More than a title on the line at LPGA Tour Championship
All that will be decided when the tournament begins Thursday at Grand Cypress Golf Club.
For the first time in a decade, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam won’t win Player of the Year. That leaves five in the field with an opportunity to take home the LPGA’s top honor.
“We have got big pressure,” said Jiyai Shin, who begins play with the top spot.
Shin also has a little added pressure.
Shin and Na Yeon Choi have a chance to be the first Koreans to win Player of the Year. They’ve also noticed more Korean media than usual this week lining the fairways and greens for every practice stroke, and interview requests back home are at an all-time high.
“It will be my dream come true if I get the award,” Choi said.
Cristie Kerr could become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to claim the award. Yani Tseng would be the first from Taiwan, and Ai Miyazato of Japan is also in contention.
Miyazato, however, can’t finish No. 1 in the world rankings, but Suzann Pettersen, who doesn’t have enough points to win Player of the Year, can move into the top spot with a victory.
All this is the result of the sport’s top two players in retirement.
Since Ochoa bid farewell to the tour in May, the top spot has shuffled nine times among three players – Shin, Kerr and Miyazato. None of the players in contention could ever remember the three biggest awards – which also includes the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average – at stake so late in the season, much less the finale.
“It is exciting to have the chance, because in years past, it’s been pretty much over by the half-year mark,” Kerr said.
The tournament also marks the LPGA’s first in the Sunshine State since 2008.
Based in Daytona Beach, the LPGA had as many as three Florida events at one time before then but was without one last year. That came as a surprise to some players given the popularity of golf and the nearly year-round warm weather in Florida.
And with dozens of players doubling as central Florida residents, it’s an added incentive to end the year at home.
“We feel we belong with a tournament here,” said Paula Creamer, who lives in the Isleworth community only a few miles away. “It’s just kind of crazy that we haven’t had one for a while.”
The LPGA Tour Championship will keep the format it used last season, cutting to the lowest 70 scores and ties after 36 holes and an additional cut after 54 holes to the lowest 30 players and ties. That makes the margin for error even slimmer.
Especially at the top.
The format makes a big final-day push almost impossible, because to even make it to Sunday players will have to be in close contention. Of course, the five up for Player of the Year know plenty about winning.
They have combined to win 14 of the 25 events this year, including three of the four majors. Tseng won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Women’s British Open, and Kerr took home the LPGA Championship.
As exciting as those others victories were, all five admitted that Player of the Year honors would top everything.
“For me. Player of the Year is kind of it,” Kerr said. “It’s what you see happening every year, what you wish would happen to you. And I think it’s the yearlong culmination of you’re the best player, this is what it was, these are the points, this is a point toward the Hall of Fame.
“It’s something like winning a major championship and having that trophy in your house and seeing it going, ‘That’s something nobody can ever take away from you.”’
2018 NCAA Golf Championships TV Schedule
Golf Channel will shine a spotlight on college golf across the next two weeks at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf National Championships. With more than 60 hours of live tournament and news coverage on-site from Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater Oklahoma (Monday-Wednesday May 21-23 and May 28-30), Golf Channel’s coverage connects 18 straight days of live tournament golf.
Watch live coverage of the NCAA Golf Championships beginning Monday, May 21 at 4pm ET on Golf Channel and streaming.
Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)
Monday, May 21: Individual National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 22:Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 22: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Wednesday, May 23:Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)
Monday, May 28: Individual National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29: Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Wednesday, May 30: Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
AT&T Byron Nelson purse payout: Wise a millionaire
PGA Tour rookie Aaron Wise earned his first Tour title on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Trinity Forest:
|T9||Charles Howell III||-15||$207,900|
Howell, Uihlein qualify for U.S. Open via OWGR
Charles Howell III and Peter Uihlein both used strong play at the AT&T Byron Nelson to maintain their positions inside the top 60 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking, thereby ensuring exemptions to next month's U.S. Open.
Howell moved up three spots to No. 56 in the world thanks to a T-9 finish at Trinity Forest. He'll make his 10th career U.S. Open appearance, but just his second since 2009. Howell missed the cut at Olympic in 2012.
Uihlein finished T-21 in Dallas, which was barely enough to hold onto a top-60 spot as he actually fell two positions to No. 59. The former U.S. Amateur champ will make his third U.S. Open appearance and second in as many years.
The drama for the final spot came down to the wire on Sunday, where Adam Scott's bid to unseat Chesson Hadley at No. 60 came up just short. Needing a solo ninth-place finish, Scott ended up in a three-way tie for ninth to begin the new week at No. 61. Hadley, who didn't play the Nelson, remained No. 60 and will make his U.S. Open debut.
Others to punch tickets to Shinnecock Hills include No. 52 Luke List, No. 53 Chez Reavie and No. 57 Dylan Frittelli. A second and final top-60 cutoff will be done based off the June 11 world rankings following the FedEx St. Jude Classic, with U.S. Open sectional qualifying conducted in England and the U.S. on June 4.
The only change among the top 10 in the rankings this week came at No. 10, where Paul Casey moved past Tommy Fleetwood despite an off week for both players. Justin Thomas remains world No. 1 for a second week, followed by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6, with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Casey rounding out the top 10.
Taking the week off following a T-11 finish at The Players Championship, Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 82.
After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the Nelson's future ...
If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.
Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.
The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray
On Jordan Spieth's putting ...
Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.
He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.
Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.
Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta
On golf and gambling ...
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.
Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.
Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard