Reviewing the historic 2013 LPGA season

By Randall MellDecember 20, 2013, 10:20 pm

Inbee Park turned her putter into a scepter.

She ruled over women’s golf with it this year.

Stacy Lewis turned her 5-iron into a magic wand.

She used it to hit one of the great shots in major championship history on her way to winning at the birthplace of golf.

Suzann Pettersen turned the second half of the LPGA schedule into her personal playground. She won three of her final seven starts, including a major, in a run so hard she nearly overtook Park as the Rolex world No. 1 at year’s end.

With Park, Pettersen and Lewis combining to win all the majors and nearly half of the tournaments on the 2013 schedule, they established themselves as the LPGA’s Big Three. They’re 1-2-3 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, respectively.

Still, they left more than crumbs in a season filled with delicious storylines.

Here are the highlights:

Queen Bee reigns – Park ran away with the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a four-shot victory, nearly collapsed at the Wegmans LPGA Championship before beating Catriona Matthew in a playoff and then cruised to another four-shot victory at the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack. No woman had won the first three majors in a season since Babe Zaharias in 1950. Park would go on to win six LPGA titles overall, claim the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the LPGA money title and rise to No. 1 in the Rolex rankings. She is the first South Korean to be the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year.

Euro shocker – Europe pulled the year’s great upset, knocking off the United States in a rout to win the Solheim Cup for the first time on American soil. The 18-10 shellacking was the largest margin of victory since the event made its debut in 1990. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall became the first player in Solheim Cup history to win five matches and England’s 17-year-old Charley Hull won a name for herself with her shot-making and charm. Captain Liselotte Neumann’s quiet confidence and Suzann Pettersen’s fiery leadership were a perfect combination.

Road Hole magic – Stacy Lewis set up her win at St. Andrews with a brilliant 5-iron into the wind at the Road Hole, one of the great shots in major championship history. She birdied that hole, No. 17, then birdied the 18th to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open, where Park’s bid to become the first man or woman to win four professional majors in a season ended.

Sizzling Suzann – With Park racing to six wins in the first half of the season, three of them majors, it seemed inconceivable anybody could challenge her No. 1 ranking before the year was out. Pettersen did just that, winning three times in her last seven starts, including her second major title, the Evian Championship in September. Going into the year’s final event, Pettersen had a chance to overtake Park with a first- or second-place finish, but fell just short. She’ll begin 2014 with a chance to push Park some more.

You Ko girl! – Lydia Ko stunned the women’s game by winning three professional titles as a 16-year-old this year. She won the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old two seasons ago, becoming the youngest winner in LPGA history. And she won it again this past summer. She started her year winning the New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour and ended it winning the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters on the Korean LPGA Tour. In between, she nearly won a major, pushing Pettersen to the end at the Evian Championship. Ko didn’t surprise anyone turning pro near year’s end and getting a waiver of the LPGA’s rule requiring members be at least 18. She will end the 2013 season as the No. 4 player in the Rolex rankings. She’ll start 2014 as a 16-year-old LPGA member.

Another teen wonder – With two late-season victories, Lexi Thompson, 18, leaped back into the spotlight. After winning an LPGA event as a 16-year-old, she reminded what promise her game possesses. Victories at the Sime Darby Malaysia in October and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November helped her climb among the top 10 in the Rolex rankings.

Shanshan’s storybook win – Playing under enormous pressure in the first LPGA event in mainland China, Shanshan Feng delighted her fellow countrymen in October, winning the Reignwood Classic in a duel with Lewis. Feng came from behind with an eagle at the last to win. Feng made a statement adding another title at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”