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.
Monday Scramble: For money and love
Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.
She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.
She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.
Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.
“It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”
But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.
What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak.
1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.
In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.
Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?
2. Some of the other awards ...
Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?
Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.
No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green …
3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.
Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.
Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.
4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.
She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.
5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.
Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.
Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.
6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.
Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time.
7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.
He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.
Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.
8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.
After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.
He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.
“I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said.
9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.
Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:
I'm extremely impressed just like I was 7 years ago with this young man @hr59sam. @EuropeanTour School is a daunting week. Many congratulations to now being employed and I hope you enjoy the new job. May you have a long and successful career mate. pic.twitter.com/o8CCluTyI8— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) November 16, 2017
Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.
10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.
The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.
This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).
Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.”
Um, has this ever happened before?
I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71.
This week's award winners ...
Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.
Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s.
Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.
Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign.
Well that wasn’t quite the finish to my year I had in mind!! Had some chest pain last night and into this morning & it kept getting worse. After some medical advice, I had to withdraw & was shipped off to the hospital to get my heart looked at. After 7 hours of tests all looks good with my heart thankfully A big thank you to the staff at the South East Georgia Brunswick hospital for taking good care of me. Time to put my feet up for a few weeks, recharge, regroup and get ready for a big 2018.
All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.”
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh.
Love to undergo hip replacement surgery
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.
Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.
Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.
Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.
“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”
LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY
NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.
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.
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
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.
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.”