The LPGA Tour Year in Review

By Sports NetworkDecember 24, 2007, 5:00 pm
LPGA Tour _newAbout this time last year we asked ourselves: 'Is Annika Sorenstam still the best women's golfer in the world?'
 
Our answer: 'Well, yeah. Of course she is.'
 
As sure as we were about that statement last December, we are even surer now that it's no longer true. If the 2007 LPGA Tour season taught us anything, it's that an overwhelmingly dominant stretch of golf can turn the tables quickly in terms of a conversation about who's better than whom, washing away the gray areas on either side of the argument.
 
Lorena Ochoa is the best women's golfer in the world. We know that without hesitation. Checking back in a year or so, you will probably find that's still the case.
 
But you never know. Twelve months is a long time.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Lorena Ochoa
Ochoa won six times in 2006, but Sorenstam was still the No. 1 player in the rankings at the end of the year and Ochoa had still not yet won a major championship. If the tables were turning then, they've flipped by now.
 
Maybe several times over.
 
Ochoa snatched the No. 1 ranking from Sorenstam early in the 2007 season, then vindicated it with an eight-win campaign that included her first major at the Women's British Open.
 
On the way, the Mexican star became the first player in LPGA Tour history to pass the $3 million plateau in single-season earnings. When she won the ADT Championship in November, she broke through another ceiling.
 
The $4 million barrier.
 
'It's all about breaking records,' Ochoa acknowledged after that win, which netted her a $1 million check and put her at $4.3 million for the year. 'It was not only about the money list but also winning eight tournaments this season. It's been amazing from the start to the end.'
 
Now that she's won 14 times since April 2006 and vaulted herself into any conversation about the most dominant athletes in the world, how could Ochoa not be our Player of the Year?
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - Women's British Open
All due respect to the Solheim Cup, but it was a drag to watch. The Americans won for the seventh time, defeating the Europeans during a cold, wet and windy weekend in Sweden.
 
On the other hand, watching Ochoa win the Women's British Open was a joy. Not because we have any rooting interest, you understand, but because there isn't much in sports that beats watching a player in their absolute prime take absolute control of their position within their sport.
 
And that's what Ochoa did on the first weekend in August when she went wire- to-wire for her first major championship -- doing it, oh by the way, in the first-ever professional women's tournament hosted at St. Andrews.
 
'It's really hard to describe and I think it's not going to be easy to realize what just happened,' Ochoa said that Sunday. 'After I hit [my tee shot at the 18th] and put it in the middle of the fairway ... I was walking with my caddie just saying that, you know, we did it and it was a great feeling.'
 
And a long time coming.
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Angela Park
We defer to the LPGA Tour on this one, honoring the same player it did for her impressive debut. We do so because the LPGA's system absolutely got it right. Not that it was tough.
 
Angela Park is a 19-year-old Brazilian who played in nearly every tournament she was eligible for in 2007, collecting an impressive eight top-10 finishes to place eighth on the money list with nearly $1 million in earnings.
 
She was a factor in three of the four major championships, tying for second place at the U.S. Women's Open and placing fifth at the McDonald's LPGA Championship while also tying for 26th at the Kraft Nabisco.
 
Her only missed cut came at the Women's British Open, where she went 78-74 in the first two rounds. At the time, she was just 18 years old.
 
GOOD YEAR
Suzann Pettersen - If not for Ochoa's stunning season, Pettersen would be your Player of the Year. Her dubious loss to Morgan Pressel at the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, was followed by her first five wins on the LPGA Tour. They included a victory at the second major of the season, the McDonald's LPGA, and back-to-back titles in Asia near the end of the year. She finished a distant second to Ochoa on the money list.
 
Cristie Kerr - Kerr won only once in 2007, but that victory came at the U.S. Women's Open and marked her long-overdue first career major championship. She finished sixth on the money list with nearly $1.1 million in earnings.
 
Pressel - She finished ninth on the money list, a spot behind the rookie Park, but Pressel made her first career win a memorable one when she backed into the Kraft Nabisco title after Pettersen folded late in the final round on Sunday.
 
Natalie Gulbis - While Pettersen, Kerr and Pressel won their first majors, Gulbis claimed her first win of any kind. And it came at one of the top non- majors: the Evian Masters. She finished 12th on the money list, missing five cuts in 22 starts, but had five top-10s along the way. They included a runner- up to Ochoa at the season-ending ADT Championship.
 
Paula Creamer - Creamer won twice and finished third on the money list with almost $1.4 million. Her victories marked the first time she collected trophies since her rookie season in 2005.
 
Mi Hyun Kim - She had a season that was lost in the mix: fourth on the money list, 10 top-10s, seven top-fives, two runner-ups and a win at the SemGroup Championship. Along with Ochoa, Pettersen and Seon-Hwa Lee (fifth on the money list), Kim helped represent an international dominance on the LPGA Tour in 2007.
 
BAD YEAR
Sorenstam - Personally, any year somebody becomes engaged to be married can't be considered a bad year. But Sorenstam, until recently the high watermark of women's athletics, had a bad year professionally. She finished an eye-rubbing 25th on the money list this season despite making the cut in 12 of her 13 starts. Battling back and neck problems along the way, she posted only two top-three finishes.
 
Hurst -- Last year, Hurst took Sorenstam to a Monday finish at the U.S. Women's Open. This year, she missed five cuts in 22 starts and never finished better than third. She tumbled to 35th in the world rankings after beginning the season ranked 11th.
 
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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.