Career-low round propels Johnson atop leaderboard in New Jersey
A week after serving as defending champion in Alabama, Jennifer Johnson had a dream round at the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by ACER.
She torched the par-71, 6,155-yard Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club with a career-low and course-record 9-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead over Japanese fourth-year pro Haru Nomura. Christina Kim is at 7-under, so there are clearly plenty of birdies available at the $1.5 million tournament.
Players have two more days to go low in the three-day event, and they have been busy on “Twitter Theater” this week as they enjoy the sights and sounds of New Jersey.
Lexi Thompson and her pro-am group eagled their first hole on Wednesday, the same day Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was honored at The Memorial in Ohio and played in the American Century Celebrity Championship. Karen Stupples ran across a foxy competitor at the golf course, while Brittany Lincicome fed one a pretzel.
Danielle Kang and Lydia Ko made a furry friend of their own, Ko hung out with a Phanatic, and Natalie Gulbis still enjoyed her pro-am experience despite the rain. Thompson moved some turf around in her practice-range session before visiting a Puma store in Atlantic City, Michelle Wie had a pre-tournament press conference before using a bucket hat to combat the precipitation on the range, and So Yeon Ryu got creative to dry out her wet head covers after the pro-am.
Stacy Lewis had a sweet ride for a special trip to New York City, Thompson made friends at the tournament’s pro-am party, and Karin Sjodin and Line Vedel spoke to a group of fifth graders about the importance of healthy living. Wie braved the cold during a practice round on Thursday, Gulbis did a photo shoot for Golf.com, and Stupples spent some time giving free lessons to some lucky kids and doing an interview for a local TV station.
Wie made her daily visit to the physio trailer, Anna Nordqvist had a new golf towel to put to work, and Thompson was forced to try a pool shot during a round of mini golf. The practice putting green was busy on Friday morning, Wie was interviewed by the Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz, and Beatriz Recari was sporting a sweet new putter.
On Thursday, the Tour made a major announcement at “Saturday Night Live” studios in New York, revealing that the LPGA Championship will now be the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship beginning in 2015. Lewis was on-hand for the delivery of the big news, as was LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, who went on “Bloomberg TV.”
That’s great news for the Tour, as the partnership with the PGA of America, a quality title sponsor like KPMG and a top-notch television component are quite the trio of attributes for one of the LPGA’s majors. Here’s what Ron Sirak of Golf World wrote about the new deal.
Elsewhere, Liselotte Neumann found a host of elephant seals on the beach, Sorenstam hung out with animal expert Jack Hanna, and Mallory Blackwelder threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game a week after winning the Symetra Tour event.
It’s been quite the week.
Until next time….
Korda keeps American, blonde theme going
It’s a good year to be American and blonde on the LPGA Tour.
Jessica Korda became the third two-event winner of the 2014 season with her one-stroke triumph at the Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC on Sunday in Mobile, Ala., joining fellow blondes Karrie Webb and Anna Nordqvist as players who have a pair of Tour wins this year. Nordqvist finished second to Korda in Mobile, and Webb is the defending champion this week, so the storylines surrounding the Tour right now feature a golden hue.
American-born players have won seven of the 12 tournaments in the books so far, with blondes taking nine of those dozen. It’s an interesting coincidence, but not too surprising considering how the aforementioned trio is playing this year.
It was a busy weekend of moving and shaking before Korda’s victory, and this week has seen the Tour’s focus shift to Galloway, N.J., outside Atlantic City, where Webb will defend her title at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer against 17 of the other 20 highest-ranked players in the world.
Michelle Wie rubbed elbows with some Marines after her round on Saturday, Kathleen Ekey made a new friend, and Hee Young Park celebrated her birthday. Lexi Thompson hit the bowling lanes on Saturday night, Natalie Gulbis wore a USA-themed outfit on Sunday in honor of Memorial Day weekend, and Brittany Lincicome had considerable family support at the tournament.
