No. 1 ranking, awards at stake in Evian

By Randall MellSeptember 12, 2017, 5:14 pm

There’s more than a major championship at stake at the Evian Championship in France this week.

The Rolex world No. 1 ranking and Rolex Annika Major Award are also up for grabs.

No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, No. 2 Lexi Thompson and No. 3 Sung Hyun Park will be grouped together in the first two rounds.

Thompson and Park are both in position to end Ryu’s 12-week reign at world No. 1 at Evian Resort Golf Club. The trio is scheduled to go off Thursday at 2:18 a.m. ET.

Ryu, Thompson and Park are also all in the running to claim the Annika Major Award for the best performances in the majors this year. Thompson has to win this week to be eligible for the award.

Plus, the trio is in position to make a big move at the Rolex Player of the Year Award, with double points up for grabs. Ryu leads the points standings, but Thompson, Park and I.K. Kim could overtake her this week.

As far as the world rankings go, Thompson could move to No. 1 with a finish of fourth or better this week, depending what Ryu and Park do.

Park can go to No. 1, but only if she wins.

Ryu said Tuesday that the No. 1 ranking has come with more pressure than she has let on, and it may have been showing up in her performances this summer. Ryu has two victories this year, including a major (the ANA Inspiration), and she leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes (10), but she said she hasn’t felt comfortable over her last four starts. She missed the cut at the Cambia Portland Classic in her last start two weeks ago.


Evian Championship: Articles, video and photos


“After the U.S. Open, to be honest, I haven’t played well,” Ryu said. “I always feel comfortable in Scotland, but even though I was feeling great, I couldn’t play well there.”

Ryu said she resolved to arrive this week with a new mindset, to better accept and embrace the pressures that come with the No. 1 ranking.

“Before, I didn’t really want to take that pressure, and I just wanted to ignore that,” Ryu said. “Now, I’m just trying to face the pressure.”

Ryu said she has felt escalating pressure from fans, who she knows only mean to encourage her, to cheer her toward the Rolex Player of the Year Award and other honors. She said she also has felt escalating internal pressure.

“I expect a lot from myself,” Ryu said about carrying the No. 1 ranking. “I never allow myself to make bogey, or finish outside the top 10.”

How is she changing her thinking? She said she isn’t expecting perfection.

“I’m a human being,” she said. “As long as I did my best, I should let that go.”

Thompson and Park arrived in France coming off victories in their last starts. They are co-favorites among the bookmakers. SkyBet, Paddy Power and SportingBet make both 8-to-1 favorites to win. Ryu is 14-to-1 with SkyBet and 16-to-1 with Paddy Power and SportingBet.

Thompson won the Indy Women in Tech Championship last weekend. She has two victories and five second-place finishes this year.

The No. 1 ranking, Thompson said, is a goal she is pursuing, but . . .

“A lot of us out here want to be No. 1, but it’s not something we can put on our minds and put that pressure on ourselves,” Thompson said. “We just have to work on our games and let it go once we get to tournaments and show the hard work pays off.”

Park won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in her last start. She has won two of her last four LPGA starts, dating back to the U.S. Women’s Open in July. She is in position to make a run at joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."