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Season-long award hangs in balance at CME

By Randall MellNovember 14, 2017, 4:41 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship will feel as if it is being played out on multiple stages at Tiburon Golf Club this week.

There are a lot more coveted prizes to be claimed here than just that glass cube full of $1 million in the last leg of the season-long Race to the CME Globe.

The Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the LPGA money-winning title all hang in the balance.

Oh yeah, so does a $500,000 first-place tournament check.

The battles for big prizes are so tight, they threaten to make Sunday’s finish more pressure-packed than a major championship.

There is arguably more history to be made this week than in any single major, with multiple honors in the offering.

A breakdown of what’s at stake:

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

Three hundredths of a point separate the top three players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

The top three’s average world rankings:

1: Shanshan Feng, 8.46.

2: Sung Hyun Park, 8.44.

3: So Yeon Ryu, 8.43.

Feng took the top spot this week after winning the Blue Bay LPGA in China, her second consecutive victory and third of the season. The scenarios that could lead to another change this week will be head spinning.


Rolex Player of the Year

Four players are still in the hunt for this point-based award.

Ryu leads with 162 points. Feng is just three points back, Ryu only five behind and Lexi Thompson 15 behind. A victory is worth 30 points this week, second worth 12, third worth nine, with points awarded down to a single point for 10th place.


Vare Trophy

Hall of Famer Beth Daniel coveted the Vare Trophy for low scoring average more than the Player of the Year Award, because she believed it was the best measurement of consistent excellence through a season.

She isn’t alone.

Daniel, by the way, won three Player of the Year awards and three Vare Trophies.

Thompson leads the tour in scoring, 0.112 average strokes ahead of Park with In Gee Chun also still in the running.

The averages:

1: Lexi Thompson, 69.147

2: Sung Hyun Park, 69.259

3: In Gee Chun, 69.269

The LPGA estimates Park needs to finish about nine or 10 shots ahead of Thompson to claim the Vare Trophy.


Money winning title

Park leads in money won this season, but with the first-place tournament check of $500,000 this week, Park hasn’t locked up the title yet.

Park has won $298,047 more than Ryu.

Ryu can claim the title, but she has to win to do so, and then hope Park doesn’t finish solo second.

The money winning list:

1: Shung Hyun Park, $2,262,472

2: So Yeon Ryu, $1,964,425

3: Shanshan Feng, $1,703,326


Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson leads the points re-set, but the season-long race for the $1 million jackpot is set up so that any one of the top 12 in Naples has a chance at the top money prize. The top five are guaranteed to win the top payout if they win the CME Group Tour Championship.

Thompson is trying to become the first American to win the jackpot since the CME Race was instituted four years ago.

The point standings:

1: Lexi Thompson, 5,000

2: Sung Hyun Park, 4,750

3: Shanshan Feng, 4,500

4: So Yeon Ryu, 4,250

5: Brooke Henderson, 4,000

6: In Gee Chun, 3,600

7: Cristie Kerr, 3,200

8: Moriya Jutanugarn, 2,800

9: Ariya Jutanugarn, 2,400

10: Anna Nordqvist, 2,100

11: Stacy Lewis, 1,800

12: Lydia Ko, 1,600

A victory this week is worth 3,500 points, with second place worth 2,450, third worth 2,250 with points awarded on down through 40th place.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.