Blomqvist LET Rookie of the Year
The 19-year-old Finn achieved the award in record breaking fashion and with bags of style at the end of season Catalonia Ladies Masters.
Despite bold efforts from her nearest challengers Linda Wessberg from Sweden and Becky Brewerton from Wales, Blomqvist retained her lead after the final event and added her name to a veritable whos who in womens golf of previous recipients of this coveted title, which includes world No. 1 Annika Srenstam, Laura Davies and Helen Alfredsson.
It has been a lot of fun this year and much more than I expected and it means a lot to me to win this award as there were some very good players as rookies this year, said Blomqvist, who finished in seventh place on the order of merit.
In an incredible maiden season, Blomqvist became the third youngest player in the history of the LET to win an event at just 19-years and 128 days old when she cruised to victory at the OTP Bank Central European Open in Hungary, an event in which she equalled the LET record of the lowest ever score of 62 in her first round.
Two weeks later, Blomqvist announced herself on the world stage with an incredible performance in front of millions of viewers around the globe when she carded her second 62 of her fledgling career in the third round at Sunningdale.
In doing so, Blomqvist became the first player, male or female, to shoot ten under par in a major championship and went on to finish in a tie for eighth in her first major.
There were lots of good memories this year such as playing with Annika in Finland at my home course and especially winning in Hungary. But at the British Open, that is my favourite day, for sure. The previous day I shot 78 and I went from being in contention for the title on the first day, to nearly missing the cut.
I was on the range trying to figure out what went wrong and I began crying and my coach was telling me to calm down and when I started to speak again I began to cry again.
But when I found out I had made the cut I actually said to one of the Finnish newspapers that I dont see any reasons why I cant go out and make nine or ten birdies the following day because I had such a good feeling with my game.
It was really exciting and even going into the press centre and being on TV, it was really a lot of fun.
What makes Blomqvists achievements more incredible was that just over 12 months ago, the platinum blonde was playing amateur junior golf, the highlight of which was when she helped steer the European Junior Solheim Cup team to their first victory over the USA when the teams met at Bogskogens GC in Sweden.
One of my team mates at the Junior Solheim Cup was Louise Stahle who played really well in the British Open and in Sweden this year and we laughed about maybe becoming the first junior players to play in the Big girls Solheim Cup next year. I dont think she is turning professional yet, but I know that I want to be playing in Solheim Cup next year.
It is one of my goals but to play in this event, I think I will need to work very hard at my short game so I will be practising very hard during the winter with my coach Pia (Nilsson). I want to play in it, but I have to become a better player, too.
After the victory over the USA in Sweden, Blomqvist turned professional and attended LET qualifying school with great expectations to gain a card with ease. However, all did not go well and she had to settle for a conditional card to play on the LET.
But after spectacular performances with two victories on the Nedbank Womens Golf Tour in South Africa prior to the LET season starting in Europe, the Finn became an obvious choice for sponsors invitations.
I have to say, I was very lucky as I didnt have that may opportunities to play, so when I did get an invitation, I had to play well.
Every tournament I was way down the list and often the last player to get in to the event so I have been really lucky. I thought I might get five or six events and if I played well, I may get some more wild cards, which I did and then of course, the win in Hungary gave me a three year exemption.
Blomqvist, who idolises the Worlds best women golfer and who also shares the same mentor and coach in Pia Nilsson, wants to play with the best in the world and have cards on two Tours next season.
But with her family in Finland and her boyfriend Roope Kakko, a European Challenge Tour player, it will make life difficult for the teenager.
Naturally, Blomqvist will want to play with the best players in the world, but the youngster some pundits are now calling Minni Annika has admitted she loves the atmosphere on the LET and wants to stay as long as possible.
My boyfriend plays in Europe and I already miss him when I am away for one week, she laughed.
I went to LPGA qualifying school last week and I said to myself that I dont want to come here yet because the European Tour is so much fun and the people are so nice. When you go to the range in the morning everyone says hello and its much more fun and I really like that.
Maybe it will happen, but I want to play most of the season in Europe if I can and hopefully I will get two cards.
In presenting the award, Rob Holt, the managing Director for Ryder Cup Wales said of Blomqvist:
We are proud to be associated with this prestigious award and it truly is a fantastic achievement for Minea in her first year.
To go from playing Junior Solheim Cup to where she is now is really an unprecedented occasion and hopefully Minea will get into the main European Solheim Cup team.
Naturally, it would have been fitting for our own Becky Brewerton to bring the award back home to Wales, but she has been pipped by a truly outstanding performance this year by Minea.
It has also been a great rookie year for Becky and we hope her performances will inspire the growth of womens golf in Wales at a young level. But most of all, with such a disparity of nations competing for the best newcomer award, womens European golf has a lot to look forward to in the future.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.