Thirty-Six Futures Tour Players Earn LPGA Cards
Paula Creamer, the talented amateur from Pleasanton, Calif., who was
co-medalist at the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament in November, clobbered
the field by five shots at 11-under-par 349 for the 90-hole event held at
LPGA International. Because she entered the week as an amateur, Creamer's
winner's check was split by Futures Tour member Young Jo of Suwon, Korea and
Futures Tour alum Lee Ann Walker-Cooper of Cary, N.C., who each collected
$5,500 for their efforts. Jo and Walker-Cooper tied for second at six-under
'It's the end and it's a new beginning,' said Creamer, 18, of her opening
act as a professional. 'I'm not really surprised about this week because I
came into this tournament wanting to win. Playing in [the Futures Tour]
qualifying a month ago was a good tune-up and it showed me that I needed to
tighten things up and work on my short game. That's what I did before coming
into this week.'
Alternating on both the Champions and Legends courses before playing the
final round on the Legends course, Creamer posted rounds of 70-68-70-71-70.
But Jo's second-round 66 tied as the low round of the week and put the
two-year Futures Tour member in position to make a charge for one of the
exempt cards to join best-pal Aram Cho on the LPGA Tour next year. Cho
earned her exempt status by finishing fourth on the Futures Tour Money List
and Jo, who finished 11th, advanced into LPGA Final Qualifying by finishing
among the Futures' top 15. Ninety holes later, Jo had capitalized on that
opportunity playing in the final group with Creamer and LPGA Tour veteran
'I was prepared because the Futures Tour helped me a lot,' said Jo, who
celebrated after her round with Cho and Futures Tour member Sunny Oh. 'I
never even thought about playing the LPGA Tour until I played the Futures
Tour. This week, I learned I have to play even better.'
For Futures Tour member Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, earning an
exempt LPGA Tour card was even sweeter after losing her No. 5 spot in the
last event of the season to tournament winner Malinda Johnson. Bastel had
virtually locked up her LPGA card to automatically advance to the LPGA Tour,
but was bumped from fifth to sixth position when Johnson won the season's
concluding event. Bastel's determination to change her fortune was evident
with her opening round of 67 in this week's five-round event.
'Ever since the Futures Tour ended in August, I felt like I deserved to be
here,' said Bastel, who tied for fourth at four-under 356 with Futures Tour
member Celeste Troche and LPGA Tour veteran Cathy Johnston-Forbes.
'I had a lot of rounds in the 60s and I had a really good year, so I was obviously
disappointed not to finish in the top five and earn my LPGA card. In the
end, you take away the positives but at the time, it was devastating. That
helped me to be tougher mentally. I'm definitely a better player now than I
was last year this time, thanks to the Futures Tour.'
A non-exempt LPGA Tour member this year, Troche said she was relieved to
finally earn exempt LPGA status. 'I did what I came to do,' said Troche, of
Asuncion, Paraguay, who carded a 67 in the second round. 'On the Futures
Tour, I learned about the rhythm of the competition. Now, it feels like
graduation -- like we're going off to college.'
Futures Tour rookies Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea and Bernadette Luse of
Orlando, Fla., tied for 10th at two-under 358. Yim's nerves rattled to the
tune of five-over-par 77 in the opening round, but the 21-year old settled
down with a four-under-par 68 on the second day.
'I was really nervous that first day and my caddie told me I was too
uptight,' said Yim, who automatically advanced into the LPGA's Final
Qualifying Tournament with her No. 7 position on the Futures Tour's season
money list. 'But playing this year on the Futures Tour, I improved my skills
and my mental game. To get this [LPGA Tour card], I'm very excited and very
Luse played her final three rounds at five-under par to move into a share of
10th place. 'It's just a huge relief to get my LPGA card and this is a real
turning point for me right now,' she said. 'I started playing golf late at
age 15, and I guess I'm a late bloomer, but playing with the Futures was a
great way for me to learn my game.'
Two Futures Tour alums who previously earned their exempt LPGA cards
regained exempt status this week in the qualifier. Korea's Birdie Kim, who
earned her LPGA card in 2003 as Ju Kim, carded a final-round 69 en route to
her one-under-par five-day total of 359 to tie for 12th with Tampa's Beth
Bauer. Bauer posted a five-under-par score of 67 in the second round.
Among the eight players tying for 12th at 359 were Futures Tour members
Katie Allison of Mahwah, N.J., and Amy Hung of Taiwan. Allison, 24, called
getting her LPGA Tour card 'pretty surreal.'
'It was a marathon out there,' she said. 'I had to really focus on targets
and taking deep breaths just to get the job done. I'm thrilled that I made
it, but now the work begins.'
Allison, who played her first year on the Futures Tour this season, said she
learned 'how to score and how to stay in it' this year. She finished ranked
51st after 15 events. 'Playing week to week really got me ready for LPGA
Qualifying and I have to say that my game is dramatically different now than
a year ago,' she said. 'I owe that to what I learned playing with the
Brittany Lincicome, the teen from Seminole, Fla., who tied Creamer last
month for medalist honors in the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament, tied
for 20th at even-par 360 with Futures Tour members Kristin Samp of Moberly,
Mo., and Hana Kim of Los Angeles. Futures Tour member Jordan Cherebetiu of
Rapid City, S.D., finished 24th at one-over 361 to also earn her exempt 2005
LPGA Tour card.
'I cried coming up the 18th fairway,' confessed Kim, 22, who played
collegiately at Northwestern and UCLA. 'I worked hard on the Futures Tour
this year and felt prepared coming in. To earn my way onto the LPGA Tour was
my ultimate goal of the year.'
Seven players played off three extra holes for the final six exempt cards
with Futures Tour members Mee Na Lee of Seoul, Korea, Dina Ammaccapane of
Phoenix and Joellyn-Erdmann-Crooks grabbing three of those cards.
'It just feels good to finish the year not burned out,' laughed
Erdmann-Crooks, who played full-time with the Futures from 1999-2003 and six
events last year.
Three 2004 Futures Tour tournament winners earned non-exempt LPGA Tour
status for 2005. Erica Blasberg of Corona, Calif., finished 4th non-exempt
at three-over 363, followed by Naree Song of Seoul, who finished 16th at
five-over 365, and Courtney Wood of Brentwood, Tenn., who finished 30th
Seven of the Futures Tour's top-10 players and 12 of the top 15 earned some
type of LPGA Tour status for 2005. Ninth-ranked Kris Tamulis of Naples,
Fla., finished as fifth non-exempt at three-over 363 after being tied for
18th overall after four rounds. Tamulis' four-over-par 76 in the final round
stole her chance of playing off for one of the final cards. Allison Hanna of
Portland, Ore., ranked 13th on the Futures Tour Money List, finished as 34th
non-exempt at nine-over 369. Eighth-ranked Kyeong Bae of Seoul, 10th-ranked
Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea and 15th-ranked Michelle Murphy of Tacoma,
Wash., all missed the 72-hole cut.
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
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.
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.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
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.
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.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
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.
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.