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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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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.