Tseng-Lewis battling for world No. 1

By Randall MellNovember 14, 2012, 11:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Yani Tseng can’t seem to shake Stacy Lewis these days.

When Tseng pulled into the parking lot this week for the season-ending CME Group Titleholders, she couldn’t help noticing Lewis was assigned the spot right next to hers.

When Lewis won the Mizuno Classic in Japan two weeks ago to virtually clinch Rolex Player of the Year honors, Tseng played two rounds with Lewis.

The No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world are getting closer in ranking points every week.

Good naturedly, Tseng reminded the media Wednesday that she’s still No. 1.

“Don’t forget about that,” Tseng said. “I can still have a happy ending.”

CME Group Titleholders scoring

That’s the thing about Tseng’s year. Her reign as No. 1 has not been as much fun as it ought to be. She hasn’t been as happy as she believes she should have been, but she’s learning to remedy that.

“The last three or four months, I was really trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself,” Tseng said. “I second guessed myself whether I can still win a tournament. I was struggling, and I wasn’t very happy.”

Tseng’s run at No. 1 has reached 91 consecutive weeks, but the longer she carries the top ranking, the more she has felt its burdens. She’s learning to carry it better. She’s learning to smile even when she’s struggling. She calls this year a learning experience.

“Everybody wants to be No. 1, but no one understands how hard it would be to be No. 1,” Tseng said. “Now I know why Lorena [Ochoa] and Annika [Sorenstam] retired, because it’s very hard.”

Tseng’s lead in the Rolex World Rankings is still significant, but it’s shrinking rapidly.

Tseng has 12.24 average world-ranking points. Seven months ago, Lewis was a whopping 12.15 average points behind Tseng. Today, Lewis is 2.92 average points behind.

How close is Lewis to catching Tseng? Lewis won’t be able to overtake Tseng with a victory this week, and it isn’t likely she could give herself a chance until about a month into next season. A win against a strong field typically nets a player .7 of a point.

This much is clear, though. Lewis wants the No. 1 ranking.

“That’s one of the things I am going to pay attention to going into next year,” Lewis said. “That’s been one of the goals this year, to chip away at her lead and narrow that gap. That’s the next goal for me, to be No. 1 in the world, but you have to win tournaments, you have to be in contention. Being No. 1 is the result of a lot of hard work, and I just have to keep working hard.”

While Tseng is still No. 1 in the world, Lewis has clearly been the best player in the world over the last six months.

Lewis has made her surge coming out of the shadows. Americans Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson have all garnered more attention than Lewis going into a season over the years.

“A lot of the American players, you look at Lexi and Michelle, there’s always this hype in the beginning, and all the pressure, things like that I didn’t have,” Lewis said. “I didn’t have all the expectations everyone else had, and I think that’s really helped me get to where I am.”

Lewis believes she’s ready to handle the hype that comes with being regarded as the game’s best player.

“There’s a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure there,” Lewis said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that when there’s more pressure on, you’ve just got to go have fun.

“Looking into next year, I want to keep enjoying this stuff. When it becomes pressure and a burden, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, a Golf Channel analyst, believes seeing Tseng and Lewis at their best together in a battle for No. 1 would be good for the women’s game.

“We need that,” Rankin said.

Tseng is playing for the sixth consecutive week. It’s a lot of golf, but she believes she’s on the cusp of something good again.

“Everything’s getting better,” Tseng said. “I feel I’m in good position. I feel I have a chance to win a tournament.”

Tseng has been candid about her summer slump, how she has struggled with the expectations that come with being No. 1, this debilitating sense that anything less than a victory is a failure. The openness seems to be cathartic, but it’s also made her look vulnerable.

“I always check the Internet, for what the talk is about me,” Tseng said. “It gets in my mind, really. It kind of hurts a little bit.”

Gary Gilchrist, Tseng’s coach, took a trip to Malaysia last month to spend extended time with Tseng.

“I think she’s getting her priorities right,” Gilchrist said. “Instead of worrying about winning tournaments, she’s getting back to the basics. She’s trying to enjoy herself and focus on the process.”

Tseng opened this year winning three times, but she struggled when summer arrived. She missed back-to-back cuts, went 12 consecutive rounds without breaking par and didn’t record a top-10 finish in five months.

While she responded quickly to Gilchrist’s visit with a pair of third-place finishes and a fourth-place finish on the fall Asian swing, she’s still looking for her first victory in almost eight months.

“I give Yani a lot of credit for the way she’s conducted herself through this,” Rankin said. “I give her a lot of credit for the way she has fought through it.”

If Lewis keeps coming on, Tseng’s fight to remain No. 1 might be just beginning.

Watch live coverage of the CME Group Titleholders exclusively on Golf Channel, 1:30-4PM ET, Thursday-Sunday.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


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.