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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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.