LPGA Set to Make Headlines in 2003
Annika Sorenstam -- The LPGAs all-time leading money winner, who set or tied 20 records in 2002, is showing no signs of slowing down. Sorenstam, who has 42 career wins and will officially qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame at the completion of her 15th event in 2003, will also be the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam will test her skills and unprecedented talent at the Bank of America Colonial, May 22-25, in Ft. Worth, Texas. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Sorenstam will attempt to become the first player ever to accomplish a three-peat at a major championship.
Suzy Whaley -- The LPGA Teaching and Club Professional (T&CP) member who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993 will play in the PGA Tours Greater Hartford Open, June 24-27, after qualifying for the event by winning the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship. Whaley will also get tournament experience when she plays back-to-back LPGA events in June. Whaley captured the 2002 GOLF FOR WOMEN Magazine LPGA T&CP Championship title, which allows her to play in the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, June 5-8. Whaley will then play in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, June 13-15, in Vienna, Ohio, on a sponsors exemption. She also has accepted a sponsor exemption to play in the Michelob Light Open at Kingsmill, May 1-4.
Rookie class -- With 24 LPGA rookies (11 exempt, 17 international), success is in the cards for these newcomers, and the battle for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year will be tight. Five players from the 2002 European Solheim Cup Team are now members of the LPGA Tour: Raquel Carriedo; Karine Icher; Paula Marti; Iben Tinning; and Suzann Pettersen. Two rookies gained exempt status for the 2003 season by finishing first and second on last seasons Futures Tour money list: Lorena Ochoa; and Christina Kim, 18, the youngest player on the LPGA Tour. Ochoa had a record setting amateur career that included 12 collegiate victories at the University of Arizona, eight of which came in 10 events in her sophomore year.
The Solheim Cup -- The 2003 Solheim Cup will be back on European soil when the best U.S.-born players from the LPGA Tour and the best European- born players from the Evian Ladies European Tour (LET) tee it up for the events eighth staging. The Solheim Cup will be held Sept. 12-14 at Barsebck Golf and Country Club in Malmo, Sweden. The United States will defend its title after winning the 2002 Solheim Cup at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., 15 1/2 to 12 1/2. The U.S. Team has won five of seven Solheim Cups, but both of Europes victories came overseas, in 1992 and 2000.
LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame -- Annika Sorenstam will be inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame after her 15th LPGA Tour event, while Karrie Webb will be qualify during the 2005 season. Both have received the requisite number of points to qualify (27) and are merely waiting to fulfill the 10-year membership requirement. A handful of other players are on the verge of getting those priceless points needed to reach the prestigious LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. Laura Davies has 25 points, which makes her just one major championship win shy of gaining entrance into the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. After just five years on Tour, Se Ri Pak has 22 points. If she repeats her 2002 successes, when she won five tournaments and earned six points, all that will stand in her way is the Hall of Fames 10-year membership requirement, which she would meet in 2007. And Dottie Pepper, looking to get back on track after shoulder surgery sidelined her in 2002, has 21 points. A player receives one point for each LPGA official tournament win and two for each LPGA major tournament victory. One point is given for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned. Entrance into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame is limited to players who meet the following criteria: must be an active LPGA Tour member for 10 years; much have won/been awarded at least one LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and must have earned 27 points.
LPGA strategic business plan, year two -- The 2003 season will mark the second year of the LPGAs five-year strategic business plan, which is focused on growing the associations fan base and elevating the celebrity status of its players. Anchored by a Fans First strategy, the LPGAs strategic business plan has goals of increasing tournament attendance 15 percent and television viewership 10 percent annually. In its first year, the plan proved successful, as tournament attendance rose 13 percent and television viewership increased by 20 percent on both network and cable outlets. Fans First initiatives such as DeKuyper Peachtrees Peachtree Pavilions ' sampling of Jim Beam Brands Co. products offered at 10 events throughout the season ' will give LPGA fans new and exciting ways to enjoy their tournament experience.
Career Grand Slam and Super Career Grand Slam -- Five players have achieved the prestigious LPGA Career Grand Slam: Louise Suggs; Mickey Wright; Pat Bradley; Juli Inkster; and Karrie Webb. Webb, who completed the Career Grand Slam in 2002 when she won the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, became the first player in LPGA history to achieve the Super Career Grand Slam when she won the 2003 Weetabix Womens British Open. Those active players closing in on the Career Grand Slam include Laura Davies, Meg Mallon, Se Ri Pak and Jan Stephenson, who all need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship. If Pak accomplishes this task either this season or next, she would become the youngest player in LPGA history to complete the Career Grand Slam (Webb currently owns that record). LPGA Tour Hall of Famers Patty Sheehan and Betsy King both need to win the Weetabix Womens British Open to win the Career Grand Slam. Those closing in on the Super Career Grand Slam include Inkster, who only needs to win the Weetabix Womens British Open, and Laura Davies, Mallon and Stephenson, who need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Weetabix Womens British Open.
Michelle Wie -- Wie became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA tournament at the age of 12 when she Monday qualified for the LPGA Takefuji Classic in 2002. The young phenom, who is now 510 and 13 years old, is taking the golf world by storm, attempting to qualify for PGA Tour events and capturing the eye of many LPGA tournament directors. Wie has received sponsor exemptions to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez, ShopRite LPGA Classic, the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic Presented by ALLTEL and the Safeway Classic. With drives approaching 300 yards, this teen should be one to watch this season and in the years to come.
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park
PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.
Laura Davies won the day.
It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.
Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.
Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.
For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.
In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.
“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”
At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.
“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”
Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.
“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.
With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.
“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”
Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.
“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”
She also relished showing certain fans something.
“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.
In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.
Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.
“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.
After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.
“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”
Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.
In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.
“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”
And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.
Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.
The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?
“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.
After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.
“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”