Thompson posed for a photo with some Alabama-based servicemen and a pint-sized fan, a certain standard bearer is apparently a good-luck charm for Airbus participants, and Wie found herself off the beaten path, as did Jennifer Song and Vicky Hurst. Paula Creamer made good use of her sun umbrella and made an impression on a young fan before spotting a rainbow on her drive home to Orlando, while Korda celebrated her $195,000 win with a glamorous trip to the laundry.
Wie gave a shout-out to the Airbus fans and volunteers on Monday, Jenny Shin ran into an interesting character on her flight to Atlanta, and Angela Stanford got goose bumps on her flight on Memorial Day because of this view. Thompson got to drive this amazing car for a day before heading to ShopRite, Stacy Lewis and Alison Walshe worked on a puzzle at Pinehurst while they were there for a practice round, and Hurst was one of a multitude of players who paid tribute to the troops via social media on Monday.
Kristy McPherson took in a Washington Nationals game on Memorial Day in the nation’s capital, the LPGA shared this great quote from Creamer about the U.S. military, and Wie had a furry travel buddy. Gulbis was hard at work on the range on Monday and will sport a cool new putter cover this weekend, Brooke Pancake has a great view from her digs this week, and Mariajo Uribe channeled inspiration from the late Payne Stewart at Pinehurst before heading to the Northeast.
Yani Tseng has this view from her hotel room, Julieta Granada used an extra day off to take in the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers NBA playoff game on Monday, and Korda and her beau took a stroll on the boardwalk on Tuesday morning. Lincicome played a practice round on Tuesday, Brittany Lang showed off a player gift, and Karen Stupples shared this pretty view of the 18th hole at the Bay Course. Azahara Munoz had fun doing a photo shoot for Transamerica on Tuesday, Sarah Kemp did her best Rocky Balboa impression in Philly, and Gerina Piller had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the Philadelphia Phillies’ game against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Here’s a cool article by my longtime buddy Tommy Hicks about the Mobile tournament’s success this year, and this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer talks about the LPGA’s immense potential going forward.
Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam is this year’s honoree at The Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio at “Jack’s place.” That’s a pretty cool honor, to say the least.
Elsewhere, Sandra Gal got in some practice on a beautiful Sunday morning, Lydia Ko and Danielle Kang continued their zany ways, and Lizette Salas celebrated her first LPGA win in grand style with family.
Another week, another city, and now we’ll see whose luck runs best in Atlantic City.
Until next time….
Birdies aplenty in ‘Bama to set up exciting weekend
If watching players make birdies is your thing, the Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC is the tournament for you.
LPGA players have been torridly hot on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove Crossings Course in Mobile, Ala., lighting up the scoreboard with red numbers. Veteran Catriona Matthew led the way through 36 holes at 13-under, with teen star Charley Hull a stroke back and the trio of Jessica Korda, Anna Nordqvist and Hee Young Park also in double digits at 10-under.
That sets up for high drama on Golf Channel over the weekend, when players will be gunning for Jennifer Johnson’s tournament-record 21-under-par total from a year ago. I smell a playoff brewing, but anyone posting a super-low round could also run away with the tournament.
There’s been a flurry of social media activity this week, and here’s the latest installment of “Twitter Theater.”
Wednesday was pro-am day, and Lexi Thompson posed for a photo and shared some of one of her sponsor’s product with her group, as did Brittany Lincicome (photo) and Christina Kim (photo), and So Yeon Ryu shared this shot of the unique tee markers at this week’s event. A junior golf group made last week’s champ Lizette Salas feel special at an appearance on Tuesday, with a name like Brooke Pancake, it’s no wonder the former University of Alabama star found this cool retro snack, and the Jutanugarn sisters filmed an International Crown commercial in Mobile.
Kim was in Sports Illustrated’s digital golf issue this week, fans can help the Morgan Pressel Foundation raise money by Tweeting, and Thompson received a plaque from the Wounded Warrior Project. Michelle Wie was in good form in the pro-am, my old buddy Tommy Hicks is covering the tournament for the al.com, and here’s the latest blog about the LPGA on www.ruthlessgolf.com.
