Shag Bag Blog Week 17

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
Welcome to the Shag Bag, where the GolfChannel.com team and Golf Channel talent will regularly file thoughts and opinions from around the world of golf.
 

 
Lorena Ochoa faces an unexpected challenge in her bid to win the Corona Championship in Sunday's final round.
 
She's playing without her devoted caddie, Dave Brooker.
 
Brooker broke a foot in the caddie soccer game at the course on Saturday night, LPGA officials confirmed. Ochoa has a trustworthy sub, though. Rafael Alarcon, her coach, is toting her bag. Alarcon has been her coach since her junior days.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 26, 1:37 p.m. ET

 

 
After winning five LPGA events in 2007, Suzann Pettersen will be looking to end an 0 for 32 run on that tour in Sundays pursuit of Lorena Ochoa at the Corona Championship.
 
Some things you may not know about Pettersen (from SuzannGolf.com):
 
If you were not a pro golfer what would you be? Physiotherapist or professional skiier
 
Favorites loaded on your Thump or iPod? Coldplay, U2, Elton John and Snoop Dog. I just rediscovered the Backstreet Boys.
 
Do you have any other special talents? I love skiing
 
Favorite film? Caddyshack
 
Favorite books? Kjetil Andre Aamodt (most winning medalist in alpine skiing); Den neste er den beste
 
Favorite TV show? Friends
 
Five items I can't live without: Music, friends, family, golf, wine
 
Party animal or mellow TV on the couch? Depends on the season, but I could fall into the party animal category...
 
Any last words? You never know what will happen tomorrow, so be happy and smile.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 26, 9:47 a.m. ET

 

 
The 24/7 coverage of the NFL draft got us thinking ' as if anyone needs instant access to who the Denver Broncos pick in the fourth round ' how interesting it would be if Ryder and Presidents Cup captains were allowed to simply pick their players.
 
The first pick in any pool, naturally, would be Tiger Inc. On one leg or two, at Bethpage or Birkdale and whether its stroke play or match play, ETW is a franchise player any way you slice it.
 
Picks 2-5 are not as clear. Phil Mickelson may be the second-ranked player, but were going with the best athlete available. Give us Anthony Kim, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and . . . regardless of clubhouse synergy, Sergio Garcia.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 25, 8:20 p.m. ET

 

 
Suzann Pettersen will be aiming to spoil the party in Mexico on Sunday.
 
Give Pettersen credit on Saturday at the Corona Championship.
 
With Lorena Ochoa a national golf hero, and playing in her homeland with all the support that goes with that, Pettersen didn't back down in their head-to-head duel in the third round. Ochoa needed a birdie at the 17th hole to secure a one-shot lead going into Sunday's final round, where she'll be paired once more with Pettersen. Ochoa won this event by 11 shots last year.
 
After making a bogey early in the first round, Pettersen has made 16 birdies and two eagles without another bogey over the last 50 holes. With these birdie machines in good form, Sunday could be a shootout. Ochoa's at 20 under. The LPGA 72-hole record for scoring in relation to par is 27 under. Annika Sorenstam set the mark at the Standard Register Ping at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix in 2001.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 25, 6:56 p.m. ET

 

 
The swine flu that has killed nearly 70 people and sickened thousands more across Mexico will not affect the playing of this weekend's Corona Championship in Morelia.
 
'(The) tournament is being played as scheduled,' Connie Wilson, LPGA vice president of communications, told GolfChannel.com via e-mail.
 
According to the Associated Press, the disease has already reached Texas and California, with 24 new suspected cases reported Saturday in Mexico City alone. World Health Organization officials said it could reach 'pandemic potential.'
 
Morelia is about 130 miles west-northwest of Mexico City.
 
' Mercer Baggs
Posted April 25, 1:07 p.m. ET

 

 
LPGA fans who have been waiting two weeks for the tour to resume could be getting a terrific weekend treat.
 
Midway through Fridays second round of the Corona Championship, heres the leaderboard:
 
Karrie Webb (-9); Michelle Wie (-9); Lorena Ochoa (-8); Kristy McPherson (-8).
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 24, 12:48 p.m. ET

 

 
This just in from TigerWoods.com, the world No. 1 will play next weeks Quail Hollow Championship, an event hes played three times and won in 2007.
 
