Titanic Thompson

By Randall MellDecember 17, 2011, 5:00 pm

Lexi Thompson rocked women’s golf yet again Saturday with a victory halfway around the world.

You wonder if the shock waves made ripples in the coffee cups of every established American star this morning.

The landscape feels like it’s about to change in the American game. Thompson, at 16, looks like a tectonic plate of change.

Just about every thump of Thompson’s club in her victory at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters reverberated with the warning she’s getting ready to ratchet up the standard for U.S. born players who have struggled to keep pace with the international game’s surge. The victory comes three months after Thompson broke through to become the youngest winner in the history of LPGA with her victory at the Navistar Classic.

Yes, there’s a danger in loading up expectations on Thompson. There’s a danger in expecting too much too soon, but patience is hard to come by in the women’s game. These are sluggish times in American women’s golf. Frankly, they may be the worst of times.

Thompson’s two victories since September are two more than Cristie Kerr claimed all year.

Two more than Paula Creamer, two more than Morgan Pressel, two more than Michelle Wie.

Brittany Lincicome is the only American who has won as much this year as Thompson has.


Thompson wins Dubai Ladies Masters by four, makes history


American women’s golf could use a winning boost, because American players are losing so much more than they used to lose. Lincicome and Stacy Lewis were the only American LPGA members to win on tour this year. That’s the worst American showing in the 62-year history of the LPGA. Thompson, of course, wasn’t an LPGA member when she won at Navistar.

American women don’t like to hear about their slide. You ask them about the numbers, and they’ll mumble something about how the LPGA has never been a more global game.

American presence matters on this American-based tour. It matters to American title sponsors looking at financing domestic events.

There were only 13 LPGA events played in the United States this year. American players want more, but they aren’t helping the cause. They aren’t winning enough to get American companies excited about making an investment in them.

Rookie Ryann O’Toole may grow to be part of the answer for the Americans, but the fact that she made the U.S. Solheim Cup team after just seven LPGA starts spoke to the lack of depth in the American ranks.

Back in September, the United States lost The Solheim Cup for the first time since 2003. They didn’t have much fun licking their wounds in the Asian swing that followed. The Americans failed to win any of the four events in the Far East this fall, extending their winless streak there to 40 straight. No American has won an LPGA event staged in Asia since Juli Inkster won the Samsung World Challenge in South Korea in 1997.

This is the landscape Thompson enters as an LPGA rookie next year. This is why her emergence is challenged with exponential expectations.

While there’s a hard ceiling to break through at the top of the international game, with Taiwan’s Yani Tseng becoming such a dominant force, there doesn’t appear to be the same hard ceiling in the American women’s game.

Thompson didn’t just win the season-ending Ladies European Tour event at Emirates Golf Club on Saturday. She won answering an early challenge that she wouldn’t let rattle her. She won closing hard and fast on the back nine. She won in a four-shot runaway after falling behind on the front nine.

Thompson closed with a 5-under-par 67. Nobody posted a better final round in a field that included Michelle Wie and European Solheim Cup players Sandra Gal, Anna Nordqvist, Sophie Gustafson, Caroline Hedwall, Christel Boeljon, Melissa Reid and Laura Davies.

While Thompson made history becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA event, she didn’t lay claim to the same honor on the Ladies European Tour. Thompson won in Dubai at 16 years and 311 days old. Amy Yang was 16 years and 192 days old when she won the ANZ Ladies Masters as an amateur.

Still, however many days Thompson is into her 16th year, she is impressing with the know how she’s showing in closing out victories.

A shot ahead at day’s start in Dubai, Thompson watched Lee Ann Pace take the lead away from her with a blistering start. Thompson regained the lead chipping in at the ninth hole and never looked back, stretching her lead three more shots on the back nine and closing out with a birdie.

With Tseng looking so dominant whipping a strong field at the Swinging Skirts Invitational in Taiwan last week for her 12th worldwide title this year, and with Thompson punctuating her season in style, next year intrigues with the possibilities.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''