Kristy McPherson found a load of shrimp, Lincicome had some new golf shoes to try, and Thompson was decked out in blue on Thursday. Nicole Castrale helped some wounded warriors with their golf swings, Inbee Park and her caddie were featured in the “Caddie Knows Best” segment on Golf Channel, and Yani Tseng got some support – and chocolates – from a dedicated fan from Japan.
Moira Dunn honored late Auburn University assistant women’s golf coach and former LPGA player Danielle Downey with a special baseball cap on Thursday and shot a 67, Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis found some pint-sized fans waiting for them after their opening rounds, and Creamer and her caddie, Colin Cann, wore black in honor of a fallen European Tour caddie on Thursday before going patriotic on Friday. There were plenty of young autograph seekers in Mobile, and Mariajo Uribe found some good sushi at the tournament.
Elsewhere, Lydia Ko and Danielle Kang bonded at Pinehurst, Natalie Gulbis got in some practice and hung out at her Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas during her off week, and LPGA founder Louise Suggs was treated to some vintage photos of her playing days at a new exhibit at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Dottie Pepper helped promote a Symetra Tour event in New York, Amy Yang found a great view in Texas, and Sandra Gal got in some painting.
Golf World’s Ron Sirak reported the good news that this year’s and next year’s U.S. Women’s Open purses will set a new record, and the LPGA reported this week that the Tour’s deal with Rolex has been extended through 2023.
That’s great stuff from the world of women’s golf!
Until next time….
Salas breaks through in Virginia
At long last, Lizette Salas is an LPGA champion.
The third-year pro entered the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC with 10 career top-10s – including a heartbreaking playoff loss to Suzann Pettersen in Hawaii last year when she dunked her approach shot into the water on the first extra hole – and still looking for her first triumph. She has to wait no longer after posting three rounds in the 60s on the beautiful course for a four-shot victory while becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the player-favorite tournament known for big galleries.
Salas, who played on the U.S. Solheim Cup Team last year during a breakout season, finished four shots ahead of Yani Tseng, Lexi Thompson and Sarah Jane Smith to hoist her first LPGA trophy. Congrats are in order for former world No. 1 Tseng for her season-best finish as she tries to regain her championship form and for Smith, who fired a final-round 66 to earn her career-best finish.
One of the most well-liked players on Tour, an emotional Salas was doused with champagne and celebrated with friends, all of whom were super excited to see her break through for the win. She picked up a nice Happy Gilmore-sized check for $195,000, had this great quote about who inspired her to reach the winner’s circle and even received some props from her high school athletic director.
Here is Jeff Skinner’s nice piece on Salas for LinksLifeGolf.com, here is a cool article about how crucial volunteers are to LPGA events, and this is a nice story about Smith, who skyrocketed 60 places to 89th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings with her tie for second.
Lydia Ko (photo) and So Yeon Ryu were five shots back, while Thidapa Suwannapura also recorded a career-best finish by finishing seventh. It was a great week for a host of players, and the last few days have been busy on the social media front.
Paula Creamer got acupuncture treatment and a pedicure after missing the cut, Michelle Wie had her leg taped up for action and practiced her unique putting form, and Pat Hurst had a hole-in-one on Saturday. Hall of Famer Juli Inkster did a great job working for Golf Channel over the weekend, offering top-level insight and commentary.
Sandra Gal had this awesome view from dinner on Saturday, Danielle Kang and Salas treated themselves to ice cream, and Brittany Lang made a first-time LPGA tournament attendee feel special. LPGA teaching pros gave free lessons to fans on the driving range on Sunday, Azahara Munoz gave a young fan a big smile, and players’ caddies were once again sporting the pros’ Twitter handles on their bibs.
Karen Stupples provided a behind-the-scenes look at the Golf Channel TV booth and this one from Golf Central, Wie hit the beach, and Creamer’s pooch was ready to hit the road on Sunday. Beatriz Recari is addicted to this healthy snack, Ryann O’Toole played some putt-putt golf, and Gal had a seat in the cockpit on a flight to Pinehurst, site of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Hall of Famer Karrie Webb shared this shot of a cool graphic from USA Today on Monday, Kang and Ko took a road trip to Pinehurst, and Brooke Pancake was excited to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. Jessica Korda was equally as thrilled to find a Which Wich sandwich shop, a great place everyone should try if they can, while Tseng was driving in style in her courtesy car in Alabama.
