LPGA Q-School grads will have big shoes to fill

By Randall MellDecember 1, 2015, 10:01 pm

Who is going to emerge from the final stage of LPGA Q-School in Daytona Beach, Fla., this week most equipped to make a mark on tour next year?

This year’s class of Q-School grads will have a tough road topping what last year’s class did.

A year ago, LPGA Q-School gave us Minjee Lee and Alison Lee as its medalists. Minjee, formerly the No. 1 women’s amateur in the world, went on to win the Kingsmill Classic. Alison went on to make the American Solheim Cup team. Last year’s Q-School grads also included Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull, Ha Na Jang and Ariya Jutanugarn. Kim was the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year and won three times. Hull made the European Solheim Cup team for a second time.

Kim and Jang led a new wave of South Koreans on to the tour in 2015. They joined Hyo Joo Kim and Q Baek as dynamic South Korean rookies, with Hyo Joo and Baek gaining their membership through non-member victories. All four players were already stars on the Korean LPGA Tour when they joined the American-based LPGA.

This year’s Q-School class doesn’t have the same sizzle.

There are four South Koreans at Q-School this year, with Jeong Eun Lee the most proven player in that group. Lee, a four-time KLPGA winner, made it through Q-School last year with conditional status.

When they teed it up at Q-School a year ago, Jang was already No. 25 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Hull was No. 37 and Sei Young Kim was No. 40.

The highest ranked player in this year’s field is Denmark’s Nichole Broch Larsen at No. 75.

A field of 157 players is scheduled to compete at LPGA International’s Jones and Hills courses. At Sunday’s finish of the 90-hole event, the top 20 (no ties) will earn full status via category 12 on the LPGA priority list. Players finishing 21st through 45th and ties will earn conditional status via category 17. There will be a cut to the low 70 and ties after 72 holes with everyone finishing four rounds assured Symetra Tour status. There’s also a $50,000 purse in play with the medalist taking home $5,000.

Some players to watch this week:

Young and hungry – Taiwan’s Ssu Chia Cheng, Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and American Megan Khang are looking to make their marks. Cheng won a Ladies European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur last year and is 14th on the LET Order of Merit this year. Lopez, a junior at the University of Arkansas, was runner up at the NCAA Championship this year. She’s playing as an amateur this week with the option of turning pro if she earns LPGA or Symetra Tour status. Khang, who turned 18 in October, turned pro last week. She was No. 8 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking before turning pro and was low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open this summer.

LET hopefuls – Broch Larsen won the LET’s Helsingborg Open in September and is second on the LET’s Order of Merit this season. Wales’ Amy Boulden was the LET’s Rookie of the Year last season and is 10th on the LET Order of Merit this season. England’s Holly Clyburn is an LET winner ranked No. 90 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Australia’s Rebecca Artis is No. 7 on the LET Order of Merit.

Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow is back at Q-School after earning conditional status last year. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award two weeks ago for the manner in which she managed the emotional challenges of her rookie season. The day before she was scheduled to depart for the season-opening Coates Golf Championship in January, she learned her devoted father, Robert, was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. She left the game for three months at year’s start to help her mother manage her father’s care before his death in May.

Back for more – Lorie Kane, 50, a four-time LPGA winner, is looking to return full time to the tour.

Cheyenne Woods, Kristy McPherson, Belen Mozo, Dori Carter, Heather Bowie Young, Becky Morgan, Cindy LaCrosse and Mallory Blackwelder are among LPGA veterans looking to regain or improve status for the 2016 season.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."

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Watch: McIlroy hits spectator on hand

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 2:58 pm

We never cease to wonder at how close fans crowd in to the intended line of some shots, and just how skilled Tour players are in not hitting someone.

But every once in a while, golf ball and spectator intersect, with painful results. It happened to Rory McIlroy during the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, after he had hit a wayward drive on the sixth hole. Attempting to hack out his second shot from under a bush, McIlroy struck a female spectator on her right hand. There was no official word on her condition, but she was clearly - and understandably - in pain.

McIlroy went on to make double bogey but was able to put the incident behind him, as he promptly birdied the next hole.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.