A World of Possibilities

By Randall MellMay 3, 2010, 5:49 am

Ai Miyazato offered up her victory as a farewell tribute to her friend.

Miyazato said she wanted to show Lorena Ochoa what she has gained studying her during Ochoa’s reign as the No. 1 player in women’s golf.

“I’ve learned so much from Lorena,” Miyazato said in a telephone call Sunday after she won the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico. “I love Lorena’s passion for the game, what she’s done for her country, what she’s done off the course. I wanted to play well for her this week, to show her how well I’m playing now.”

Ai Miyazato
Ai Miyazato hold her third LPGA trophy of the season. (Getty Images)
Miyazato showed Ochoa that she might already be the best player in women’s golf even if she doesn’t succeed Ochoa as No. 1 when the newest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings are released Monday morning.

That was the stirring subplot to Sunday’s emotional conclusion to the Tres Marias Championship.

The fiercely competitive fight to assume Ochoa’s throne was equal parts thrilling and sad.

“When I won, I thought about Lorena,” said Miyazato, who played the first two rounds with Ochoa. “I’ve been crying all week.”

Ochoa, 28, said goodbye to more than she intended in her farewell appearance as a full-time player. She was bounced from her No. 1 spot with those who crave her crown impatiently pressing their cases with ruthless charges.

South Korea’s Jiyai Shin should ascend a spot to No. 1 in the newest rankings, according to unofficial LPGA projections, though tour officials aren’t ruling out the possibility Miyazato won’t assume the top spot when the final numbers are crunched. Shin, though, appears best positioned to move up after winning Sunday at the Japan LPGA Tour’s CyberAgent Ladies event in Chiba.

If that’s the case, Miyazato looks poised to make sure that’s a short-lived run.

Five events into the new LPGA season, Miyazato, 24, has already claimed three victories. That’s the hottest start on the LPGA since Annika Sorenstam won three of the first four events in 2005.

Ochoa, 28, wanted to go out on top, but with Shin winning overseas, she was forced to finish fourth or better to hold onto her No. 1 ranking, according to LPGA projections. Ochoa finished sixth but found more than consolation in Sunday's outpouring of love from fans and fellow players alike.

'I announced my retirement [as No. 1] last week,' Ochoa told reporters in Mexico. 'Today, I'm still No. 1.'

Miyazato and Shin are worthy successors to the classy legacy Ochoa leaves. Their sweet, humble dispositions rival Ochoa’s. They don’t play the game the same way Ochoa did, though. They aren’t power players. Instead, they make their livings with straight driving, terrific iron play and short games.

That an Asian should ascend to No. 1 this week, specifically a South Korean, is fitting.

Players from the Far East have a sweep going this year. They’ve won all five LPGA events played.

Sixty-one players from the top 100 in the world rankings this week are Asian

South Korea rules with 34 players among the top 100. Japan’s next with 21 and the United States is third with 20.

Miyazato is a rock star in Japan, a huge draw there who brings a legion of journalists wherever she plays.

The question is how Miyazato and Shin will impact American interest if they continue to separate themselves this season.

There were other strong messages delivered from challengers Sunday in Mexico.

Michelle Wie, 20, got herself in position to win, boosting American hopes that one of their own will jump hard into this fight for Ochoa’s throne.

Wie took command going to the back nine at Tres Marias Country Club. She holed a wedge from the fairway for eagle to take a one-shot lead to the 10th tee. A victory on this Sunday, in this goodbye to Ochoa, would have been convincing evidence that Wie is this tour’s Once and Future Queen, but she stumbled down the stretch with Miyazato charging. Wie double bogeyed the 13th and missed a 2-footer for par at the 17th. Wie’s ability to put herself in position to win bolsters her fans’ beliefs that she’s headed in the right direction while fueling her critics’ beliefs she’s yet to prove she can close hard enough to be dominant.

American Stacy Lewis, 24, stepped up with an impressive challenge. She put the most pressure on Miyazato, making a clutch birdie at the 18th to force Miyazato to hole a 10-foot putt for par to win at the final hole. Lewis, the tough Texan who tied for third as an amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open two year ago, showed she might be ready to mount a challenge as the best American in the game.

Brittany Lincicome, 24, also made progress in this event, challenging before a disappointing Sunday fade.

Yani Tseng, No. 3 in the world, wasn’t in this week’s field. No. 4 Suzann Pettersen wasn’t a factor until closing with a 65 on Sunday to log a top-10 finish. No. 6 Cristie Kerr wasn’t in the field, but all three of these players are sure to have something to say about who ultimately rules over this tour.

The nature of Sunday’s finish says something about the hard scramble that might be ahead as the tour searches for its next dominant player.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.