Liselotte Neumann, the 2015 European Solheim Cup Captain, did a photo shoot for Abacus Sportswear, Mariajo Uribe took this cool early morning shot from the Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday, and Kristy McPherson qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as well.
Recari showed how foggy it was in Mobile on Tuesday morning, Pancake did her best Happy Gilmore impression and led a junior clinic for deaf children, and the LPGA readied for an announcement that the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex is moving to Mexico City, and the always popular Ochoa was swarmed by media at the press conference. Gal hung out at Pinehurst and watched her caddie chip a few balls, Gerina Piller did an interview and participated in a closest-to-the-pin contest at Golf Channel, and Kang enjoyed a cool drink in a one-of-a-kind cup and found her name on the wall at Pinehurst.
Tuesday was also the day for the Airbus LPGA Longest Drive Contest on Runway 18 at Brookley Aeroplex. It was a lot of fun for players, including Tseng, defending champion Jennifer Johnson and Kim Welch, who bashed a drive 466 yards, but Jodi Ewart Shadoff’s 547-yard bomb made her the winner.
Eleven-year-old Lucy Li will be part of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open field, the youngest qualifier in history, and she got some ink from Steve DiMeglio from USA Today. She broke Thompson’s record for the feat, and that’s a heck of an accomplishment!
Until next time….
Rain, rain, go away in Virginia!
Saturday will be a long day for two dozen LPGA players.
Darkness descended upon the Kingsmill Resort on Friday night with 24 players still on the course after a nearly four-hour rain delay that forced some players to watch and wait to tee off. Some will play as many as 10 holes of their second round on Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. ET, then turn around and tee it up again on the beautiful course in Round 3.
Hee Young Park (66-68=134) led the group of players who completed two rounds at 8-under-par, with recent winner Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lang one stroke back with two rounds complete as well. Lexi Thompson and Azahara Munoz were 7-under for the tournament through 13 holes, while Lizette Salas was through 11 holes with the same under-par status.
With those stars in the mix and plenty of others within striking distance, Saturday is going to be one heck of a day. Sunday is also shaping up to be a barn-burner, and it’s really anybody’s guess who will end the week atop the leaderboard.
Players had a great week at one of their favorite tournaments, and there was plenty of activity to report.
Wednesday was a big day for Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who was recognized in Florida Hospital’s “Hallway of Inspiration” for The Annika Foundation’s “Healthy 100 Kids” program. LPGA Founder Shirley Spork – an amazing and warm woman I always loved chatting with when I got the chance – celebrated a birthday on Wednesday as well, so happy belated birthday to that great lady.
Also on Wednesday, Sandra Gal found big love on the second hole and was in good form on the signature par-3 17th during the pro-am, players were Tweeting about this cool contest for fans throughout the week, and here’s another contest involving Danielle Kang’s warm-up music. Brittany Lincicome had fun doing a Sirius XM Radio interview on Wednesday from the course, while Paula Creamer bonded with kids from The First Tee and made quite a few new fans in the process, I’m sure.
Here’s a cool photo of two of the world’s top players the LPGA shared on Wednesday, Lydia Ko had a fun pro-am group and her buddy from The First Tee, and Thompson made friends at the driving range before teeing off into the fog in the pro-am. Jennifer Song used charcoal to give her skin some rehab from the sun, Amy Yang and her pro-am group sized up the eighth green, and former world No. 1 Yani Tseng had a blast with her First Tee mate as well.
TotalPackageChick.com featured a Q&A with Kristy McPherson, Lang had a great dinner view with her mom on Wednesday, and the Digital Royalty social media crew displayed LPGA players on “Wallpaper Wednesday.” Jessica Korda sang songs from the movie Frozen with her walk-along buddy, Lewis spoke to members of the armed forces at a Dove Real Beauty event and received a special award, and Kang has a pretty cool golf towel.
