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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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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

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."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


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.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

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.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.