Yani's year

By Randall MellNovember 25, 2011, 2:49 pm

Yani Tseng’s shadow moved over Suzann Pettersen.

You could not see it, but you could feel it with Pettersen assessing her year going into the season-ending CME Group Titleholders Championship in Orlando, Fla., last week.

Pettersen won three times in 2011, twice in LPGA events and once on the Ladies European Tour. She’s No. 2 in the Rolex World Rankings. She was a Solheim Cup star, helping the Euros win for the first time in eight years.

Still, there was no escaping Tseng’s towering presence in Pettersen’s final evaluation.

“It’s been a very nice year, but when Yani has won seven events, it makes you feel not so great,” Pettersen said.

Tseng’s shadow fell over the entire women’s game with her rise as its dominant, new force. With 11 worldwide titles, the seven LPGA titles, including two majors, Tseng separated herself from the pack that was battling to succeed the retired Lorena Ochoa as the game’s best female player.

There were other highlights in 2011, of course:

• The Europeans didn’t just win the Solheim Cup, they transformed it. They made it matter more than it’s ever mattered with their dramatic late charge to upset the Americans at Killeen Castle in Ireland. Pettersen, Caroline Hedwall and Azahara Munoz engineered late comebacks that made for the most exciting final 30 minutes in Solheim Cup history. The Euro victory was the continent’s first since 2003.

• American Stacy Lewis broke through to make her first LPGA title a major championship, staring down Tseng in a final-round pairing to win the Kraft Nabisco in March.

• Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner in LPGA history, claiming the Navistar Classic in September at 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old. She made more news shortly after when LPGA commissioner Mike Whan granted her a waiver of the tour rule requiring members be at least 18, opening the door for Thompson to claim an exemption to become a full-time LPGA member next year.

Karrie Webb won the inaugural RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, a unique event where tour pros played for designated charities, donating all their winnings to causes special to them. The week – the invention of second-year commissioner Whan – was a tribute to the women who created the tour 61 years ago. In a special setting, three of the founders – Louise Suggs, Shirley Spork and Marilynn Smith – sat in a box beside the 18th green at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix greeting players as they finished their rounds.

• Pettersen (Sybase Match Play, Safeway Classic), Webb (HSBC Women’s, RR Donnelley Founders Cup) and Brittany Lincicome (Shoprite, CN Canadian Women’s Open) each won two LPGA events.

So Yeon Ryu defeated Hee Kyung Seo in a U.S. Women’s Open playoff at the Broadmoor featuring two more rising young South Korean stars.

• Commissioner Whan made perhaps the boldest stroke of the year, announcing the Evian Masters in France would become the LPGA’s fifth major championship beginning in 2013.

Still, there was no trumping Tseng in 2011.

When the year opened, Tseng was No. 5 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She didn’t wait long to make her move, winning her first three worldwide starts, the Taifong Ladies Open in Taiwan, the Women’s Australian Open and the Australian Ladies Masters. She seized the No. 1 ranking a week before the LPGA season opened and then won the LPGA opener, the Honda Thailand.

The year ends with Tseng at No. 1 having doubled the world-ranking points of Pettersen, her nearest pursuer.

Tseng’s dominance could be seen between the ropes as well as in the season-ending stats. Tseng won her second consecutive Rolex Player of the Year award and her first Vare Trophy for low scoring average (69.66). She also led the tour in birdies (4.7 per round), driving distance (269.2) and greens in regulation (75.1 percent).

Opponents noticed a difference even in Tseng’s body language this year.

Na Yeon Choi said she can see the growing confidence in the way Tseng walks now.

“She walks like this, with chest like this,” Choi said, throwing her shoulders back and chest out. “I can see her confidence, when she’s doing her routine. She smiles when she walks to the ball, in her setup. It’s kind of scary.”

Tseng might have smiled more than any other player this past year, but she left a lot of frowns in her wake with fellow tour pros like Pettersen trying to figure out how to catch her.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And 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.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."