Chase for No. 1 resumes on LPGA Tour

By Randall MellFebruary 12, 2013, 11:57 pm

It’s all about the chase.

All the top players are in hot pursuit of Yani Tseng in women’s golf.

The LPGA’s 2013 season begins this week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open with a pack of challengers looking to ratchet up the pressure on the Rolex world No. 1.

Will Tseng rebound from last year’s struggles and ward off her challengers with a fast start at Royal Canberra Golf Club?

Or will American Stacy Lewis build on her sizzling run of a year ago and make another big move to overtake Tseng? Lewis became the first American in 18 years to win the LPGA Player of the Year award last season.

Tseng, Ko, Wie make up featured group in LPGA Aussie opener

How about 15-year-old amateur sensation Lydia Ko? Is she good enough to send a message to Tseng this week? Ko has climbed to No. 30 in the world with three victories and two second-place finishes in just 12 professional starts. She is paired with Tseng in the first two rounds of this week’s Women’s Australian Open. Ko is also scheduled to play next week’s Honda LPGA Thailand, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and the U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open this summer. How high can this phenom climb in the world rankings?

With world No. 2 Na Yeon Choi waiting to make her start in Thailand next week, Lewis is the next highest ranked player in this week’s field to Tseng. At No. 3, Lewis is eager to keep climbing.

“My goal every week last year was just to be in contention going into Sunday,” Lewis said. “That doesn’t change.

“Ultimately, I do want to be No. 1 this year. That’s kind of in the back of my mind. For me, I have to have the short-term focus. I can’t think about player of the year, or winning the money list. You can’t think about that now. It’s just about giving yourself chances to win.”

Tseng’s challengers will be attuned to what kind of form she shows in her 2013 debut this week. Tseng, 24, looked vulnerable through much of last year. Players will sense a real opportunity if she gets off to a sluggish start this season.

Since April of last year, Lewis has won four LPGA titles. Tseng is looking for her first title in 10 months.

Tseng’s run at No. 1 will reach exactly two years on Saturday. While 15 wins in 15 months helped her build a giant lead in the world rankings early last year, the lead is shrinking rapidly.

Tseng has 9.69 average world ranking points this week. Nine months ago, she was a whopping 12.15 average world ranking points ahead of Lewis. Today, Tseng is just 1.73 average points ahead of Lewis and just 1.21 average points ahead of Choi.

What does that mean?

It means if Lewis or Choi can win a couple events early and Tseng doesn’t answer, the No. 1 ranking will be up for grabs.

Lewis, 27, isn’t the only American sensing opportunity.

Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer aren’t in this week’s field, but they will both be teeing it up at the Honda LPGA Thailand next week. Fixtures among the top 10 in the world ever since the Rolex world rankings made their debut in 2006, Kerr and Creamer have both slipped out of the top 10. Kerr is No. 11, Creamer No. 13.

They’re both in pursuit of big years.

“Anytime a player wins a couple majors and four or five tournaments in a year, it’s hard to unseat them,” said Kerr, 35. “But it seems like Yani has had a little bit more inconsistency the last year. There’s definitely an opportunity to move up in the world rankings, but I think I would probably have to have a career year to get back to No. 1.”

Kerr and Creamer aren’t just chasing Tseng. They’re chasing Lewis.

Since the world rankings were created, Kerr and Creamer have taken turns reigning as the top American. Kerr is the only American to hold the No. 1 ranking. She had it for five weeks in 2010. Lewis took over as the top American last year.

“I’ve never made a secret of what I want,” Creamer, 26, said. “I want to be the No. 1 player in the world, and I’ve never been shy about wanting to be the No. 1 American. Yeah, it’s a motivator. It makes you work harder. I want to be in that spot. I know Stacy is in that spot and wants to keep it and hold it, but I can’t control what she does. I’m working hard. I can only control me, and how hard I’ve been working, and just getting the job done.”

Creamer is looking for her 10th LPGA title, her first since the U.S. Open in 2010.

“I’m feeling like maybe this is the year I can pull everything together and get on the right track,” Creamer said.

Kerr endured some frustrations last year, but she won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in the second to last event of the season. It was her 15th LPGA title, her first since winning the LPGA Championship in 2010.

“Winning was huge for me, for my confidence, for inspiring me to work on my game in the offseason and for looking forward to the future, being hungry and excited,” Kerr said. “Golf is a sport where you can put in a lot of work and often not see a lot of reward. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve worked hard, and I’ve had a lot of success over the years. To have a period of time where I’m doing a lot of things right and not get a win, that was frustrating. You kind of want to lose your confidence a little bit. Winning showed me you have to persevere, you can’t lose the faith.”

So let the chase resume.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm