Stat attack!: LPGA season in review

By John AntoniniNovember 25, 2014, 5:52 pm

Stacy Lewis was the LPGA’s triple-crown winner in 2014, having won the Tour’s Player of the Year race, money title and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. That Lewis was able to eke past Inbee Park and Lydia Ko in all three categories is telling, for Lewis’s season was one of the best ever for an American player since International stars came to dominate the Tour in the last 15 or so years. But Park and Ko had monster years themselves.

All three golfers earned more than $2 million in 2014, the first time three players reached that milestone in the same year. Each player won three tournaments. Lewis was second six times, no doubt the edge she needed in the POY race. With 10 top-3 finishes, she slid past Park and Ko by a 10 to 9 to 8 margin. Of the trio, only Park missed a cut this year (Airbus LPGA). With 77 starts between them, the trio combined for 50 top-10 finishes. 

Lewis might have won the three awards, but Ko and Park don’t head into the holiday season empty handed. Ko won the CME Globe season-long points championship (and the $1 million bonus, which doesn’t count toward her season earnings). Park is the current No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.

How the LPGA’s top three players compare: Tournament finishes

 Player Wins 2nds 3rds Top 10 Starts Cuts
made
Earnings Money
rank
 Stacy Lewis 3 6 1 18 28 28 $2,539,039 1
 Inbee Park 3 2 4 17 23 22 2,226,641 2
 Lydia Ko 3 2 3 15 26 26 2,106.654 3

The top five finishers in the LPGA season-long competitions

 Rank CME Globe points Vare trophy
(scoring avg.)
Player of the Year  Rolex Ranking
(as of Nov. 24)
 1 Lydia Ko Stacy Lewis Stacy Lewis Inbee Park
 2 Stacy Lewis Inbee Park Inbee Park Stacy Lewis
 3 Michelle Wie Michelle Wie Lydia Ko Lydia Ko
 4 Inbee Park So Yeon Ryu Michelle Wie Suzann Pettersen
 5 So Yeon Ryu Lydia Ko Shanshan Feng Shanshan Feng

Made in America

Lewis is the first American to sweep the LPGA’s season awards since Betsy King in 1993. Just as impressively, she is the first American to earn more than $2 million in one year. Her $2,539,039 ranks eighth on the Tour’s all-time single-season list. Park, who has surpassed $2 million for three straight years, is ninth (2013), 11th (2012) and 12th (2014) on that list. Ko, in her first year as a professional, ranks 13th. (**The LPGA website credits Ko with earnings of $2,089,033 this year, not counting the $17,621 from her T-19 at the Honda Thailand LPGA. That figure would rank 15th on the single-season money list.)

LPGA single season money leaders

 Year Player Earnings
 2007 Lorena Ochoa $4,364,994
 2011 Yani Tseng 2,921,713
 2002 Annika Sorenstam 2,863,904
 2008 Lorena Ochoa 2,763,193
 2006 Lorena Ochoa 2,592,872
 2005 Annika Sorenstam 2,588,240
 2004 Annika Sorenstam 2,544,707
 2014 Stacy Lewis 2,539,039
 2013 Inbee Park 2,456,619
 2013 Suzann Pettersen 2,296,106

Major moments are few and far between

If the threesome had any disappointments in 2014 it came in the majors. Of the trio, only Inbee Park won a grand-slam event this year, taking the LPGA Championship in a playoff over Brittany Lincicome. She also had the biggest disappointment in a major, having lost the Women’s British Open with a final-round, windswept 77 at Royal Birkdale.

That Sunday stumble, which saw Park fall from first to fourth, two strokes back of winner Mo Martin, would eventually cost her a second-straight Player of the Year award. It also marks the second time that Lewis was able to win season honors without winning a major championship. It’s the ninth time since 1990 that the LPGA’s player of the year did not win a major (coincidentally, King’s 1993 season is also on the list).

Ko, Park and Lewis in the majors in 2014

 Player Kraft U.S. Open British Wegmans LPGA Evian
 Inbee Park T-38 T-43 4 Won T-10
 Stacy Lewis 3 2 T-12 T-6 T-16
 Lydia Ko T-29 T-15 T-29 3 T-8
 Winner Lexi Thompson Michelle Wie Mo Martin Inbee Park Hyo-Joo Kim

LPGA Player of the year honorees who did not win a major: 1990-2014

 Year Player
 2014 Stacy Lewis
 2012 Stacy Lewis
 2009 Lorena Ochoa
 2006 Lorena Ochoa
 1998 Annika Sorenstam
 1997 Annika Sorenstam
 1994 Beth Daniel
 1993 Betsy King
 1991 Pat Bradley

Going low

Park’s 77 at Royal Birkdale will never make anyone’s list for round of the year, but the 26-year-old South Korean did have some of the most noteworthy days on the LPGA in 2014. Her final-round 61 at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic helped her win by three strokes. Later matched by Hyo-Joo Kim’s amazing 61 in the first round of the Evian Championship, they were the lowest rounds of the year on Tour. 

Park also shot 62 in the second round of the Fuban Taiwan LPGA Championship. She is the first player since Grace Park in 2004 to have two rounds of 62 or better in the same LPGA season.

Lowest rounds of the year on the LPGA Tour

 Score (to par) Player Tournament Round Finish
 61 (-10) Hyo-Joo Kim Evian Championship 1 Won
 61 (-10) Inbee Park Manulife Financial 4 Won
 62 (-10) Inbee Park Fuban Taiwan Classic 2 Won
 62 (-10) Mirim Lee Fuban Taiwan Classic 2 13
 62 (-10) Chella Choi Handa Australian Women’s 3 2
 62 (-9) Jennifer Johnson ShopRite Classic 1 T-3
 62 (-9) Laura Diaz Marathon Classic 1 T-18

Two rounds of 62 or better in the same LPGA season since 2000

 Year Player First low score Second low score
 2014 Inbee Park 61, Manulife Financial 62, Fuban Taiwan Classic
 2004 Grace Park 61, Welch’s/Frys 62, Samsung World
 2003 Juli Inkster 62, Welch’s/Frys 62, Corning Classic

Remarkable rookie

Lydia Ko’s first season as a professional was an amazing once-in-a-generation performance for the 17-year-old rookie. Her earnings total broke the rookie record of $1,807,334 by Jiyai Shin in 2009, and her three wins matched Shin for the most by a first-year player since Se Ri Pak won four times in her magical year of 1998.

LPGA Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year winners: 2005-2014

 Year Player Wins Top 10s Money (rank)
 2014 Lydia Ko 3 15 $2,106.654 (3)
 2013 Moriya Jutanugarn 0 1 293,158 (47)
 2012 So Yeon Ryu 1 16 1,282,673 (6)
 2011 Hee Kyung Seo 0 3 619,429 (21)
 2010 Azahara Munoz 0 3 402,498 (30)
 2009 Jiyai Shin 3 12 1,807,334 (1)
 2008 Yani Tseng 1 10 1,752,086 (3)
 2007 Angela Park 0 8 983,922 (8)
 2006 Seon Hwa Lee 1 7 915,590 (12)
 2005 Paula Creamer 2 11 1,531,780 (2)

One final thought: Lewis, Park and Ko played the same event 18 times in 2014, finishing together in the top three just once, at the Fuban Taiwan LPGA Classic. Park beat Lewis by two strokes and Ko by five strokes. It was a harmonic convergence for the Tour’s elite players. With Lewis, the oldest of the trio, turning 30 in February, the Tour’s Big Three should battle for LPGA supremacy for seveal more years. Chances are, that glorious week in Taiwan marks the first of many times the trio are together on LPGA leaderboards. 

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.