Lewis' quest to regain No. 1 resumes in Australia

By Randall MellFebruary 12, 2014, 2:54 pm

Stacy Lewis wants that Rolex No. 1 ranking back.

Though No. 3 Lewis can’t gain it back with a victory this week at the Women’s Australian Open, she can chip away at No. 1 Inbee Park’s lead with Park not making her 2014 debut until next week’s Honda LPGA Thailand.

In fact, Lewis tees it up this week with the player standing between her and Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. They make for a compelling grouping along with Hall of Famer Karrie Webb in the first two rounds in Australia. They’re scheduled to go off together Thursday at 8:05 a.m. local time – that’s 4:05 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday – at Victoria Golf Club.

Pettersen, by the way, is within reach of taking the No. 1 ranking this week.

Lewis took the No. 1 ranking from Yani Tseng in March of last year and held it for four weeks before Park seized it.

“I really want to get back there, so I can actually enjoy it a little bit more now,” Lewis said in her pre-tournament news conference Wednesday in Victoria.  “I know what to expect. I know kind of what goes along with being No. 1. I certainly don't feel like I lost it. Last year was probably one of the most consistent years I've ever had. So, I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong. I've just got to keep chipping away at Inbee and Suzann, and I'll get there.”

After Park won her third consecutive major championship at the U.S. Women’s Open last year, it lit a fire in Lewis and Pettersen, who both went on tears.

Lewis has made 12 worldwide starts since the U.S. Women’s Open and finished in the top 10 every time. She has won or finished second in half of those starts. She won the major championship right after the U.S. Women’s Open, claiming the Women’s British Open, and has five second-place finishes, including her last two starts.

Pettersen won 2013’s final major, claiming the Evian Championship. Since Park’s historic win at the U.S. Women’s Open, Pettersen has made 10 starts, finishing top 10 in nine of them, winning three of them. That run of victories has put her on the brink of becoming No. 1 for the first time in her career.

“I just want to see how good I can be,” Pettersen said. “I don't want to leave this game knowing I could have done more, or I've left it out there.”

While Pettersen can get to No. 1 this week, Lewis sees an opportunity over the three events on this South Pacific/Asian swing.

“Inbee and Suzann are pretty good ahead of me right now, but I think if I won any time in the next three weeks and played well, I think I could get there before we get back to the U.S.,” Lewis said. “So, it's kind of a little bit of a goal, to chip away at that before we get back to the states.”

This Women’s Australian Open is the second LPGA event of the year. It’s co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour. Rolex No. 4 Lydia Ko, No. 9 Lexi Thompson, No. 11 Catriona Matthew and No. 13 Paula Creamer are also in the field. So is Cheyenne Woods, winner of last week’s Australian Ladies Masters. Ariya Jutanugarn, 18, an emerging force until she injured her shoulder at the Wegmans LPGA Championship last June, is making her first start since the injury. She’s an LET member.

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x