Chase for No. 1 resumes on LPGA Tour

By Randall MellFebruary 12, 2013, 11:57 pm

It’s all about the chase.

All the top players are in hot pursuit of Yani Tseng in women’s golf.

The LPGA’s 2013 season begins this week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open with a pack of challengers looking to ratchet up the pressure on the Rolex world No. 1.

Will Tseng rebound from last year’s struggles and ward off her challengers with a fast start at Royal Canberra Golf Club?

Or will American Stacy Lewis build on her sizzling run of a year ago and make another big move to overtake Tseng? Lewis became the first American in 18 years to win the LPGA Player of the Year award last season.

Tseng, Ko, Wie make up featured group in LPGA Aussie opener

How about 15-year-old amateur sensation Lydia Ko? Is she good enough to send a message to Tseng this week? Ko has climbed to No. 30 in the world with three victories and two second-place finishes in just 12 professional starts. She is paired with Tseng in the first two rounds of this week’s Women’s Australian Open. Ko is also scheduled to play next week’s Honda LPGA Thailand, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and the U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open this summer. How high can this phenom climb in the world rankings?

With world No. 2 Na Yeon Choi waiting to make her start in Thailand next week, Lewis is the next highest ranked player in this week’s field to Tseng. At No. 3, Lewis is eager to keep climbing.

“My goal every week last year was just to be in contention going into Sunday,” Lewis said. “That doesn’t change.

“Ultimately, I do want to be No. 1 this year. That’s kind of in the back of my mind. For me, I have to have the short-term focus. I can’t think about player of the year, or winning the money list. You can’t think about that now. It’s just about giving yourself chances to win.”

Tseng’s challengers will be attuned to what kind of form she shows in her 2013 debut this week. Tseng, 24, looked vulnerable through much of last year. Players will sense a real opportunity if she gets off to a sluggish start this season.

Since April of last year, Lewis has won four LPGA titles. Tseng is looking for her first title in 10 months.

Tseng’s run at No. 1 will reach exactly two years on Saturday. While 15 wins in 15 months helped her build a giant lead in the world rankings early last year, the lead is shrinking rapidly.

Tseng has 9.69 average world ranking points this week. Nine months ago, she was a whopping 12.15 average world ranking points ahead of Lewis. Today, Tseng is just 1.73 average points ahead of Lewis and just 1.21 average points ahead of Choi.

What does that mean?

It means if Lewis or Choi can win a couple events early and Tseng doesn’t answer, the No. 1 ranking will be up for grabs.

Lewis, 27, isn’t the only American sensing opportunity.

Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer aren’t in this week’s field, but they will both be teeing it up at the Honda LPGA Thailand next week. Fixtures among the top 10 in the world ever since the Rolex world rankings made their debut in 2006, Kerr and Creamer have both slipped out of the top 10. Kerr is No. 11, Creamer No. 13.

They’re both in pursuit of big years.

“Anytime a player wins a couple majors and four or five tournaments in a year, it’s hard to unseat them,” said Kerr, 35. “But it seems like Yani has had a little bit more inconsistency the last year. There’s definitely an opportunity to move up in the world rankings, but I think I would probably have to have a career year to get back to No. 1.”

Kerr and Creamer aren’t just chasing Tseng. They’re chasing Lewis.

Since the world rankings were created, Kerr and Creamer have taken turns reigning as the top American. Kerr is the only American to hold the No. 1 ranking. She had it for five weeks in 2010. Lewis took over as the top American last year.

“I’ve never made a secret of what I want,” Creamer, 26, said. “I want to be the No. 1 player in the world, and I’ve never been shy about wanting to be the No. 1 American. Yeah, it’s a motivator. It makes you work harder. I want to be in that spot. I know Stacy is in that spot and wants to keep it and hold it, but I can’t control what she does. I’m working hard. I can only control me, and how hard I’ve been working, and just getting the job done.”

Creamer is looking for her 10th LPGA title, her first since the U.S. Open in 2010.

“I’m feeling like maybe this is the year I can pull everything together and get on the right track,” Creamer said.

Kerr endured some frustrations last year, but she won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in the second to last event of the season. It was her 15th LPGA title, her first since winning the LPGA Championship in 2010.

“Winning was huge for me, for my confidence, for inspiring me to work on my game in the offseason and for looking forward to the future, being hungry and excited,” Kerr said. “Golf is a sport where you can put in a lot of work and often not see a lot of reward. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve worked hard, and I’ve had a lot of success over the years. To have a period of time where I’m doing a lot of things right and not get a win, that was frustrating. You kind of want to lose your confidence a little bit. Winning showed me you have to persevere, you can’t lose the faith.”

So let the chase resume.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.