Considering the health of his rebuilt left knee is no longer a concern and assuming at least a passing interest in playing the Tours 15-event minimum in 2009, Woods schedule the rest of the way is at least partially predictable.
 
After Quail Hollow, expect TW to play The Players ' which he has also committed to playing ' Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T National (which he has already committed to), British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and Tour Championship.
 
Of course, our crystal ball didnt see an Angel Cabrera Masters victory coming, so you may want to hold off on that week-long pass at Firestone.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 24, 10:58 a.m. ET

 

 
The charmingly pessimistic Gavin Coles managed to shoot 4-under par in Round 1 of the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic on Thursday. Consider that Coles is one of the shortest hitters in professional golf, Kinderlou Forest measures 7,781 yards (the longest course in Nationwide Tour history) and it becomes a surprising round.
 
He may have had a premonition though as he was in a surprisingly upbeat mood early in the week. Remembering that he went toe-to-toe with Vijay Singh a couple years ago in Houston on a very long track, Coles didn't discount his odds this week. 'He definitely woke up on the right side of the bed this week,' Kay Cockerill noted in our production meeting.
 
The irony in this lies in the fact that Coles is never one to shy away from his opinion ' much to the delight of his peers. He receives more needling than just about anyone else. So much so that awhile back, in the player dining area, Dicky Pride walked in, saw Gavin, and instead of asking 'Is everything okay,' he asked, 'Anything okay, Colesy?'
 
After hearing me say that he woke up on the right side of the bed during the telecast, Gavin texted me, 'By the way, I fell out of bed and landed on my head.' The man is priceless.
 
' Jerry Foltz
Posted April 24, 9:23 a.m. ET

 

 
Kenny Perrys appearance at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans appears to be just what the doctor ordered.
 
Dr. Richard Coop, a professor of educational psychology at the University of North Carolina who works with a lot of tour pros, didnt have to be in New Orleans to hear something therapeutic in Perrys interviews with media this week.
 
He hears Perry, who opened with a 3-under-par 69 Thursday, making healthy attempts to purge his Masters disappointment.
 
Something like that, its better to talk about it than push it down, Coop said. When you push it down, it can be like pushing a beach ball down into a swimming pool. Eventually, its going to come shooting back up, and its going to come up with a lot of force, if you dont deal with it.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 23, 9:03 p.m. ET

 

 
In case you werent paying attention, the LPGA is back in action this week at the Corona Championship in Morelia, Mexico. The last time we saw the tour was three weeks ago in California when Brittany Lincicome eagled the 72nd hole to beat friend Kristy McPherson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
But, the women are back in full force with Lorena Ochoa leading the way at a tournament that she essentially helped bring to her native country. A smooth 8-under 65 on the par 73 Tres Marias course gave the tours No. 1 player the first-round lead by a shot over three women.
 
One of those three women? Michelle Wie.
 
Thats right, after starting the season hot in Hawaii, shes cooled off a bit in her last two performances ' at the Phoenix LPGA and the Kraft Nabisco. But an opening round 66 (7 birdies, 2 bogeys and an eagle) all but guarantees that media types here in the U.S. will keep an eye on the 19-year-old to see if she can collect her first professional victory.
 
Itll be a tall order for Wie to go toe-to-toe with Ochoa the next three days. Stay tuned. . .
 
' Jay Coffin
Posted April 23, 8:33 p.m. ET

 

 
In consecutive days Brendon Todd covered the par-3 17th hole at the Nationwide Tours Athens Regional Foundation Classic in two strokes, two aces and six pops less than it took the Tour rookie to complete the par-4 fifth hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday.
 
Keep up because this gets confusing. Todds second shot from 162 yards sailed over the green. No. 3 moved about 7 yards into some foliage and it took two more swings and a penalty stroke to reach the putting surface for a two-putt quadruple bogey-8.
 
The bad news? Golf gives and golf takes away. The good news? Todd proved that bad golf doesnt have to take forever, playing the fifth hole in less than 15 minutes.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 23, 3:46 p.m. ET

 

 
Not a good sign that a repeat is in the offing when Sergio Garcia returns to TPC Sawgrass in two weeks to defend his Players title with a belly putter in tow.
 
