Reviewing the historic 2013 LPGA season

By Randall MellDecember 20, 2013, 10:20 pm

Inbee Park turned her putter into a scepter.

She ruled over women’s golf with it this year.

Stacy Lewis turned her 5-iron into a magic wand.

She used it to hit one of the great shots in major championship history on her way to winning at the birthplace of golf.

Suzann Pettersen turned the second half of the LPGA schedule into her personal playground. She won three of her final seven starts, including a major, in a run so hard she nearly overtook Park as the Rolex world No. 1 at year’s end.

With Park, Pettersen and Lewis combining to win all the majors and nearly half of the tournaments on the 2013 schedule, they established themselves as the LPGA’s Big Three. They’re 1-2-3 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, respectively.

Still, they left more than crumbs in a season filled with delicious storylines.

Here are the highlights:

Queen Bee reigns – Park ran away with the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a four-shot victory, nearly collapsed at the Wegmans LPGA Championship before beating Catriona Matthew in a playoff and then cruised to another four-shot victory at the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack. No woman had won the first three majors in a season since Babe Zaharias in 1950. Park would go on to win six LPGA titles overall, claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the LPGA money title and rise to No. 1 in the Rolex rankings. She is the first South Korean to be the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year.

Euro shocker – Europe pulled the year’s great upset, knocking off the United States in a rout to win the Solheim Cup for the first time on American soil. The 18-10 shellacking was the largest margin of victory since the event made its debut in 1990. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall became the first player in Solheim Cup history to win five matches and England’s 17-year-old Charley Hull won a name for herself with her shot-making and charm. Captain Liselotte Neumann’s quiet confidence and Suzann Pettersen’s fiery leadership were a perfect combination.

Road Hole magic – Stacy Lewis set up her win at St. Andrews with a brilliant 5-iron into the wind at the Road Hole, one of the great shots in major championship history. She birdied that hole, No. 17, then birdied the 18th to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open, where Park’s bid to become the first man or woman to win four professional majors in a season ended.

Sizzling Suzann – With Park racing to six wins in the first half of the season, three of them majors, it seemed inconceivable anybody could challenge her No. 1 ranking before the year was out. Pettersen did just that, winning three times in her last seven starts, including her second major title, the Evian Championship in September. Going into the year’s final event, Pettersen had a chance to overtake Park with a first- or second-place finish, but fell just short. She’ll begin 2014 with a chance to push Park some more.

You Ko girl! – Lydia Ko stunned the women’s game by winning three professional titles as a 16-year-old this year. She won the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old two seasons ago, becoming the youngest winner in LPGA history. And she won it again this past summer. She started her year winning the New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour and ended it winning the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters on the Korean LPGA Tour. In between, she nearly won a major, pushing Pettersen to the end at the Evian Championship. Ko didn’t surprise anyone turning pro near year’s end and getting a waiver of the LPGA’s rule requiring members be at least 18. She will end the 2013 season as the No. 4 player in the Rolex rankings. She’ll start 2014 as a 16-year-old LPGA member.

Another teen wonder – With two late-season victories, Lexi Thompson, 18, leaped back into the spotlight. After winning an LPGA event as a 16-year-old, she reminded what promise her game possesses. Victories at the Sime Darby Malaysia in October and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November helped her climb among the top 10 in the Rolex rankings.

Shanshan’s storybook win – Playing under enormous pressure in the first LPGA event in mainland China, Shanshan Feng delighted her fellow countrymen in October, winning the Reignwood Classic in a duel with Lewis. Feng came from behind with an eagle at the last to win. Feng made a statement adding another title at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.