This Could Be the LPGAs Best Season Ever
Golf ... womens golf that is.
The 2002 LPGA season was an even greater success than the preceding year in which Annika Sorenstam left the world marveling at her golfing prowess. Gone were the memories of Catrin Nilsmark donning hot pants and raising eyebrows. Gone were the ominous thoughts of a declining LPGA Tour.
Now that the 2002 season has officially come to a close, all that can be seen are growing purses, better venues and yes, the LPGA Tour even added a feather in its cap when it garnered Michelob, a former PGA Tour partner, as a sponsor. Commissioner Votaw closed the year with an upbeat speech on the state of the Tour, saying he was bullish. And who can refute his claims that the Tour is in, perhaps, the best position its ever been during the LPGA Tours 52-year history?
After all, Sorenstam did it again. She did the unthinkable. Left us scratching our heads at her achievements, for the second year in a row, wondering how much more she was capable of.
After winning eight tournaments, setting or tying 30 LPGA scoring and money records as well as her historic round of 59 at the Standard Register PING in 2001, she topped her performance this year with 11 LPGA Tour titles, 13 victories worldwide, matched and surpassed the Babe (Babe Zaharias) official career win record by one(42), earned her fifth Player of the Year titles and Vare Trophy title and became the first person, man or woman, to finish the season with a scoring average below 69 in competition. She finished with 68.70, breaking the old record of 69.42.
Im a little in shock, I think, Sorenstam said after her 11th victory. I play golf because I love it. I know inside what Im capable of. And last year was a wonderful year, but I was determined to prove that I could do it again or even better.
Even though Sorenstam dominated the Tour, earning 45.45 percent of all the prize money at the 23 events she entered this year, there were many other standout performances this season.
Juli Inkster, a 28-time LPGA champion and LPGA Tour Hall of Famer, amazed all with her U.S. Womens Open victory this summer. It was her sixth major championship victory and was achieved at the ripe old age of 42. The U.S. team (15 points) brought home the Solheim Cup with an outstanding victory over Europe (12). Rookie of the Year Beth Bauer had such a banner year that she managed to qualify for the season-ending ADT Championship, where she finished with a respectable tie for 11th place. She is without a single victory this season. Her best finish was a tie for second at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, but Bauer is one of many up-and-comers that have the commissioner grinning about the future.
Karrie Webb managed to cross the $1 million mark in season earnings, winning two titles along the way and recording 10 top-10s. She turned what was otherwise a lackluster year into a banner year with her 27th career title win at the Wegmans LPGA Classic. The Aussie then went on to win her fifth major championship title at the Weetabix British Open, becoming the first woman to win Career Grand Slam.
Se Ri Pak took home four victories this season, including her second McDonalds LPGA Championship. Pak is just one title away from completing her career Grand Slam. A win at the 2003 Nabisco Championship will complete her goal.
It was a year of many surprises. The reduced tournament schedule that Commissioner Votaw unveiled just one year ago turned out to be a savvy business decision that only served to strengthen the field at each event and the sponsorships of those events. Yet, while the LPGA was enjoying the fruits of its labors, the rest of the world was getting a wake-up call.
Martha Burk came out of nowhere and put the world of golf in a tailspin with her June correspondence to Augusta National, which included strong implications of discrimination because there were no women members.
Given the recent news from Augusta, it is clear that women will not be admitted anytime soon, Votaw said while giving his opinion on the matter. The news is disappointing because the highly charged rhetoric on both sides of the issue had become a distraction that is damaging the game of golf.'
In my capacity as commissioner, and with the full support of the LPGA Board of Directors, I want to express our wishes that Augusta National do the right thing and admit women as members.
The commissioner has every right to be perturbed. After implementing his master plan - 'The Five Points of Celebrity: Performance, Approachability, Appearance, Passion and Joy and Relevance,' and finially seeing the results of the LPGA Tour's hard work - Votaw must endure yet another storm that has a negative effect on the perception of womens golf.
Counterbalancing the blow-by-blow accounts of Augusta are more recent and uplifting stories of Suzy Whaley, the pro at Connecticuts Blue Fox Run Golf Club in Avon. Whaley received an invitation to play in the 2003 Canon Greater Hartford Open after shooting 68-72-71-211 at Ellington Ridge C.C. to become the first woman to win the PGA section Championship.
It took a long time to make this decision, she said. I understand the historical implication of this decision and the importance it has for women golfers.
Whaley is a sign of a changing climate in womens golf worldwide. Raquel Carriedo, Marine Monnet and Suzanne Pettersen ' all former players of the Evian European Ladies Tour (LET) - represent the changing face of the LPGA Tour.
They are three of five stand out LET players ' the other two being Iben Tinning and Paula Marti - that have chosen to compete in America starting in 2003. All five endured q-school and three of the five, Carriedo, Monnet and Pettersen, managed to play their way into exempt status at qualifying school -Tinning and Marti earned non-exempt conditional status. These young players continue the trend of foreign flavor on the LPGA Tour that has helped make it the premier ladies golf tour in the world.
The commissioner closed the year on a high note with his superstar Sorenstam wowing the crowd right to the bitter end, then Votaw announced what was in store for 2003. He sited 23 full-field events with at least $28.7 million up for grabs in prize money.
Fans of the LPGA will be treated to a schedule of events consistent with 2002, one of the most thrilling and successful seasons in LPGA history, Votaw said.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''
He's making his first start in the event.
''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.
The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.
''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''
Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.
''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.
Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur
Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.
The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.
They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.
It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.
“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”
The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.
The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.