At the urging of putting guru Stan Utley, Garcia switched to a standard-length putter last year at Sawgrass and won the biggest title of his career, but the Spaniard has been less-than-prolific since that breakthrough and currently ranks a pedestrian 161st in putting average.
 
Garcia used the longer putter at Augusta, poorly, but plans to probably keep it in the bag for TPC.
 
I'm going to travel with it. I don't know if I'm going to use it, Garcia said Thursday.
 
Sometimes my grip kind of moves too much back and forward. So instead of kind of letting the face of the club do the work, you know, I kind of do it with the top of the putter. That's when I lose all my power and then my speed gets bad and my confidence kind of goes down a little bit.
 
Just a hunch, but the return to the long stick may have shaken the confidence of those looking for an El Nino double.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 23, 3:11 p.m. ET

 

 
Lanny Wadkins was introduced Thursday morning at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as the newest member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
Asked the one moment that stood out in a career that included a major championship (1977 PGA Championship) over three decades, he flashed back to the 1983 Ryder Cup.
 
He still treasures the memory of the shot he hit at the 18th hole to clinch the United States victory at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
 
I remember it to this day, Wadkins said. Wedge to one foot. Tom Kite slapped me on the back, and I turned to say something and nothing came out. First time in my life nothing came out.
 
Wadkins said he used the memory of that shot to draw strength from when faced with future challenges.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 23, 11:23 a.m. ET

 

 
Ever had your hard drive crash on your computer? I did last week and it was pure bliss. No computer and a cell phone that didn't work in my hotel. Felt like I was on vacation. But now, with a surgically repaired computer, I'm back and able to share a story from Brian Gay's first hole last Sunday at the Verizon Classic.
 
After two textbook shots into the first green, Gay stood over his 12-footer for an important opening birdie, which would send a message that he had no intentions on putting it in reverse. As he got into his pre-putt routine, a cell phone rang from a spectator 20 feet away on the back side of the green. It wasn't a loud ring but Brian's caddie, Kip Henley definitely heard it and assumed Brian did as well. Only, Brian never stepped away. He continued with his routine and calmly drained the message-sending downhill putt.
 
As Henley shared with me on the way to the second tee, Brian heard it too. Kip asked him why he didn't step away. 'I don't know, I just kept putting. I felt good,' Gay said.
 
It brings to mind the old Jack Nicklaus story when a reporter asked him if the low, loud jet flying overhead on a particular putt had distracted him. Jack's reply, 'What jet.'
 
' Jerry Foltz
Posted April 22, 4:46 p.m. ET

 

 
Look whos joining the Champions Tour this week.
 
Tom Lehman, who turned 50 on March 7, will make his debut on the over-50 circuit Friday at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Westin Savannah (Ga.) Harbor Resort and Spa. Hes paired with Bernhard Langer in the two-man team event.
 
Lehman says hell go back and forth from the PGA Tour and Champions Tour this season but expects to play about 10 events on the senior circuit. A five-time PGA Tour winner, Lehman will be looking for his first victory in nine years. He missed much of last season with an elbow injury but showed a return to form finishing tied for eighth at the Transitions Championship in Tampa last month. That could spell trouble for his new/old peers.
 
Lehman says hes suspicious of what hes hearing in his welcome to the tour.
 
You get the same song and dance from everybody, a bunch of old guys that can't play anymore and just take it easy on us, he told reporters at the event. I know better.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 22, 2:04 p.m. ET

 

 
Danny Lee was asked what his expectations are in his pro debut this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
 
Im really confident with my game this week, and, hopefully, Ill win this event and play in The Players Championship, he said.
 
Lee, who was 18 years and one month old when he bumped Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur last August, became the youngest winner of a European Tour event when he claimed the Johnnie Walker Classic in February. He was just the second amateur to win on that tour.
 
Woods tied for 60th at the Greater Milwaukee Open in his pro debut. He won his fifth start, the Las Vegas Invitational.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 22, 11:08 a.m. ET

 

 
Seems there are still some devils in the PGA Tours drug-testing details. During a player meeting at the Nationwide Tours South Georgia Classic on Tuesday officials were pressed about an apparent glitch in the policy.
 
Although testing can occur at any time, the cornerstone to any program, most players are asked after their rounds to comply. During a rain delay, however, the policy has become something of a problem.
 
