Park, Lewis are LPGA's best; rivalry still developing

By Randall MellOctober 29, 2014, 7:30 pm

Somebody check the shadow Inbee Park casts as she plays the Fubon Taiwan LPGA Championship this week.

It might look strangely like that of Stacy Lewis.

And somebody check Lewis.

Her shadow may look oddly like that of Park’s.

These two can’t seem to shake each other at the top of the women’s game.

The LPGA event in Taiwan begins Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.) with Park back at No. 1, having regained the top ranking from Lewis this past week. They’ve alternated sharing the top ranking for the last 85 weeks, each taking two turns. Park has reigned at No. 1 for 60 weeks overall, Lewis for 25.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone if they swap places again next week, with their ranking averages just .23 points apart.

While there is a load of admiration and respect between these two players, the unrelenting pressure they put on each other in the battle for No. 1 has to be a little aggravating, doesn’t it?

“It is a little bit frustrating, at times,” Lewis said. “Just when you think you can get ahead, Inbee seems to jump out there and win a tournament.”

Lewis and Park aren’t just 1-2 in the world rankings. They’re 1-2 in nearly all of the LPGA’s most meaningful season-long races, with Lewis having the upper hand in those other battles.

Lewis is first in Rolex Player of the Year points, Park is second. Lewis is first in Race to the CME Globe points, Park is second. Lewis is first in official money winnings, Park is second.

Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship leaderboard

The ingredients are there for a terrific rivalry, except for one pivotal ingredient in the best rivalries.

Strangely, as consistently as Park and Lewis contend for titles – they’re also 1-2 in top-10 finishes over the last two years – they almost never sync up their games together to go head-to-head on Sundays.

“You want to play each other when you’re playing your best,” Lewis said. “That is something we haven’t done. We seem to go on runs at different times. It would be fun if we could be playing our best golf as the same time and create some good, dramatic tournaments.”

Maybe this is the week.

Park, Lewis and two-time defending Taiwan LPGA champion Suzann Pettersen are grouped in the first round.

Regaining the No. 1 ranking meant a lot this week to Park, and she would love to hold it for another long run.

“I haven’t won as many tournaments this year as I did last year, but I think I’m playing a lot more consistent golf,” Park said.

Lewis has won three LPGA titles this year to Park’s two with Park coming off a second-place finish in last week’s final major on the Korean LPGA Tour. Park likes the way she has been playing. She took back the No. 1 ranking with these finishes in her last eight starts: 4th, 2nd, Win, 3rd, T-10, T-3, 4th, 2nd.

“I have three tournaments to go, and I feel like a win is not far away,” Park said.

Park and Lewis have combined for a staggering 61 top-10 finishes over the last two seasons, but they’ve only finished top five together in six events.

In Park’s eight victories over the last two seasons, the closest Lewis has come to her was a tie for third at the Honda Thailand last year. Park pulled away from Lewis early on her way to overtaking Ariya Jutanugarn in that Sunday finish. Park came from two shots behind Lewis to win in the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last year, but with so many players in the mix there was no real sense of that these two were pitted against each other.

In Lewis’ six victories the last two seasons, Park has finished top 10 in just one of them, tying for eighth when Lewis won the ShopRite Classic this year.

While the unrelenting pressure Park and Lewis apply on each other for the game’s big prizes can be exhausting, there’s mutual respect in what the competition brings out of them.

“We have pushed each other, just to be more consistent,” Lewis said. “That’s something I saw in Inbee last year, how well she played under pressure. And she has probably seen the number of top-10s I’ve had, so hers seem to have gone up, too ... We put pressure on each other to get better in general.”

Park says she always checks to see how Lewis is doing in an event.

Lewis keeps an eye on Park, too.

But do they see each other as rivals?

“We’ve definitely been going back and forth,” Lewis said of the fight for No. 1. “Inbee’s played a little better than I have in the majors over the last two years, and, really, I think that’s kind of the difference, but she’s fun to play against. You know she’s always going to be there, so I guess it’s kind of a rivalry, but I don’t really know.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm