LPGA points race conjures memories of past playoffs

By Randall MellJanuary 8, 2014, 3:18 pm

Six years after the demise of the LPGA Playoffs at the ADT, the women’s best players are welcoming the return of another $1 million payday in a new season-long competition.

The new Race to the CME Globe unveiled Wednesday on Golf Channel excites players who remember the buzz the LPGA Playoffs once created for the season finale at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla. LPGA pros played off for a $1 million prize dramatically showcased with armored guards protecting a glass cube full of cash on display at the event. Those playoffs lasted just three years, with the event folding with the departure of ADT as a title sponsor after the ’08 event.

“I always liked the season-ender, when there was a reward for a great, consistent year with the possibility of a big payday, if you can save something special for the end of the year,” said Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, a member of the LPGA’s Board of Directors.

Julieta Granada won the first million-dollar payday in the history of women’s golf, winning the playoffs in ’06 at Trump International. Lorena Ochoa won it in ’07 and Jiyai Shin in ’08.

While the new Race to the CME Globe isn’t a playoff, it’s another season-long competition that will end with a big-bang finish in the season finale at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., Nov. 20-23.

“I really like the concept of a year-long points race that rewards consistent play rather than one good week,” Webb said. “I like the fact that the points will reset for the CME Group Tour Championship and allow for a larger group of players to have the opportunity to win the Race to the CME Globe. It should provide an exciting year with a very exciting finish.”

Count Morgan Pressel among those applauding the return of a season-long competition. Like Webb, she competed in the old LPGA Playoffs.

“I think it will be a lot of fun to see how it plays out in its first year,” Pressel said Wednesday in her appearance on “Morning Drive.” “Some of the other tours have had success, with the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup. It keeps people interested and gives us something to play for. I like playing for a million dollars. I like having that chance.”

The LPGA Playoffs at the ADT used points for first- and second-half qualifying for the playoffs, but the winner wasn't crowned based on points at the season finale. Instead, stroke play decided things, with the field dramatically cut from 32 players to 16 players after two rounds. Scores were then wiped clean with another cut to eight players after the third round. Sudden-death playoffs added more drama breaking any ties for the top eight. Scores were wiped clean once again before the final round, with the low final-round score taking home the jackpot.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.