One player at the meeting said he was tested after play was called at an event due to inclement weather and didnt complete the test until almost 9:30 p.m. Compounding the problem is an early restart the day after a weather delay.
 
The fix, according to one player who attended the meeting, seems to be an adjustment to the policy that would allow testing after a player has completed his round and signed his scorecard.
 
Of course, compared to other sports, if the biggest problem with testing for performance-enhancing drugs is timing, then golf should consider itself lucky.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 22, 10:35 a.m. ET

 

 
Your move, Tiger.
 
Phil Mickelson committed Tuesday afternoon to playing in next weeks Quail Hollow Championship. After their terrific Sunday final-round pairing at the Masters, where Woods and Mickelson jolted Augusta National with a symphony of roars, who isnt eager for a reprise? Friday is the deadline to commit to the Quail Hollow. Of course, even if Woods commits, theres no guarantee well see them paired together in another Sunday duel, but even the chance of a rematch intensifies interest in Quail Hollows start.
 
The likelihood Woods is going to commit appears strong with his caddie, Steve Williams. The Kiwi lists the Quail Hollow Championship among upcoming events on his Web site.
 
Mickelson might have gotten the best of Woods by a shot at the Masters (67-68) this year, but if youre keeping score, Woods is 11-9-4 in their head-to-head meetings. Theyre 3-3-1 in Sunday pairings.
 
Woods stroke average is 68.95 when theyre head-to-head, Mickelsons 70.12.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 21, 4:02 p.m. ET

 

 
Michelle Wies withdrawal from the pro-am before the Korean LPGAs Lotte Mart Womens Open last week wasnt the unexpected news it was presented to be in overseas news reports, according to Wies management team. Wie withdrew, it was reported, after she was informed that she wouldnt be allowed to use her caddie in the pro-am. KLPGA officials excluded regular caddies from the pro-am to promote better interaction between pros and their amateur partners.
 
Michelle was, in fact, given permission by Lotte, the title sponsor, to miss the Pro-Am after a miscommunication between Lotte and the KLPGA, Dave Haggith, communications director for IMG Golf, wrote in an e-mail response to a question about the Korean news reports. She merely accepted an offer from the title sponsor of the event to allow her preparation and practice time in advance of the event [which she obviously had very little of after getting to Korea]. All went very well that week, though, and Michelle was very appreciative of the invitation to participate.
 
Wie tied for 36th at the Lotte Mart Womens Open and is competing this week at the LPGAs Corona Championship in Mexico.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 21, 1:14 p.m. ET

 

 
Second most-asked question ' after the standard Do Tiger and Phil like each other? ' is who is our favorite Tour player? And the answer always surprises.
 
Truth is, financially-secure golf professionals have little in common with fiancially-challenged golf writers, and our favorites are usually players your off-the-shelf golf fan has never rooted for.
 
Thus we cheered Patrick Sheehans victory last week on the Nationwide Tour ' a good things happening to good people kind of deal. Sheehan was at his best last year at The Barclays following a non-descript 70 in Round 3. Most players sulk after a tough round, but all Sheehan wanted to do was play golf.
 
I cant wait to get home next week to play, he smiled. I just love to play.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 20, 5:04 p.m. ET

 

 
What are Michael Jordans chances of breaking 100 at Bethpage Black in Golf Digests U.S. Open Challenge?
 
He better hit it straight, Tiger Woods said during the AT&T National media day on Monday.
 
Jordan will join singer Justin Timberlake, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and an amateur to be determined by online voting in a round on Bethpage Black that will be taped and aired by NBC on Sunday, June 21, before the final round of the U.S. Open.
 
Woods suggested the nature of Jordans game depends on whats at stake. He and Jordan first played together in Chicago during the NBA playoffs, back when Jordan was still an NBA player. Woods said Jordan shot 88 in their first round together, then followed it up with a 73.
 
Obviously, I got suckered in and learned my lesson, Woods said.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 20, 3:16 p.m. ET

 

 
You can question the means, but not the ends to Briny Bairds week on Harbour Town Golf Links diminutive greens.
 
Baird switched to a belly putter for last weeks Verizon Heritage, a move that resulted in one of his most solid putting weeks of the year including a steely 62 for 67 from 10 feet and in.
 
