Punch Shot: Teenage LPGA phenom with brightest future?

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2013, 5:55 pm

Women's professional golf keeps skewing younger and younger. Three of the game's most promising stars are teenagers: Lydia Ko, 16; Lexi Thompson, 18; and Charley Hull, 17. New Zealander Ko and American Thompson both have two LPGA wins and one on the Ladies European Tour. England's Hull helped the European Solheim Cup team defeat its U.S. counterpart earlier this year. Which one has the brightest future? GolfChannel.com writers debate.


Although in the short term the outcome depends on the good graces of LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, in the long run the depth of talent already demonstrated by Lydia Ko makes the teenager the best prospect in the game regardless of age.

That Whan is still mulling whether to grant Ko an age waiver to become a LPGA member next season is a bigger mystery than who will have a better career, Ko, Lexi Thompson or Charley Hull?

If Thompson set the standard with her victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic as a 16-year-old, Ko has redefined the DNA of a prodigy. At 14 she won her first professional event on the Australian ladies circuit and went one better in 2012 to become the youngest winner on the LPGA with her victory at the Canadian Women’s Open.

For good measure, Ko went back to back at the Canadian event this season, lapping the field by five strokes.

After finishing runner-up at the Evian Championship in September, Ko announced she will turn pro this year but the fact is, whether Whan has any interest in admitting it with a waiver, the teen is already among the top five players in the world according to the Rolex Rankings.

At 16 she has already eclipsed Hull and Thompson. There’s no reason to think that won’t be the case when she’s 60.


Give me one of the longest players on the LPGA, the one who averages 270 yards per pop and has the potential to reduce many venues to a wedge contest.

Lydia Ko is the real deal. She knows how to score and, it appears, how to win. Charley Hull is dynamic but remains largely unproven. But Lexi Thompson now has three career wins – in Alabama, Malaysia and Dubai – and enough upside to stake her claim as a future world No. 1. Her power and athleticism make her the most exciting prospect in the women’s game … so long as her putter cooperates, as it did last week, when she won by four.

Thompson hasn’t finished better than 112th on tour in putting each of the past two years, and she’s currently ranked 110th this season. If a coach can mold her into an above-average putter, she could become an LPGA world-beater. 


Between Lydio Ko, Lexi Thompson and Charley Hull, you can’t go wrong. Picking one for the future is like picking between three burgeoning blue-chip stocks: Sure there’s some risk involved, but it’s easily outweighed by the potential reward.

With that in mind, give me Ko for one reason alone – she can flat-out putt.

Everyone on the LPGA can hit the ball in varying degrees of brilliance, but the ability to get the ball into the hole with the flatstick is what separates the elite from the rest of the pack.

Consider this: At No. 2 on the driving distance list with just over 270 yards per drive this season, Thompson averaged 25 more yards off the tee than Inbee Park. The difference, of course, is that Park has been deadly on the greens, which will lead to her winning the Player of the Year award.

Ko has the ability to be a Park-like putter throughout her career. That alone should separate her – ever so slightly – from the other teenage phenoms making headlines right now.


While Charley Hull rightfully garnered attention during this year’s Solheim Cup, she remains somewhat of an unknown entity for prognostication purposes. For me, this question is between the two teens with multiple titles to their credit, and I’m going with the one who hasn’t even turned pro yet: Lydia Ko.

While both have shown flashes of greatness, Ko has done more often in fewer overall opportunities, and has shown greater overall consistency. For the past two years, the Kiwi has earned low amateur honors upon teeing it up in any major, but has also gone on to contend time and again with professionals twice her age. This is not to mention her multiple wins as an amateur, including the remarkable feat of successfully defending her CN Canadian Women’s Open title across two different courses.

While Thompson’s length off the tee will always remain a strong asset, her putter has a tendency to desert her on occasion, which is a troubling trend. Hers will likely be a successful career, but may not reach the heights of Ko, who appears to have the more well-rounded game.  So given the choice, I’ll take Ko, a player who already seems well on her way to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings – an achievement that, given her current spot at No. 5, she may accomplish sooner rather than later. 

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.