More than one path to the top for Park, Lewis

By Randall MellApril 30, 2013, 1:30 pm

There is more than one path to the top of the women’s game.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park and No. 2 Stacy Lewis are textbook cases as they prepare to play the Kingsmill Championship this week in Williamsburg, Va.

Park turned pro when she was 17, Lewis when she was 23.

Park did not play collegiately, Lewis did.

They both claimed major championships as their first LPGA titles. Park was 19 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open, Lewis 26 when she won the Kraft Nabisco.

Inbee Park vs. Stacy Lewis

No. 1 Inbee Park   No. 2 Stacy Lewis
24 Age 28
South Korea Country  United States
 3/7 2013 LPGA wins/starts  2/8
6/147 Career LPGA wins/starts 7/116
2013 scoring average/(rank) 69.5/(T-1)
2013 earnings/(rank)  $636,803/(2)
250.714 yards/(76) 2013 driving distance/(rank) 261.125 yards/(25)
73.8 percent/(10) 2013 GIR/(rank) 76 percent/(5)

Today, it appears they may have a harder time separating themselves from each other than they will separating themselves from the rest of the women’s game; though, Suzann Pettersen might argue otherwise.

Park and Lewis are on the rise together despite having taken such diverse paths.

Park strengthened her grip on the Rolex No. 1 world ranking Sunday winning the North Texas LPGA Shootout in Irving, Texas. It was her third victory this season and her fifth in her last 18 starts. Lewis held the No. 1 ranking for four weeks before Park gained it three weeks ago. Lewis has won twice this year, six times in the last two seasons.

Rarely does a tournament pass these days where either Park or Lewis is not contending. Typically, they’re both in the mix. Of the LPGA’s eight events this year, Park and Lewis have won five. Just one event has ended without one of them finishing among the top 10 (ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open) and Park didn’t play in that.

“It’s always good to see my name on the top of the leaderboard almost every week,” Park said. “I mean, not every week, but close to every week. It’s really good to see my game improving every week, every year, and just trying to take it step by step.”

Park and Lewis both elevated their games last year. Park won the LPGA money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Lewis was the Rolex Player of the Year.

When Park took the No. 1 ranking from Lewis three weeks ago, it caught the game by surprise because it came in an off week without either player competing. It felt like a back-door entry to No. 1. With the rankings based on a two-year rolling window, Park’s divisor changed, giving her a boost in average world ranking points used to determine No. 1. Park’s victory in Texas on Sunday erased any doubts she deserved to be there.

Nobody should be surprised, though, if Park and Lewis keep taking turns at the top.

With the world rankings so close, there is added pressure on Park and Lewis to keep pace with each other.

“I found myself after Hawaii being disappointed with a ninth-place finish, when anyone's usually happy with a top 10, so I needed to kind of take some perspective back,” Lewis said. “I've won twice this year ... it's been really good, and I just need to not put so much pressure on myself and just realize I'm doing a lot of good things.”

Park and Lewis show there are as many ways to groom a world-class game as there are personalities.

Born in South Korea, Park moved to the United States when she was 12 and began playing junior golf in the Orlando, Fla., area. She won nine American Junior Golf Association events and claimed the U.S. Girls’ Junior when she was 14.

Park was in a hurry to play the LPGA and tried to do so at 17. The LPGA, however, denied her petition for a waiver of its rule requiring members be at least 18. So, instead of heading to LPGA Q-School, Park enrolled at UNLV. She attended classes for just two days before bolting to play the Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit, now called the Symetra Tour. Park turned 18 that summer on the Futures Tour and earned her LPGA card by finishing third on the money list.

Lewis, whose battle with scoliosis challenged her development, wasn’t in such a hurry to become a pro. She wasn’t an AJGA regular in the national events. She redshirted her freshman year at the University of Arkansas while recovering from spinal surgery. She spent five years at Arkansas honing her game as a national champion and decorated collegiate amateur before turning pro and winning her tour card in her first trip to LPGA Q-School. Lewis’ first LPGA event as a pro was the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at Hazeltine. She was the 54-hole leader, but Park passed her in the final round to win her first LPGA title.

Their paths crossed early with the promise of continuing to cross often in the LPGA’s near future.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.