They left you wanting more.
If you’re an LPGA fan, the season ended Monday with hope and promise leading a terrific rally.
A week after Michelle Wie broke through to win for the first time, Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin staged the most dramatic duel for the Rolex Player of the Year award in the history of the tour. Their gut-wrenching battle came down to the final hole of the LPGA Tour Championship at The Houstonian Golf & Country Club in Richmond, Texas. Ochoa won the honor by a single point after closing with a birdie and watching Shin’s desperate final chip tease the hole before slipping inches away.
The duel was so compelling it overshadowed rookie Anna Nordqvist’s victory and her torrid run of seven birdies over eight holes in the middle of the round.
Coupled with Wie’s title, the ending gave the LPGA a much-needed bang-bang finish to the season.
Ochoa’s visible sigh after securing her fourth consecutive POY award summed up the angst of the entire tour this year.
“This has been the toughest, for sure, and the one I’m going to enjoy the most,” Ochoa told Golf Channel. “I was very proud of the way I finished.”
In a year that at times seemed cursed, with title sponsors bailing out by the bunch, players ousting their commissioner in a revolt and Americans struggling, the ending felt like a turn toward something better.
The LPGA’s new commissioner gained a clear view these past two weeks of the complex foundation he has to build upon.
Michael Whan got to see what’s right and what’s wrong with the tour he’ll officially begin leading on Jan. 4.
If Wie’s on the verge of stepping up in class, of becoming a dominant force, Whan’s job is a lot easier. Wie is an American with a giant-sized Q rating. The tour needs stars and an American star who can win with regularity. Whan won’t have to be much of a marketing man to market that. It would be good for the tour, too, if Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford and Morgan Pressel can find their way more to the winner’s circle.
The larger issue is selling the globalization of the tour to American audiences.
Americans won just five times this season, making this the nation’s worst showing in 60 LPGA seasons.
Sunday’s finish summed up the year.
Sweden (Nordqvist), Mexico (Ochoa) and South Korea (Shin) dominated the finish with Kristy McPherson the lone American with a chance to win on the back nine.
The LPGA may be a global tour, but it’s American-based and American-focused.
“When you’re a girl, this is where you dream about coming to play,” Australian Anna Rawson told the Wall Street Journal in a Sunday story about the state of the tour.
“At least 75 percent [of LPGA events] should be here,” fellow Aussie Katherine Hull told the newspaper.
While Ochoa and Shin put on a riveting show Monday, they aren’t the stars they ought to be, given their winning resumes.
Golf relishes being witness to stardom more than it does to drama. When Tiger Woods ran away with the U.S. Open title by 15 shots in 2000 and the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, TV ratings were through the roof.
As the No. 1 player in the world, Ochoa should be more celebrated.
As a South Korean, Shin leads the most dominant force in women’s golf. South Koreans won 11 times this season and yet there is a troubling disconnect with American audiences.
Ochoa and the South Korean contingent rule golf, but their stories aren’t resonating the way they could or should.
Whan’s challenge is changing that dynamic. It’s making foreign stars shine when Americans don’t and getting American audiences to care more about those foreign stars.
Or praying for an American resurgence.
Saving the Best for Last
They left you wanting more.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.