Tseng-Lewis battling for world No. 1

By Randall MellNovember 14, 2012, 11:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Yani Tseng can’t seem to shake Stacy Lewis these days.

When Tseng pulled into the parking lot this week for the season-ending CME Group Titleholders, she couldn’t help noticing Lewis was assigned the spot right next to hers.

When Lewis won the Mizuno Classic in Japan two weeks ago to virtually clinch Rolex Player of the Year honors, Tseng played two rounds with Lewis.

The No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world are getting closer in ranking points every week.

Good naturedly, Tseng reminded the media Wednesday that she’s still No. 1.

“Don’t forget about that,” Tseng said. “I can still have a happy ending.”

CME Group Titleholders scoring

That’s the thing about Tseng’s year. Her reign as No. 1 has not been as much fun as it ought to be. She hasn’t been as happy as she believes she should have been, but she’s learning to remedy that.

“The last three or four months, I was really trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself,” Tseng said. “I second guessed myself whether I can still win a tournament. I was struggling, and I wasn’t very happy.”

Tseng’s run at No. 1 has reached 91 consecutive weeks, but the longer she carries the top ranking, the more she has felt its burdens. She’s learning to carry it better. She’s learning to smile even when she’s struggling. She calls this year a learning experience.

“Everybody wants to be No. 1, but no one understands how hard it would be to be No. 1,” Tseng said. “Now I know why Lorena [Ochoa] and Annika [Sorenstam] retired, because it’s very hard.”

Tseng’s lead in the Rolex World Rankings is still significant, but it’s shrinking rapidly.

Tseng has 12.24 average world-ranking points. Seven months ago, Lewis was a whopping 12.15 average points behind Tseng. Today, Lewis is 2.92 average points behind.

How close is Lewis to catching Tseng? Lewis won’t be able to overtake Tseng with a victory this week, and it isn’t likely she could give herself a chance until about a month into next season. A win against a strong field typically nets a player .7 of a point.

This much is clear, though. Lewis wants the No. 1 ranking.

“That’s one of the things I am going to pay attention to going into next year,” Lewis said. “That’s been one of the goals this year, to chip away at her lead and narrow that gap. That’s the next goal for me, to be No. 1 in the world, but you have to win tournaments, you have to be in contention. Being No. 1 is the result of a lot of hard work, and I just have to keep working hard.”

While Tseng is still No. 1 in the world, Lewis has clearly been the best player in the world over the last six months.

Lewis has made her surge coming out of the shadows. Americans Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson have all garnered more attention than Lewis going into a season over the years.

“A lot of the American players, you look at Lexi and Michelle, there’s always this hype in the beginning, and all the pressure, things like that I didn’t have,” Lewis said. “I didn’t have all the expectations everyone else had, and I think that’s really helped me get to where I am.”

Lewis believes she’s ready to handle the hype that comes with being regarded as the game’s best player.

“There’s a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure there,” Lewis said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that when there’s more pressure on, you’ve just got to go have fun.

“Looking into next year, I want to keep enjoying this stuff. When it becomes pressure and a burden, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, a Golf Channel analyst, believes seeing Tseng and Lewis at their best together in a battle for No. 1 would be good for the women’s game.

“We need that,” Rankin said.

Tseng is playing for the sixth consecutive week. It’s a lot of golf, but she believes she’s on the cusp of something good again.

“Everything’s getting better,” Tseng said. “I feel I’m in good position. I feel I have a chance to win a tournament.”

Tseng has been candid about her summer slump, how she has struggled with the expectations that come with being No. 1, this debilitating sense that anything less than a victory is a failure. The openness seems to be cathartic, but it’s also made her look vulnerable.

“I always check the Internet, for what the talk is about me,” Tseng said. “It gets in my mind, really. It kind of hurts a little bit.”

Gary Gilchrist, Tseng’s coach, took a trip to Malaysia last month to spend extended time with Tseng.

“I think she’s getting her priorities right,” Gilchrist said. “Instead of worrying about winning tournaments, she’s getting back to the basics. She’s trying to enjoy herself and focus on the process.”

Tseng opened this year winning three times, but she struggled when summer arrived. She missed back-to-back cuts, went 12 consecutive rounds without breaking par and didn’t record a top-10 finish in five months.

While she responded quickly to Gilchrist’s visit with a pair of third-place finishes and a fourth-place finish on the fall Asian swing, she’s still looking for her first victory in almost eight months.

“I give Yani a lot of credit for the way she’s conducted herself through this,” Rankin said. “I give her a lot of credit for the way she has fought through it.”

If Lewis keeps coming on, Tseng’s fight to remain No. 1 might be just beginning.

Watch live coverage of the CME Group Titleholders exclusively on Golf Channel, 1:30-4PM ET, Thursday-Sunday.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.