Salas’ First Tee friend hit a tee shot with her group in the pro-am, Christina Kim made a new friend, and GolfChannel.com’s Randy Mell reported that Ko could overtake Inbee Park for the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings this week. Karin Sjodin made sure her golf balls were marked and ready to go, and longtime LPGA caddie and dad to Mallory Blackwelder, Worth, celebrated his 60th birthday on Thursday, so happy birthday to the fun and cool man.
So Yeon Ryu found a cool place to warm up at the awesome Kingsmill Resort, Mariajo Uribe met a super-cool rescue dog named ChiChi, and Hall of Famer and 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Juli Inkster began her Golf Channel career on Thursday and interviewed co-leader Azahara Munoz. First-round co-leader Austin Ernst spoke to the media after her round, Ko had LPGA photographer Gabriel Roux lend her a hand with some homework, and here’s a cool Wounded Warrior Project photo.
Congrats to Gal, who has signed a deal with Trader Joe’s, and the friendly German bought this phone case for Kang. Creamer made a pair of fans’ day by posing for a photo with them, Jane Park was hard at work doing exercises in the sportsmedicine office, and two-time 2014 winner Anna Nordqvist found Inkster out and about on Friday.
Here’s another great shot of Virginia, Karen Stupples made a furry friend on the course on Friday, and Lewis made time for fans like the true LPGA star she is. Sydnee Michaels looks good in canary yellow, and LPGA Headquarters’ Hall of Fame conference room now has this cool and colorful wall.
Elsewhere, Michelle Wie was part of this cool photo on a driving range with Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler and Camilo Vallegas on a fun day with the lads and loves her new Kia Sorento. European Solheim Cup Captain Carin Koch spent some time on the course with Lady Golfer Magazine, and former LPGA pro Rachel Hetherington has opened a driving range in her native Australia.
On a sad note, Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., site of the Kia Classic, has unfortunately been affected by the wildfires that are ravaging the area. I join the Tour players in sending thoughts and prayers out to everyone involved, and as a resident of Colorado Springs, I know how diabolical raging fires can be.
Until next time….
Back in action after a week to relax
The Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC looms on the horizon for the LPGA’s best, and players will have to return from an off week in top form in order to claim the coveted title at the scenic and fan-friendly Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va.
Players were out and about over the weekend, doing a multitude of things, from meeting with young fans, to attending a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. Natalie Gulbis enjoyed a night on the town in Las Vegas on Saturday, and Tweeted this photo of her and her mother from years ago and another one that’s more recent.
Sunday was Mother’s Day, a special occasion for a number of Tour players, who paid tribute to their moms via social media throughout the day. For some, it was a day to spend time with their mothers, while others had to wish their moms the best from afar and send special presents.
Annika Sorenstam loved her Mother’s Day with her kids, and Jessica Korda shared a photo from long ago of her and her mother, as did Morgan Pressel. Here’s a cool article about three-time and defending Kingsmill champion Cristie Kerr’s first Mother’s Day, and Sandra Gal put together a collage to honor her mother while Karin Sjodin shared a retro photo of her and her mom.
Brittany Lang shared a top-notch Oklahoma sunset on Sunday, Michelle Wie tried on some new shades courtesy of her sponsor, Nike, and Kerr was excited to arrive in a city where she has recorded three of her 16 career LPGA wins. Carin Koch, the 2015 European Solheim Cup Captain, participated in a promotional event in Germany, Mina Harigae shared this beautiful photo from Kingsmill, and Wie was busy with a putting drill and wedge practice on Monday before getting some electronic stimulation for her leg.
The LPGA featured Lydia Ko’s simulator tip that she shared with Golf Channel last week, Gulbis helped raise money for kids on Monday, and two-time 2014 winner Anna Nordqvist reflected on her great experience from last week in Japan. Danielle Kang was relieved to see her golf bag make her connecting flight on Monday, Jennifer Song earned a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open, and Paula Creamer met with top brass from the Marines, Army and Navy at the Pentagon.
Sorenstam was at the Pinehurst Resort to promote the U.S. Women’s Open on Monday, the Evian Championship revealed its 2014 poster, and Sarah Kemp was a tourist in Washington, D.C. Korda found some fluids to replenish her electrolytes during a practice round on Monday, Ron Sirak wrote an interesting piece about Wie in the new Golf World, and Wie got in some wedge practice in Virginia.
