Trump Hosts LPGA Tour Championship
The LPGA Tyco/ADT Championship set to debut at Donald Trump's new masterpiece - Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. - boasts a $1-million purse with $215,000 set aside for this years champion.
Pepper captured last years title at LPGA International Legends Course by three strokes over Rachel Teske after recording a four-day total of 9-under-par 279. This time around, Pepper - who has 17 LPGA Tour victories to her credit including two majors - has the home court advantage. She is the only player in the elite 30-woman field to hold a membership at Trump International. Its an advantage that cannot go unnoticed considering the South Florida residents performance last year.
You have to play your way into the Tour Championship. Thats what makes it so special. But in some cases, there are players that failed to finish in the top 30 and now find themselves afforded the opportunity to compete this week; Betsy King (31st) and Moria Dunn (32nd) are two of these players. King and Dunn replace Teske and Mi Hyun Kim.
Se Ri Pak ' second on the money list ' surprised everyone with her announcement to forgo the Championship and return to Korea to be with her family.
Pak withdrew from the event citing a family illness and was replaced by Marisa Baena, 33rd on the money list. Baena is one of the six competitors along with Laura Diaz, Moira Dunn, Cristie Kerr, Jill McGill and Mhairi McKay, who are playing in the championship for the first time. The Columbian native has three top-10 finishes to her credit this season.
In the case of Pat Hurst, five months pregnant with her second child, she had originally planned to forrgo the year-end championship, but then announced later that she felt good enough to play.
'Im feeling fine, Hurst said. This pregnancy is definitely a lot different than the last one. Im carrying the baby a lot higher, which helps.'
Another element that makes the last official money event of the season so special is the race for titles. And although Annika Sorenstam had eliminated all chances of Pak surpassing her on the money list, there was still a slim chance that Se Ri (69.69) could overtake Sorenstam (69.38) in the race for lowest scoring average and deny Ms. 59 the Vare trophy. Now it looks as if Annika 'owner of three Vare trophies (1995-96, 1998) - will add a fourth to her name.
Sorenstam looks to wrap up the year in the same fashion that it began for her. She has already sewn up the money title as well as Player of the Year and is in good position to break the record scoring average set by Karrie Webb in 1999 (69.43). With eight victories to her credit this season alone, Sorenstam is less than $10,000 shy of becoming the first woman to earn $2 million in one season.
Past winners of the six-year-old LPGA Tour Championship include Se Ri Pak 1999, Laura Davies 1998, Annika Sorenstam 1997 and Karrie Webb 1996. All four of these ladies won the tournament while it was played at the Desert Inn Golf Course in Las Vegas.
Trump International opened on Nov. 1, 1999. The Tom Fazio design incorporates over 1,000 live oaks, 800 coconut palms and 775 royal palms into the 6,413-yard, par 72 design. Two-and-a-half million cubic yards of sand were moved to create the highest elevation peak in South Florida. Although every hole is considered a signature hole, the 50-foot high waterfall behind the 17th green is one of the most memorable.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''