International Crown intensity high at LPGA opener

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2014, 8:14 pm

The LPGA’s season opener in the Bahamas next week is about a lot more than shaking off rust.

With the International Crown making its debut later this year, the intensity will immediately ratchet up in the ranks of the South Koreans, Americans and Japanese.

While the eight nations qualifying for the International Crown were set at the end of last year, the competition to see who makes those four-player rosters continues. The most intense battles look like they’ll unfold for the South Korean, American and Japanese rosters.

For South Korea, with fierce nationalistic pride in its country’s dominance of the women’s game, there promises to be escalating scrutiny on who qualifies and who doesn’t. So Yeon Ryu said there is already pressure building with South Korean fans expecting a win to prove that nation is truly the world’s best in women’s golf.

“The really hard part is Koreans are pretty sure we’re going to win this tournament,” Ryu says of her country’s fan base. “I think that makes it really hard.”

It’s practically a free-for-all for the final spot on the South Korean roster.

On the American front, there’s no guarantee American stars Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer hold on to the last two U.S. spots. They have work to do to secure their places over the next three months.

Japan has a bunch of players in the top 50 in the world with a chance to make its team.

The International Crown is scheduled July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owing Mills, Md.

South Korea, the United States, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Chinese Tapei and Australia claimed spots into the event based on the cumulative world rankings of their best four players near the end of last season. However, the competition for rosters spots on those teams remains open through March 31, the Monday before the Kraft Nabisco Championship begins.

That leaves just six LPGA events for players from those eight countries to make their team, though qualifying isn’t limited to LPGA events. The top four from each nation in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings on March 31 will make the team.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan believes this will be a showcase event.

“It takes our tour’s greatest asset and puts it on display,” Whan said. “Fans and viewers have different views on this, but the global nature of our tour, the fact that the best players come from all over the world, and that the whole world is watching, that is our greatest advantage at the LPGA.

“When we play in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, what you realize is that they are so country proud, it’s unbelievable. So we’re going to give them an opportunity to be country proud. We’re going to give them an opportunity to put up the flag, paint the face, sing the anthem and let’s see who the best country in the world is.”

Here’s a look at how the roster battles shape up for each country with the world rankings in parenthesis:

South Korea: Inbee Park (1), So Yeon Ryu (5), Na Yeon Choi (7), I.K. Kim (10), Ha Na Jang (14), Amy Yang (15), Jiyai Shin (16), Hee Young Park (18), Hyo-Joo Kim (24), Sun Ju Ahn (27), Chella Choi (28), Se Ri Pak (30),

The South Koreans are so deep, they literally could have had three or four teams qualify for this event if more than one team from each nation were allowed to make it. Pak, the Hall of Famer who inspired her nation’s dominance, would make quite the story if she could work her way on to the team.

United States: Stacy Lewis (3), Lexi Thompson (9), Cristie Kerr (12), Paula Creamer (13), Angela Stanford (17), Lizette Salas (20), Gerina Piller (36), Jessica Korda (42), Brittany Lincicome (46), Morgan Pressel (47), Jennifer Johnson (56), Michelle Wie (61).

That’s quite the bunching there with Thompson, Kerr, Creamer, Stanford and Salas all within 11 world-ranking spots.

Japan: Ai Miyazato (21), Mika Miyazato (22), Sakura Yokomine (34), Rikako Morita (38), Miki Saiki (44), Shiho Oyama (48), Mamiko Higa (49), Yumiko Yoshido (51), Chie Arimura (66).

The Miyazatos aren’t sisters, but they are the most well-known Japanese players to LPGA fans. There’s a lot of talent, though, on Japan’s own women’s tour who could make international names for themselves at Caves Valley.

Spain: Beatriz Recari (19), Azahara Munoz (31), Carlota Ciganda (39), Belen Mozo (172), Mireia Prat (247), Maria Hernandez (340), Patricia Sanz Barrio (367).

The trio of Spaniards leading the way here were a big part of Europe winning its first Solheim Cup on American soil last year.

Sweden: Caroline Hedwall (23), Anna Nordqvist (26), Pernilla Lindberg (119), Mikaela Parmlid (146), Karin Sjodin (180), Linda Wessberg (216), Camilla Lennarth (250).

Hedwall and Nordqvist are proven international team match-play dynamos as part of the last two winning European Solheim Cup teams. Hedwall was the first player to go 5-0 in a Solheim Cup in last year’s Euro win.

Thailand: Ariya Jutanugarn (29), Pornanong Phatlum (35), Moriya Jutanugarn (85), Thidapa Suwannapura (123), Onnarin Attayabanphot (141), Nontaya Srisawang (166), Patcharajutar Kongkrapan (237).

There’s a lot of young, emerging talent here. The Thais could really surprise.

Chinese Taipei: Yani Tseng (37), Teresa Lu (54), Candie Kung (92), Hsuan-Yu Yao (163), Yun-Jye Wei (207), Tzu-Chi Lin (406).

This is Yani’s team. She is revered in her homeland, and she’ll be looking to regain her best form to help make her nation proud.

Australia: Karrie Webb (8), Katherine Hull-Kirk (107), Stacey Keating (114), Lindsey Wright (129), Rebecca Artis (148), Sarah Jane Smith (185), Nikki Campbell (213), Bree Arthur (223), Sarah Kemp (231), Kristie Smith (232).

Webb may be the only Hall of Famer to qualify for this international team event, but this is a team with proven winners in the United States, Europe and their native Australia.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."