International Players Dominate LPGA Majors

By Associated PressJune 30, 2008, 4:00 pm
U.S. WomenEDINA, Minn. -- Morgan Pressel, one of only six Americans to win an LPGA major this decade, had finished her week at Interlachen and was leaning against a clubhouse door when she watched the solemn march of Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer toward the 10th tee.
Uh-oh, she said quietly as she studied their expressions.
Pressel is friends with both players and didnt need to see a scoreboard.
Lewis and Creamer, the first all-American final pairing at the U.S. Womens Open in five years, played the front nine at Interlachen in a combined 81 shots. Both made double bogey on the par-5 second hole. Creamer made another double bogey at No. 9, and her face was as pink as just about every article of clothing she wore. It wasnt pretty.
The state of American golf on the LPGA Tour doesnt look that much better at the moment.
Inbee Park, a 19-year-old South Korean, became the latest international player to win an LPGA major on Sunday when she limited her mistakes to only three holes and closed with a 2-under 71 for a four-shot victory. She was the only player among the final nine groups who broke par in the final round.
There are five majors remaining this decade, starting with the Ricoh Womens British Open at Sunningdale in four weeks. Americans already are assured of their lowest output in the majors, a statistic skewed by the massive influx of international players on a tour that really is the only show on earth for womens golf.
Americans have won at least 30 majors in every decade, but in this one they have won only eight out of 35.
Juli Inkster, who celebrated her 48th birthday a few weeks ago, and 45-year-old Meg Mallon have two each. Sherri Steinhauer, who turns 46 at the end of the year, has another. The other three belong to Cristie Kerr, Hilary Lunke and Pressel. For Lunke and Pressel, it remains their only professional victory.
It sure didnt look this dire three years ago at Cherry Hills, when young Americans were all the rage.
Pressel was a 17-year-old amateur in the final group of that U.S. Womens Open, tied for the 54-hole lead with 15-year-old Michelle Wie. Creamer, 18 at the time, was another stroke behind. Natalie Gulbis was having more luck with calendar sales than trophies, but her game was slowly getting noticed.
Sunday at Interlachen presented a great chance to change the perception.
Lewis is just getting started, and even though the U.S. Womens Open was her professional debut, the 23-year-old Texan expected more. After spending seven years in a brace, then having surgery to put a steel rod and five screws into her vertebrae, Lewis won an NCAA title at Arkansas last year and tied for fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
She shot 78 in the final round, and while the double bogey at No. 2 was a setback, she could never get comfortable with the pace on the greens and didnt make a birdie until the 13th hole.
The bigger disappointment was Creamer.
She is still only 21, and acts surprised that some have declared her the best LPGA player without a major. But this is her fourth year on tour, and Creamer already has won six times. She often boasts about knowing how to win at every level, but she has yet to arrive on the back nine of a major as a serious threat.
The harder the golf course, the better I feel, she said before the final round.
The Womens Open is known as the toughest test in golf. In the two times Creamer has gone into the final round one shot out of the lead, she has shot rounds of 79 and 78. She is 19 over par in the final round in the last five Opens.
She markets herself in all things pink, but the real payoff is winning a major.
Creamer was a two-time winner as a rookie, playing a starring role at the Solheim Cup and spoke confidently of going after Annika Sorenstam at the No. 1 ranking. Now that the 37-year-old Sorenstam is retiring, Creamer faces an even tougher climb.
The new No. 1 is Lorena Ochoa, a 26-year-old Mexican who has been on tour only two years longer than Creamer, yet already has won 23 times, including two majors, and has enough points for the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps even more daunting is that three of the last seven majors have been won by players younger than Creamer'Park became the youngest Womens Open champion at 19; Yani Tseng of Taiwan became the youngest winner of the McDonalds LPGA Championship at 19; and Pressel won the Nabisco at 18.
This is no time for Creamer to panic, although this loss could leave scars.
Lewis could use Interlachen as a springboard. She is as close to anything as a defending champion this week in Arkansas, where she led with a 65 after the first round before the rest of the tournament was rained out and wiped out of the record books. At least she could keep the trophy.
And more young players are in the pipeline.
Vicky Hurst failed to qualify for the Womens Open, which was shocking, but only a minor setback. While Park was winning the Womens Open, the 18-year-old Hurst won her third Duramed Futures Tour event this year, even though she just graduated from high school.
She is a major talent.
But until Hurst, Creamer, Lewis or anyone else wins a major, she will be only a major prospect. Golf is loaded with those.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.