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.
Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome
Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)
The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...
And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.
Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
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.
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
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
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
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
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.