Lewis vying to move higher in rankings
With No. 1 Inbee Park and No. 2 Suzann Pettersen not entered in this week’s season-opening field at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, it opens the door for No. 3 Stacy Lewis to get closer to the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
Park leads with 10.34 points, but Pettersen is just behind at 9.94 and Lewis not much farther back at 8.86.
Pettersen has never been No. 1, but she has stated that is an immediate goal. She made the Rolex Player of the Year race interesting last fall, keyed by a nine-tournament run from late June on where she won three times and had no finish worse than a tie for seventh. Pettersen was originally in the Pure Silk field, but withdrew on Monday and will make her season debut in Australia in mid-February.
Lewis was No. 1 in early 2013 before being supplanted by Park. To end 2013, she finished no worse than a tie for eighth in 10 consecutive tournaments, dating back to last June’s T42 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open. The streak included a win (Ricoh Women’s British Open) and two runner-up finishes where she lost both times on the final hole. She did withdraw after the first round of the CN Canadian Women’s Open, the event after her victory at St. Andrews, Scotland.
Most eyes are on 16-year-old Lydia Ko as she begins her first full season on the LPGA. The South Korean-born New Zealand resident won the 2012 and 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Opens and is ranked fourth in the world.
Also among the 11 rookies in the Pure Silk field is Jaye Marie Green. The 19-year-old won the LPGA Qualifying Tournament in December by 10 strokes with a record 29-under-par total. The Boca Raton, Fla., native played the Symetra Tour last season after opting not to play college golf. She was the runner-up to Ko at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur in Cleveland.
The offseason proved very busy off the course for a number of American LPGA players. Cristie Kerr and husband Erik announced the birth of their first child, Mason Kerr Stephens, just before Christmas. Paula Creamer got engaged and Natalie Gulbis got married in December and Brittany Lang got married in early January.
Ihlee Lee’s win last year ended a wild week where severe weather dumped more than a foot of rain on the tournament course on Tuesday of tournament week. Recovery efforts by golf course staff from Wednesday through Saturday morning resulted in 45 million gallons of rain water being pumped off the tournament course. The result was a three-round, 12-hole course configuration since six of the holes remaining unplayable. The course started on No. 10 and advanced to 6-7-4-5-11-12-13-14-2-3 and 8. The yardages were adjusted on some of holes as well.
Race to the CME Globe points
The LPGA’s new season-long points race, the “Race to the CME Globe,” begins this week. All tournaments, starting with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, will offer the same amount of points (500 to the winner). The five majors will have an additional 25 percent value (625 points). Players will have to make the cut to earn points, but points will only be awarded to the top 40 in events with no cut, and the top 20 for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, which has a smaller field.
There were 20 aces on the LPGA in 2013, with three coming in The Bahamas. Two of those came on the 133-yard second hole – Ji Young Oh in the first round and Hee Won Han in the third round. The LPGA Founders Cup was the only other LPGA event in 2013 where three aces were scored. … Four of the top 10 players in the world are entered in this week’s field, led by No. 3 Lewis and No. 4 Ko. … The last time the LPGA began a season in January with an official event was the 2001 YourLife Vitamins LPGA Classic at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla. Se Ri Pak won that tournament, which had Jan. 12-14 dates. … Some players to keep an eye for World Golf Hall of Fame consideration this year: Laura Davies (25 points), Yani Tseng (23) and Cristie Kerr (18) are first through third among active players who haven’t qualified for the Hall. Players must earn 27 points to get in, be an active member for at least 10 years and earn either a major championship, scoring title (Vare Trophy) or Player of the Year. Two points are awarded for major championships, one for a regular LPGA victory and one for a scoring title or Player of the Year honor.