Lewis, Pettersen, Park have become LPGA's 'Big Three'

By Randall MellOctober 25, 2013, 1:50 pm

For so long, womens golf was defined by a single, dominant player.

Really, for almost a dozen years after the turn of this century, you could name one overwhelming force in the womens game, the one player who reigned superior over everyone else.

From Annika Sorenstam to Karrie Webb to Lorena Ochoa and then to Yani Tseng, there were long runs where nobody could touch these players.

They defined eras.

Yes, Sorenstam and Webb were equals for a part of their runs, the last real rivals in the womens game. There was a time near the turn of this century where they were the Big Two in womens golf. They didnt just separate themselves from the rest of the game. They pushed each other to new heights.

We just might be getting back to that dynamic in the womens game.

With Suzann Pettersen making a run this week at winning the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, womens golf is watching three players of this era separate themselves from everyone else. Were watching them push each other to new heights as a trio.

Call them the Big Three.

Inbee Park, Pettersen and Stacy Lewis have dominated this LPGA season, and theyre currently ranked Nos. 1-2-3 in the world, respectively.

Park, of course, is enjoying one of the greatest years in LPGA history, a season in which she won the first three majors, a feat equaled only by Babe Zaharias way back in 1950.

Overall, Park has won six LPGA titles this season.

Normally, that ought to seal a players spot as the Rolex world No. 1, as Player of the Year and the leading money winner.

In fact, Park might sweep all those honors, but its not a lock quite yet with four events left this season.

If Pettersen wins this week, the Big Three will have combined to win more than half of all the LPGA events played this year. They will have won 13 of the 25 played so far.

Parks won those six, Pettersen will have won four and Lewis three.

Theyve also combined to win all the majors, with Park taking the Kraft Nabisco, Wegmans LPGA Championship and U.S. Womens Open, Pettersen taking the Evian Championship and Lewis the Ricoh Womens British Open.

Notably, they seem to be answering each other.

Early in the year, Lewis won the HSBC Womens Champions and RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in back-to-back starts to take the Rolex No. 1 ranking from Tseng.

Park responded with her run of three majors, securing the No. 1 ranking along the way.

A defining moment among the trio seemed to arrive at the U.S. Womens Open at the end of June. Park, Pettersen and Lewis were all paired together in the first two rounds at Sebonack Golf Club. Park, though, didnt just go on to win the championship. She blew away her nearest rivals. In their first two rounds playing together, Park beat Pettersen by a cumulative 19 shots and Lewis by 12.

That appeared to rile up Pettersen and Lewis, because they had spirited answers in the second half.

Lewis went on to win the next major, the Ricoh Womens British Open.

Pettersen went on to win the last major, the Evian Championship. Pettersen is still on fire. Since getting thrashed by Park at the U.S. Womens Open, here are Pettersens finishes: T-6, T-4, T-7, Win, Win, T-3, T-3.

Since Sebonack, here are Lewis finishes: T-6, T-7, Win, 2nd, T-6, 2nd, T-6.

Park has one top-10 finish since Sebonack.

After the U.S. Women's Open, Park topped the Rolex Womens World Rankings with 13.27 average points. Pettersen was No. 3 with 7.92. Now, Pettersen is within less than a point. If she wins this week, Pettersen will pull to within .66 points of overtaking Park. Its possible Park could end this remarkable year without the No. 1 ranking.

Clearly, that thrashing at Sebonack motivated Pettersen. She learned there that she had to become a better putter to stay with Park, the games best putter.

That was almost a wake-up call for me, Pettersen said after winning at Evian. I had to see where the hurdle was. I had to look at my game. It was a question of being honest. I couldnt lie. For me, it was definitely the putting. Its been a part Ive been trying to improve, and its nice when it pays off that quickly.

David Leadbetter, Pettersens swing coach, saw how Park changed Pettersens approach to practice.

Suzann has changed her practice regimen to where shes spending a lot more time on her putting, Leadbetter said. She never really had a regimen for her putting. It was always a sort of secondary thing.

Just last month, Lewis and Park both talked about the effect theyve had on each other this year.

Since last year, Ive always watched Stacys score after I finish my round, Park said. She has been somebody that I have always thought had the game to be No. 1. She is a good ball striker. I really try to learn from her, what she is doing good. I think she is such a nice person outside the golf course, too. I think having somebody like that definitely helps your game to improve.

Lewis said: I watched Yani a lot when she was in her run. We seemed to play a lot together, so I learned a lot playing with Yani and what she was doing. Now, youre kind of doing the same with Inbee. Were making each other better. Were pushing each other to work harder. I think its great for both of us ... I do watch her scores. I watch what shes doing. I watch how shes preparing. I think you can learn a lot by watching people when they are playing their best.

Pettersen is playing in Taiwan this week with Park and Lewis both taking the week off. Lewis is scheduled to play the Mizuno Classic in Japan next week with Pettersen and Park both off. All three are expected to tee it up in the final two events of the year, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and CME Group Titleholders. The Big Three seem poised to make the last month of the season compelling.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.