More than a title on the line at LPGA Tour Championship
All that will be decided when the tournament begins Thursday at Grand Cypress Golf Club.
For the first time in a decade, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam won’t win Player of the Year. That leaves five in the field with an opportunity to take home the LPGA’s top honor.
“We have got big pressure,” said Jiyai Shin, who begins play with the top spot.
Shin also has a little added pressure.
Shin and Na Yeon Choi have a chance to be the first Koreans to win Player of the Year. They’ve also noticed more Korean media than usual this week lining the fairways and greens for every practice stroke, and interview requests back home are at an all-time high.
“It will be my dream come true if I get the award,” Choi said.
Cristie Kerr could become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to claim the award. Yani Tseng would be the first from Taiwan, and Ai Miyazato of Japan is also in contention.
Miyazato, however, can’t finish No. 1 in the world rankings, but Suzann Pettersen, who doesn’t have enough points to win Player of the Year, can move into the top spot with a victory.
All this is the result of the sport’s top two players in retirement.
Since Ochoa bid farewell to the tour in May, the top spot has shuffled nine times among three players – Shin, Kerr and Miyazato. None of the players in contention could ever remember the three biggest awards – which also includes the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average – at stake so late in the season, much less the finale.
“It is exciting to have the chance, because in years past, it’s been pretty much over by the half-year mark,” Kerr said.
The tournament also marks the LPGA’s first in the Sunshine State since 2008.
Based in Daytona Beach, the LPGA had as many as three Florida events at one time before then but was without one last year. That came as a surprise to some players given the popularity of golf and the nearly year-round warm weather in Florida.
And with dozens of players doubling as central Florida residents, it’s an added incentive to end the year at home.
“We feel we belong with a tournament here,” said Paula Creamer, who lives in the Isleworth community only a few miles away. “It’s just kind of crazy that we haven’t had one for a while.”
The LPGA Tour Championship will keep the format it used last season, cutting to the lowest 70 scores and ties after 36 holes and an additional cut after 54 holes to the lowest 30 players and ties. That makes the margin for error even slimmer.
Especially at the top.
The format makes a big final-day push almost impossible, because to even make it to Sunday players will have to be in close contention. Of course, the five up for Player of the Year know plenty about winning.
They have combined to win 14 of the 25 events this year, including three of the four majors. Tseng won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Women’s British Open, and Kerr took home the LPGA Championship.
As exciting as those others victories were, all five admitted that Player of the Year honors would top everything.
“For me. Player of the Year is kind of it,” Kerr said. “It’s what you see happening every year, what you wish would happen to you. And I think it’s the yearlong culmination of you’re the best player, this is what it was, these are the points, this is a point toward the Hall of Fame.
“It’s something like winning a major championship and having that trophy in your house and seeing it going, ‘That’s something nobody can ever take away from you.”’
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.