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Season-long award hangs in balance at CME

By Randall MellNovember 14, 2017, 4:41 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship will feel as if it is being played out on multiple stages at Tiburon Golf Club this week.

There are a lot more coveted prizes to be claimed here than just that glass cube full of $1 million in the last leg of the season-long Race to the CME Globe.

The Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the LPGA money-winning title all hang in the balance.

Oh yeah, so does a $500,000 first-place tournament check.

The battles for big prizes are so tight, they threaten to make Sunday’s finish more pressure-packed than a major championship.

There is arguably more history to be made this week than in any single major, with multiple honors in the offering.

A breakdown of what’s at stake:

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

Three hundredths of a point separate the top three players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

The top three’s average world rankings:

1: Shanshan Feng, 8.46.

2: Sung Hyun Park, 8.44.

3: So Yeon Ryu, 8.43.

Feng took the top spot this week after winning the Blue Bay LPGA in China, her second consecutive victory and third of the season. The scenarios that could lead to another change this week will be head spinning.


Rolex Player of the Year

Four players are still in the hunt for this point-based award.

Ryu leads with 162 points. Feng is just three points back, Ryu only five behind and Lexi Thompson 15 behind. A victory is worth 30 points this week, second worth 12, third worth nine, with points awarded down to a single point for 10th place.


Vare Trophy

Hall of Famer Beth Daniel coveted the Vare Trophy for low scoring average more than the Player of the Year Award, because she believed it was the best measurement of consistent excellence through a season.

She isn’t alone.

Daniel, by the way, won three Player of the Year awards and three Vare Trophies.

Thompson leads the tour in scoring, 0.112 average strokes ahead of Park with In Gee Chun also still in the running.

The averages:

1: Lexi Thompson, 69.147

2: Sung Hyun Park, 69.259

3: In Gee Chun, 69.269

The LPGA estimates Park needs to finish about nine or 10 shots ahead of Thompson to claim the Vare Trophy.


Money winning title

Park leads in money won this season, but with the first-place tournament check of $500,000 this week, Park hasn’t locked up the title yet.

Park has won $298,047 more than Ryu.

Ryu can claim the title, but she has to win to do so, and then hope Park doesn’t finish solo second.

The money winning list:

1: Shung Hyun Park, $2,262,472

2: So Yeon Ryu, $1,964,425

3: Shanshan Feng, $1,703,326


Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson leads the points re-set, but the season-long race for the $1 million jackpot is set up so that any one of the top 12 in Naples has a chance at the top money prize. The top five are guaranteed to win the top payout if they win the CME Group Tour Championship.

Thompson is trying to become the first American to win the jackpot since the CME Race was instituted four years ago.

The point standings:

1: Lexi Thompson, 5,000

2: Sung Hyun Park, 4,750

3: Shanshan Feng, 4,500

4: So Yeon Ryu, 4,250

5: Brooke Henderson, 4,000

6: In Gee Chun, 3,600

7: Cristie Kerr, 3,200

8: Moriya Jutanugarn, 2,800

9: Ariya Jutanugarn, 2,400

10: Anna Nordqvist, 2,100

11: Stacy Lewis, 1,800

12: Lydia Ko, 1,600

A victory this week is worth 3,500 points, with second place worth 2,450, third worth 2,250 with points awarded on down through 40th place.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.