Lexi Thompson showed her driving prowess at a special event at the tournament on Tuesday, Wie spent some time with Golfweek staff in Florida, and Sorenstam spoke to Symetra Tour players to give them inspiration. Karen Stupples shared this harrowing view of the 18th tee shot at the Kingsmill Resort (photo), players enjoyed themselves at Tuesday night’s pro-am pairings party on a pretty night, and Dottie Pepper took in a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Who knows what the rest of the week will hold, but rest assured that it will interesting and eventful.
Until next time….
Busy times despite no tournament for LPGA players
It’s always interesting to see how professional golfers spend their “down time” away from the course, and they rarely disappoint.
This week has been no different, as LPGA players have been out and about all over the country living life to the fullest. Here’s a look at “Twitter Theater” for this week.
Natalie Gulbis took in a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, Sandra Gal was up early on Wednesday to practice before the heat set in, and Beatriz Recari spent some time at the practice range as well. Paula Creamer is featured in the new issue of Golf Digest, which can be downloaded here, and Jessica Korda kept her body temperature regulated on the range with a special Adidas shirt.
On Wednesday, Lexi Thompson got in one last tough and long practice session at Trump International and a workout before hitting the road for a month, Michelle Wie received a nice letter from the Stanford women’s golf team, and Meg Mallon was troubled to see a cloud of “condensation” in the cabin of her flight. Brittany Lang displayed a very unique wedding gift she received from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and Lydia Ko visited Pinehurst to get a look at No. 2, which will host this summer’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Wie and Belen Mozo took their pups on a play date by the pool on Wednesday, Ryann O’Toole began her move to Orlando, and Christina Kim was sporting some interesting-looking fingernails. Gulbis spent part of her Wednesday playing golf baseball with some youngsters from the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club, Gerina Piller listened to some Pat Green tunes live at the Angela Stanford Foundation’s annual “Night With the Stars” event, and Mariajo Uribe was treated to a great sunset after a practice session.
Danielle Kang has a new pond in her back yard, Creamer made some new friends at the golf course, and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam teed it up for a fun round with Recari on Thursday. Wie enjoyed getting dressed up and modeling a few different looks in a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated, Thompson was at The Players Championship to support her brother, Nick, and Kang enjoyed a round with Steve Pate at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Wie’s food is always colorful, and she attended the Brooklyn Nets-Miami Heat playoff game on Thursday, Korda was deadly accurate during a practice chipping session and got in a workout in her Boston Bruins gear, and Kang signed some Topps trading cards and posed for this shot for Fore Magazine.
In other news, Rick Young wrote this piece for SCOREGolf on the LPGA’s momentum, and Michael Arkush wrote a very interesting article about Gulbis for Golf World magazine. Dottie Pepper did a nice video for ESPNW about Stacy Lewis’ win in Texas last week, and speaking of videos, here’s a funny one where Cristie Kerr and her caddie, Mark Wuersching answer questions from Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz to see how well the two know each other and another where Lang shows Golfing World an inside look at her Texas home.
Sadly, Herb Lotman, co-founder of the McDonald’s Championship, passed away on Friday at the age of 80. He was a great businessman and supporter of the LPGA and women’s golf and will be missed.
Until next time….
Stacy is superb on way to first win of 2014
Hidden in all the hubbub of the LPGA Tour’s immensely popular 2014 season has been the play of Stacy Lewis.
The 2012 Rolex Player of the Year has been superb this year, racking up eight top-10 finishes in nine events. The Woodlands, Texas, native won the North Texas LPGA Shootout Presented by JTBC on Sunday for her ninth career victory and now stands atop the Tour’s money list and Race to the CME Globe standings.
Lewis, who leads the LPGA with a 69.47 scoring average, moved to second in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings and passed Lexi Thompson for the top spot in the Rolex Player of the Year standings as well. That’s some impressive stuff!
But don’t just take it from me. Check out these stats from Ward Clayton about Lewis’ amazing play. As Dan Patrick used to say on ESPN’s SportsCenter, Lewis has been “En fuego.”
