 Division I conferences in home basketball attendance, and its schools averaged fewer than 1,600 people per home game.

The Pac-12’s schools, by contrast, typically drew more than 7,000 fans per game.

Jason Cable, the athletic director at Alabama State, said U.S.C.’s appearance there in 2023 would be the university’s most significant nonconference game at home in memory. He said that the exposure and opportunity would be valuable to a university like Alabama State, the lone Division I school in Montgomery, and he predicted that those benefits would outweigh the value of a check that would be earned through another road trip.

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The Mannings Give TV Sports Yet Another Alternate Viewing Option

“We really lean into a specific driver for a little bit longer, and it creates a stronger bond between the driver and audience,” Flood said.

If the future of sports watching is fans choosing exactly the kind of announcer or experience they want, why not take the idea further? Amazon, which shows N.F.L. games on Thursdays and owns the rights for a number of different sports in Europe, already provides several different commentary streams for those games.

But Amazon also owns Twitch, the streaming platform most heavily associated with video games — where at any given moment you can find thousands of people, some of them professionals with a huge audience and some of them amateurs with no audience, commenting while playing video games or doing other things. Amazon has shown some games on Twitch with handpicked and hired hosts, but it is not a free-for-all open to thousands of different commentators.

For one, there is a rights issue. The N.F.L. sells Amazon the right to do very specific things, which does not include allowing anybody who wants to comment on games on Twitch, and therefore allow anybody to watch on Twitch and bypass traditional ways of viewing.

But even if they could do so, Marie Donoghue, the head of global sports at Amazon, is not sure they would want to. “We don’t know if infinite choice is what fans want,” she said. “We do think fans want great optionality, but we have to learn, because if you give fans infinite choice it may become overwhelming, and they get lost in the experience.”

Infinite may not be on the horizon then, but more certainly is.

Next year, when Amazon actually produces the N.F.L. games they show, there will almost certainly be more options. Meier said Triller was getting ready to “rock the world with a completely new concept” in boxing, while Rolón said ESPN would expand its alternate telecasts as technology allowed it to do so.

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