Notes and nuggets for the LPGA's closing stretch

By Randall MellNovember 4, 2015, 9:43 pm

The PGA Tour’s youth movement has nothing on the LPGA’s.

Of course, if you follow the LPGA, you’ve been watching the women’s game get younger for a long time now.

But have you checked out the Rolex Women’s World Rankings lately?

Yes, 18-year-old Lydia Ko tops the rankings, the youngest No. 1 in the history of the men’s or women’s game, but she has a lot of youthful company. Five of the top 17 players in the women’s world rankings are LPGA rookies. And Ko’s not even a rookie. If In Gee Chun had claimed tour membership after her U.S. Women’s Open victory, six of the top 17 in the world would be LPGA rookies. That’s absurd, but it speaks to the remarkable strength of this year’s LPGA rookie class, which has claimed six titles this season.

Some news, notes and nuggets with just three events left on the 2015 LPGA schedule:

More on youth being served – Sei Young Kim is 22 years old, but she’s the old woman among the four winners on the fall Asian swing so far. Ko, 18, won in Taiwan, Lexi Thompson, 20, won in South Korea and Jessica Korda won in Malaysia. Korda is a month younger than Kim, who won in China.

• The average age of a PGA Tour winner this calendar year is 30.2 years old.

• The average age of an LPGA winner is 23.6.

• The average age of the top 10 men in the Official World Golf Ranking is 32.6 years old.

• The average age of the top 10 women in the Rolex World Rankings is 23.5 years old.

By the way, here are those five LPGA rookies among the top 17 in the world rankings: No. 7 Sei Young Kim, No. 9 Hyo Joo Kim, No. 15 Minjee Lee, No. 16 Ha Na Jang and No. 17 Brooke Henderson.


Lewis leads the field in Japan – Lewis returns to a course she has conquered before as she seeks to claim her first victory this season in the finale of the fall Asian swing. Lewis won the Toto Japan Classic in 2012 at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club when the event was played as the Mizuno Classic. 

Though Lewis hasn’t won this season, she is third on the LPGA money list with $1,832,425 in earnings. That’s a tour record for the most money any woman has won in a season without a victory. Lewis has six second-place finishes and three third-place finishes this season.

The field this week includes three of the top 10 players in the world with No. 4 Lexi Thompson and No. 9 Hyo Joo Kim joining No. 3 Lewis. Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer and Yani Tseng are among other headliners playing.


Who’s on the CME Globe top-three points bubble? – The top three players on the points list are guaranteed to win the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot if any of the three wins the season-ending Tour Championship.

Ko has clinched the No. 1 spot for the points re-set in Naples, Park has clinched the No. 2 spot and Lewis is still in a little tussle with Sei Young Kim and Lexi Thompson for the No. 3 spot, though Lewis could clinch that in Japan this week.

Lewis is third in CME points with Kim trailing her by 243 points and Thompson trailing her by 683. The winner of an LPGA tournament gets 500 points, second place gets 300 points and third 190 points with points awarded through 40th place.

Kim isn’t playing in Japan this week but will play Lorena Ochoa’s event next week in Mexico. Lewis isn’t playing in Mexico. Thompson is playing in both Japan and Mexico.

If Lewis finishes second or better in Japan, Kim can’t catch her. If Lewis wins in Japan, neither can Thompson.


Who’s on the CME Globe top-nine points bubble? – Only the top nine players after the points re-set at the Tour Championship have a shot at winning the $1 million jackpot.

Shanshan Feng holds the ninth spot in this week’s points standings, but she’s vulnerable. She isn’t playing in Japan or Mexico. Every player sitting 10th through 18th in points has a chance to pass Feng. Also, Chella Choi at 20th remains mathematically alive for a top-nine spot in the re-set because she’s playing in both Japan and Mexico. So are Azahara Munoz at 32nd and Pornanong Phatlum at 33rd, but Munoz and Phatlum will have to win in both Japan and Mexico to pass Feng.


A Wie bit close to the top-72 bubble – The top 72 in CME points qualify for the Tour Championship. So do any players tied for 72nd.

Min Lee holds the 72nd spot in points, but the most notable story near the bubble is Michelle Wie. She enters the Toto Japan Classic 65th in points, and she isn’t guaranteed a spot in Naples just yet.

There are 10 players competing in Japan who trail Wie in CME points. If eight of them pass her this week, Wie gets bumped to 73rd on the point list. Wie isn’t playing the Lorena Ochoa Invitational next week.

Yes, it would take an unlikely cosmic alignment of the stars for Wie not to qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship, but the LPGA doesn’t divide up CME points for players who finish in ties, the way it does for money. For example, if Mina Harigae, Marina Alex and Maria McBride all finish tied for second in Japan, they’ll each get the 300 points that comes with a second-place finish. That’s why Wie isn’t mathematically guaranteed a spot just yet. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”