Baird was prompted to go with the longer model after watching Angel Cabrera win last weeks Masters with a belly putter. The rub, of course, is that the Argentine doesnt use a belly putter, just a slightly longer version of a standard putter.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 20, 11:07 a.m. ET

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”

For Ariya, Lexi, finish was fabulous, frustrating

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 12:47 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lexi Thompson can take a punch.

You have to give her that.

So can Ariya Jutanugarn, who beat Thompson in the gut-wrenching conclusion to the CME Group Tour Championship Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

They both distinguished themselves overcoming adversity this season.

The problem for Thompson now is that she’ll have to wait two months to show her resolve again. She will go into the long offseason with the memory of missing a 2-foot putt for par that could have won her the championship, her first Rolex Player of the Year Award and her first Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Thompson took home the CME Globe $1 million jackpot and Vare Trophy for low scoring as nice consolation prizes, but the Sunday finish was a lot like her season.

It was so close to being spectacular.

She was so close to dominating this year.

That last 2-foot putt Sunday would have put Thompson in the clubhouse at 15 under, with a one-shot lead, which would have added so much more pressure to Jutanugarn as she closed out.

Instead of needing to birdie the final two holes to force a playoff, Jutanugarn only needed to birdie one of them to assure extra holes. She went birdie-birdie anyway.

Thompson was on the practice putting green when she heard the day’s last roar, when Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-foot birdie to beat her.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” Thompson said of the short miss. “I don’t really know what happened there. It just happens. I guess it’s golf.”


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Thompson was asked if the weight of everything at stake affected her.

“No, honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it,” she said. “I putted great the whole day. I guess, maybe, there was just a little bit of adrenaline.

“We all go through situations we don’t like sometimes.”

Thompson endured more than she wanted this year.

She won twice, but there were six second-place finishes, including Sunday’s. There were three losses in playoffs.

There was the heart-wrenching blow at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, when she looked as if she were going to run away with the title before getting blindsided by a four-shot penalty in the final round. There were two shots when a viewer email led to a penalty for mismarking her ball on a green in the third round, and two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Thompson was in tears finishing that Sunday at Mission Hills, but she won a legion of new fans in the way she fought back before losing in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

There was more heartache later in the spring, when Thompson’s mother, Judy, was diagnosed with uterine cancer, requiring surgery to remove a tumor and then radiation.

For Thompson fans, Sunday’s missed 2-foot putt was a cruel final blow to the year.

This time, there were no tears from Lexi afterward.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds . . . it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said. “This won’t either.”

After Thompson bounced back from the ANA loss to win the Kingsmill Invitational in May, she acknowledged how the loss motivated her.

“I'm as determined as any other person out here,” Thompson said. “We all want to win. I have a little bit more drive now.”

She was so close this year to elevating herself as the one true rock star in the women’s game. She will have a long offseason to turn Sunday’s disappointment into yet more fuel to get there.

Thompson will prepare for next year knowing Jutanugarn may be ramping her game back up to dominante, too.

Jutanugarn looked as if she were going to become a rock star after winning five times last year to claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and then rising to No. 1 with a victory at the Manulife Classic back in May, but it didn’t happen.

Jutanugarn struggled through a summer-long slump.

She failed to make a cut in six of seven starts. It wasn’t as miserable a slump as she endured two years ago, when she missed 10 consecutive cuts, but it was troubling.

“Even though I played so badly the last few months, I learned a lot,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m growing up a lot, and I’m really ready to have some fun next year.”

Her surgically repaired shoulder was bothering her again, but it was more than that.

“This time it was more about becoming No. 1,” said Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “I think all of the responsibilities got to her.”

Gilchrist said he could see a different focus in Jutanugarn this week. He credited Vision 54s Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott for helping her deal with all the pressure that has mounted with her growing status.

“It’s been a long process,” Nilsson said. “She’s felt too much expectation from everybody else, where she loses focus on what she can do.”

Marriott said they asked Jutanugarn to come up with something she wanted to do to make herself proud this week, instead of worrying about what would please everyone else.

It worked.

“I told my caddie, Les [Luark], that thinking about the No. 1 ranking wasn’t going to help me be a better golfer,” Jutanugarn said. “I wanted people to say, `Oh this girl, she’s really happy.’ That was my goal, to have fun.”

Late Sunday, hoisting the trophy, Jutanugarn looked like she was having a lot of fun.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.