Its Crunch Time for Hopefuls
It is a week when dreams are accomplished or nightmares become a reality. Its not uncommon for this tournament to be called the most stressful on the LPGA Tour. Play well for four days and the 2004 LPGA Tour season is yours for the taking. One wayward drive or a couple of putts left short, and a player can leave packing her bags and wondering about next year. For 72 holes it is all or nothing.
Two LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournaments'one in Venice, Fla., and the other in Rancho Mirage, Calif. ' have been held to help determine the field for the Final LPGA Qualifying Tournament. The top 30 finishers from each LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament advanced to the final stage and join 64 current LPGA Tour members who are trying to improve their playing status for 2004.
The field is completed by the five players who finished sixth through 10th on the final 2003 Futures Tour money list. The top five finishers on the Futures Tour money list automatically received their exempt card for 2004.
Seventeen-year-old sensation Aree Song, who joined Kelly Lagedrost and Koreas Seol-An Jeon as medalists at the Florida sectional, will garner a lot of attention this week. Song is one of the most highly touted players in the tournament and has been a sponsor exemption fixture in LPGA events for many years, but it is her age that makes her appearance so intriguing.
The minimum age to compete on the LPGA Tour is 18, but Song, who will not celebrate her 18th birthday until after the 2004 season has started, received special permission from LPGA Commissioner Ty M. Votaw to compete and try to earn her card for next year.
Song turned professional last August, but has played in 14 LPGA events as an amateur since 2000, making the cut in 11, including all six major championships in which she has played.
Michelle Simpson had to travel to the West Coast to pick up medalist honors at the California sectional, but now the New Smyrna Beach, Fla., resident will compete a few miles from her home for a tour card. She led after every round in California and cruised to a four-shot victory.
Other notables in the event include 2001 U.S. Womens Amateur Champion and 2002 U.S. Curtis Cup Team member Meredith Duncan; 2002 U.S. Womens Amateur Champion Becky Lucidi; and 2002 U.S. Curtis Cup Team members Emily Bastel and Laura Myerscough.
Nuria Clau, Amy Hung and Danielle Masters are the only amateurs competing.
The field will be cut to the low 70 players and ties after 54 holes, and a sudden-death playoff will be held for the 28th exempt card in the event of a tie. The next 35 players and ties will receive non-exempt status for the 2004 season.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early
The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...
Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.
McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.
Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.
“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.
And that was an offseason event.
“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.
As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.
So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”
Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.
His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.
It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.
There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.
There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.
While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.
There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.
Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.
He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.
Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.