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
Earnings Money
 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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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.