LPGA's best couldn't help dancing through 2014

By Randall MellDecember 15, 2014, 5:00 pm

The LPGA’s best made 2014 something to shake your hips about.

From Mo Martin’s little shimmy in the 18th fairway after nearly holing a 3-wood for double eagle on her way to winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open, to Michelle Wie’s gravity-defying twerking at a victory party following her U.S. Women’s Open vwin and Paula Creamer’s high-stepping jig after holing a monster eagle putt to win the HSBC Women’s Champions in a playoff, the LPGA’s best couldn’t help dancing their way through this year.

The women’s game delivered a year worth celebrating with one compelling twist and turn after another.

A look back on the highlights from 2014:

Here Wie go again – Wie reignited excitement over the possibilities in her game winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2, maybe the biggest stage in the history of women’s golf with the women playing the same U.S. Open venue as the men for the first time in back-to-back weeks. She boosted NBC TV ratings to almost double what they were for the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open a year earlier. She also won near her Hawaiian home, taking the Lotte Championship outside Honolulu, and she created a dreamy matchup losing to Lexi Thompson in dramatic final-round duel at the season-opening major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Wie ended the season talking about chasing world No. 1 next year.

2014 Newsmaker: 6. Michelle Wie

Stacy’s sweep – Stacy Lewis swept the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and LPGA money title, becoming the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to do so. She has become practically a fixture on leaderboards, winning three times in 2014 while racking up a tour-best 18 top-10 finishes.

1-2 punches – Inbee Park and Lewis stoked their budding rivalry in dramatic fashion, facing off in a head-to-head duel in Taiwan late in the year, with Park prevailing just a week after retaking the Rolex No. 1 world ranking from Lewis. These two have waged a classy battle for supremacy in the women’s game, taking turns holding the top ranking for the last 90 weeks. Park won the Wegmans LPGA Championship in August, her fourth major in two seasons, setting up a late-season run that got her back to No. 1 in the world.

Ko-mania continues – Lydia Ko ended her brilliant rookie year with an exclamation mark. The 17-year-old took home $1.5 million at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which ranks as the richest payday in the history of women’s golf. She took home $1 million as winner of the season-long Race to the CME Globe and another $500,000 as winner of the CME Group Tour Championship. Her three victories equaled Lewis and Park as the most LPGA titles in 2014. All of this helped her become the youngest Rookie of the Year in tour history.

Mighty Mo’s magical finish – Martin was golf’s Cinderella story in 2014, making her first LPGA victory a major championship. At 31, after toiling on the Symetra Tour for six years to make it to the LPGA, she won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in her third LPGA season. She did so with one of the best shots in major championship history. She rattled a 3-wood off the flagstick at the 72nd hole, making eagle to finish off the year’s most enchanting round.

Lexi’s breakthrough – Big-hitting 19-year-old Lexi Thompson bombed and gouged her way around Mission Hills at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in ways you don’t normally see women do, launching drivers with impunity while breaking through to win her first major championship in an intriguing Sunday duel against Wie. The matchup was electric.

The putt heard ‘round the world – Creamer’s 75-foot eagle putt to win the HSBC Women’s Champions went viral on video almost as much for Creamer’s emotional celebration as it did for the amazing putt itself. The big-bending putt won Creamer the title on the second playoff hole against Azahara Munoz, ending Creamer’s frustration after so many close calls in the four years since she last won at the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont.

Christina’s human fireworks show – Emotions came bursting out of Christina Kim like fireworks after she holed out to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in a playoff, claiming her first LPGA title in nine years. She overcame daunting obstacles to win again, overcoming back and arm injuries and even emotional injury, making her battle with depression public a couple years ago. She was one of the year’s best feel-good victories.

Spain’s royal foursome – The Spanish quartet of Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Belen Mozo and Carlota Ciganda won the captivating new International Crown with a flair and bravado that would have made Seve Ballesteros proud. With a staggering sweep of all four of their Sunday singles matches, they ran away with the new international team event. This was after Recari sized up the International Crown trophy at the opening gala and proclaimed: “We’re taking that home with us.”

An American resurgence – When Jessica Korda won the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, it set up a run that American women’s golf hasn’t seen since the turn of the century. The Americans won 13 LPGA titles in 2014, more than in any single year since 1999. Lewis would win three of those titles for the Americans, Wie and Korda two apiece.

Still slinging Webbs – Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, whose reverence for tour history is unsurpassed among active players, claimed the JTBC Founders Cup for the second time, giving her two LPGA titles this year, the 40th and 41st of her career. The Founders Cup honors the tour’s founders and pioneers.

Multiple winners – The year saw eight players win multiple times: 3 – Lewis, Park and Ko; 2 – Wie, Webb, Korda, Anna Nordqvist and Mirim Lee. 

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."