Thompson's win has future of LPGA looking bright

By Randall MellOctober 13, 2013, 4:31 pm

The women’s game feels as young as it ever has.

With Lexi Thompson bursting back into the winner’s circle Sunday, youth is staking yet a larger claim on the game.

Thompson won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in a four-shot runaway at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. At 18, she now has a pair of LPGA titles on her resume.

That’s two LPGA wins by teenagers in two months.

Lydia Ko, 16, successfully defended her title at the CN Canadian Women’s Open in August. In between those teen wins, Ko and Thompson made hard runs at becoming the youngest winners of a major championship. Ko finished second at the Evian Championship in France last month, Thompson finished third.

Photos: Thompson wins Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

The dynamic teen duo isn’t alone making headlines this season. England’s Charley Hull, 17, stole the show at the Solheim Cup two months ago, making a name for herself while helping the Europeans win the event for the first time on American soil.

Earlier this year, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn won a Ladies European Tour title at 17 and then nearly won an LPGA event, finishing second at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

With Ko revealing last week that she is turning pro and petitioning the LPGA for membership, the future of the women’s game is front and center as the 2013 season winds toward its close.

For Thompson, Sunday’s victory was a reaffirmation of the promise she showed qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12 and then winning the LPGA’s Navistar Classic when she was 16.

“Words can’t even describe the feeling I have right now,” Thompson told reporters after winning Sunday. “It’s sort of like a rerun from Navistar.”

Thompson made news around the world when she won Navistar Classic in 2011, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA event at the time. Ko would come along a year later to set a new mark with her first title in Canada.

There was some frustration for Thompson trying to get that second LPGA title, but it only made Sunday’s triumph more satisfying.

“It took longer than I thought,” Thompson said. “But it’s the top players in the world, so it’s not easy. Every tournament you have to shoot super low, and you have to have your A-game. That’s what I had this week.”

Forty-three LPGA events passed before Thompson claimed her second title, but the time didn’t pass without steady progress. Thompson, who made the American Solheim Cup team, has built a reputation as one of the best ball-strikers on tour. She moved to No. 21 in the Rolex women’s world rankings entering the Sime Darby and will jump to No. 14 in the world in Monday’s release of the newest rankings, catapulting over Americans Angela Stanford and Lizette Salas. It will make Thompson the fourth-highest ranked American in the world, behind No. 3 Stacy Lewis and just behind No. 11 Paula Creamer and No. 12 Cristie Kerr.

At times, it seemed as if putting was all that was holding Thompson back from breaking through for another victory.

Coming into the Sime Darby, Thompson was second on tour in driving distance (270.3), trailing only Nicole Smith (274.8). Thompson was ninth in greens in regulation, but just 58th in putts per GIR. Actually, though, her putting has been coming around the last two months. Thompson was 124th in putts per GIR a year ago.

“I’ve worked so hard this whole last year, improving on my short game in particular, and just to have it pay off means so much to me,” Thompson said.

Late this summer, before the Evian Championship, Thompson set up a long session at Trump National Doral in South Florida with her instructor, Jim McLean.

“I told her, `Just bring your putter,’” McLean said Sunday in a telephone interview. “It was a 2 1/2-hour session, and we made some big changes.”

Thompson had been tinkering for some time with changes to her putting stroke, trying to improve it. She tried left-hand low. She tried moving her eyes more over the line, a change from what she was accustomed to as a youth, when she set up with the ball outside the target line and her eyes. She decided to stick with a conventional grip.

“The last few events have actually been a lot better with my putting,” Thompson said. “I went back to my old style of putting and just went to how I was putting when I was really little, hitting them a little firmer and staying a little farther away [from the ball]. So, I’m really confident with my putter. Mainly, that’s what putting is all about, just getting over the putter and saying you’re going to make it.”

McLean said they made changes to Thompson’s arms, shoulders and head positions over the ball.

“They were big changes,” McLean said. “She had her eyes over the ball, and it just wasn’t working. I told her just because you keep hearing you have to have your eyes over the ball doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Brad Faxon and Ben Crenshaw have their eyes inside the line.”

Thompson is scheduled to play in this week’s LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship in South Korea. The way she is putting, she will be among the favorites to win again. If she does that, she will crack the top 10 in the Rolex world rankings for the first time. With Ko at No. 5, that would put a pair of teenagers among the top 10. It would keep the women’s game feeling as young as it ever has.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.