Punch Shot: Who is the LPGA Player of the Year?

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2014, 10:00 pm

Stacy Lewis won the LPGA's Player of the Year award based on points. But would she have prevailed over Inbee Park, Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie in a vote? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with who they would have choosen as the 2014 LPGA POY.


If the Rolex Player of the Year Award were decided in a vote by players, this year’s choice might be one of the toughest decisions in the history of such balloting.

Stacy Lewis swept the LPGA awards historically considered the most important in the women’s game. Her near omnipresence on leaderboards is testament to her all-around skills and unrelenting tenacity. Nobody logged more top-10 finishes (18) than Lewis did this year.

This becomes a hair pulling exercise when you dissect the year because Inbee Park and Lydia Ko matched Lewis for most victories this season (3). Park actually led the way the tour measures top-10 finishes. She led the statistical category with 74 percent top-10 finishes. She had one less top-10 than Lewis but also had five fewer starts. Ko won the CME Globe, another measure of season-long excellence.

Yet when this dissection comes down to the category that carries the heaviest weight in measuring a great year, the scales tip to Park. She’s the only player among this trio who won a major championship. While majors haven’t been the same weighty measurement of greatness that they have in the men’s game over the years – because the events designated as majors in the women’s game have changed so often – majors are becoming just as highly coveted on the women’s side. That’s why as painful as it is choosing among these players, Lewis’ own words decide the vote for me.

“I’m not saying it was a great year,” Lewis said. “I would have liked to have won a major. That would have made it a great year. This makes it almost a great year.”

Park gets my vote in this gut wrenching exercise because her LPGA Championship title separates her from Lewis and Ko.


The truth is, you could take the quartet of Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko, put their names in a hat and pick one - and you'd get a deserving winner.

Not to ride the fence or the LPGA company line, but there's no wrong answer here. Lewis was the tour's most consistent player; Park continued her reign as a ruthless champion; Wie earned style points with her maiden major; and Ko continued to impress as a 17-year-old world-beater.

Force me to pick only one and I suppose I'll echo the LPGA's own points system and go with Lewis. She put together another superb season worthy of all the accolades.

Really, though, you can't go wrong with any of 'em. Which is a major reason why the LPGA was so entertaining this year.


Can you really go wrong with any of these candidates: Lewis, Park, Ko? They each had three wins. They each cleared $2 million in earnings. They each factored in a handful of majors.

Unlike Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis was major-less. Unlike Lydia Ko, Lewis didn’t win the season-long race. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have the best season. She had more top finishes, earned more prize money (by more than $300,000) and had more consistent play in the majors, with top-20s in all five Grand Slam events, including three in the top 6. There was the runner-up at the Kraft. There was the solo third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Park won the Wegmans LPGA, but she also finished outside the top 35 in a pair of majors. Ko was third at the Wegmans, but she also had forgettable weeks at the Kraft and Women’s British, and finished fifth in scoring.

This is nitpicking, we know, but that’s how close this race has been. Lewis won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and won Player of the Year honors based on the points system, which is good enough for us. In a year defined by three stars – OK, four, if you include Michelle Wie’s resurgent year – Lewis was just a tiny bit better. 


Lydia Ko was 2014’s Rookie of Everything and the newest member of the millionaire’s club. Inbee Park collected her fifth major championship, is the game’s top-ranked woman and a three-time LPGA winner this year.

Despite those impressive resumes, however, it’s Stacy Lewis who is the LPGA’s player of the year.

Lewis traded the top spot in the Rolex rankings with Park throughout the season and took the season-long money title following what was by any definition a dominant year.

Where Lewis edges Park is in her consistency. Like Park, Lewis had three victories in 2014 and although she didn’t collect her third major, it wasn’t from a lack of effort.

Lewis finished third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, second at the U.S. Women’s Open and sixth at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. She also remained consistent throughout the season, finishing inside the top 10 in 18 of her 28 starts.

But perhaps most impressive is how Lewis finished her year. Despite two of her worst tournaments of the season coming down the stretch, she opened with a 3-under 69 at the season finale on her way to a tie for ninth to claim the money title and the Vare Trophy, closing out an unmistakable player of the year campaign.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He will return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finished worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.