Miyazato eyes fifth win No 1 ranking
Miyazato shot a 6-under 66 on Friday for the first-round lead at the Safeway Classic at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club west of Portland.
Miyazato had a one-stroke lead on Teresa Lu of Taiwan and Jee Young Lee of South Korea.
Miyazato is in a five-way battle for the world’s top ranking. American Cristie Kerr is currently No. 1, followed by Miyazato, Jiyai Shin of South Korea, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Yani Tseng of Taiwan.
“It’s really fun, really exciting because the top five players all represent different countries, so it’s really a good motivator for me,” Miyazato said.
In a changing of the guard since the retirement of Lorena Ochoa earlier this year, Miyazato, Kerr and Shin have traded the top ranking six times in the past three months.
“Even though it was just for two weeks, I was so very happy,” Miyazato said about her time on top. “I was happy because I experienced something that I never really experienced before, and so it will just be really good for my future as my career goes on.”
Miyazato has won four times on tour this season, something that has certainly given her confidence.
“But I’m still in the process and trying to learn something almost every day. So I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season, but I’m trying my best every week,” she said.
Also making a case for recognition this season is the 21-year-old Tseng, who won the Women’s British Open on Aug. 1, her second major victory of the season and third in three years. The Kraft Nabisco winner in April, Tseng made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole at Royal Birkdale for a one-stroke victory over Katherine Hull. She also won the 2008 LPGA Championship.
But Tseng shot a 3-over 75 in the first round.
Lu said the course was playing fast.
“Some of the holes you can, like the par-5s, you can almost reach the green. It’s quite interesting, like I go for the green and see how many birdies I can get, and possible eagle,” she said.
Lu was making her 10th start this year. Since joining the LPGA in 2006 she has yet to win, but she was encouraged by her score on Friday.
“Playing well one day doesn’t mean I can win the tournament, so I need to play aggressively the next couple of days to keep shooting a low number,” Lu said. “I think people are going to shoot low on these greens, so you have to keep going.”
South Korea’s Chella Choi, Taiwan’s Amy Hung, Japan’s Momoko Ueda and American Brittany Lincicome were two strokes off the lead with 4-under 68s. Veteran Juli Inkster joined a large group at 3 under.
M.J. Hur is the defending champion of the tournament nestled in farmland at the base of the Cascade Range about a 20-minute drive west of Portland. She won her first-ever title by beating Pettersen with a birdie on the second playoff hole.
Hur shot a 74 on Friday on the 6,546-yard Ghost Creek Course. It is the tournament’s second year on the rural course after 19 years at Columbia Edgewater County Club.
The top-ranked Kerr, who won the event in 2008 at Columbia Egdewater, shot a 70. Michelle Wie, looking for her second victory after taking last year’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational, was at even par going into Saturday’s second round.
Fan favorite Natalie Gulbis had to withdraw because of ongoing back trouble.
HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie
Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.
Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.
That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.
"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.
There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.
Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best
There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.
Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.
"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."
Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.
"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."
When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.
"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."
Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014
As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.
Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.
Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.
Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.
With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.
Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty
Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.
Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.
The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.
Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.
Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.
"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"
The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:
It’s absolutely ridiculous. It took us 4 hours and 15 minutes to play a 2-ball (behind pictured guy I’ll add). We were an hour longer than the first guys that teed off. It’s unacceptable. https://t.co/rrlF3xB7bl— Stephen Ames (@StephenAmesPGA) October 22, 2018