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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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.