She shot a 64 on Sunday to win by six, the largest margin of victory on Tour since Jiyai Shin won the 2012 RICOH Women’s British Open by nine strokes. Lewis came into the tournament with six runner-up finishes in her previous 16 events, so the much-loved Texan was due for a win. Friends Thompson and Natalie Gulbis helped Lewis celebrate on the 18th green in style.
The weekend was full of activity at Las Colinas Country Club, as Brooke Pancake (photo) and Ryann O’Toole posed with a young fan on Saturday, Michelle Wie – who finished third – watched her friend Christina Kim play on Golf Channel while spending time in the LPGA’s sports medicine trailer and Tiffany Joh also made time for an LPGA fan.
Angela Stanford received a nice donation for the Angela Stanford Foundation from the Spirit of Texas Bank, Jessica Korda said hello to a dedicated fan, and Wie got her rib fix with friends. Cristie Kerr encouraged some up-and-coming golfers, Thompson had fun at the tournament’s caddie party, and Vicky Hurst visited Lake Lewisville.
Elsewhere, Paula Creamer was styling in this golf cart on Sunday after a much-needed rest and before a relaxing dinner, Min Seo Kwak won the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial, and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is featured on a billboard in her native Australia. Lewis and Kwak weren’t the weekend’s only champions, as Liselotte Neumann won the Legends Tour’s event.
This week, the players get a breather before four consecutive tournaments, and they are making the most of the time off. Sandra Gal got dolled up for a Callaway Golf photo shoot on Cinco de Mayo, Thompson did an event for her sponsor Red Bull, and Wie took advantage of perfect weather to work on her tan.
Julieta Granada, who played in the final group on Sunday, was happy to receive some new workout equipment on Monday, as did Kang, while Creamer hopped on a plane and headed to New York for the Met Ball before riding in a helicopter to a SAP outing. Lewis spent some time with her sponsor KPMG in St. Louis before visiting another sponsor, Omega Watches and conducting a clinic for some lucky and enthusiastic fans.
Gulbis was at the MGM Grand (photo) in Las Vegas on Monday to announce a new partnership, Svensk GOLF magazine is featuring Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam on its new cover, and Thompson was back at work on her game. Webb attended the media day for the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, Kang welcomed a new member of the family, and Hall of Famer Beth Daniel was at the Road to the LPGA pro-am with some Tour hopefuls while Meg Mallon rubbed elbows with Cheyenne Woods.
Good news just keeps on coming for the LPGA in 2014. On Monday, the Tour announced that Manulife has extended its title sponsorship of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic through 2016. Rookie Jennifer Kirby was on-hand for the announcement along with LPGA Chief Communications officer Kraig Kann.
Then, on Tuesday, the news came that the Tour’s inaugural International Crown event has another global partner. What a year it’s been!
Until next time….
Off and running in the Lone Star State
After enjoying a banner month in April, the LPGA has arrived in the Lone Star State for the North Texas LPGA Shootout Presented by JTBC, one of the Tour’s immensely successful domestic additions a year ago.
The 6,410-yard, par-71 Las Colinas Country Club is once again hosting the 72-hole event, and players have been busy making birdies in the opening two rounds. Suzann Pettersen fired a 5-under 66 on Thursday to take the lead, and Meena Lee grabbed the 36-hole lead at 8-under along with Caroline Masson after carding a 7-under 64 that included three bogeys.
Natalie Gulbis’ first round in the 60s this season, a 65, has her at 7-under heading into the weekend. She’s tied with last week’s runner-up Stacy Lewis, who also had a 64 on Friday, and Christina Kim is fifth at 6-under, so it should be a heck of a shootout over the final 36 holes.
One of the unique features of this tournament is the presence of a second cut that pares down players on the weekend. After a traditional cut to the top 70 players and ties on Friday night, the field will be reduced to the top 50 players and ties after 54 holes. That makes Saturday’s play even more important for a number of players who are on the bubble.
On Thursday, So Yeon Ryu joined Paula Creamer as a WD from the tournament because of illness, giving Louise Friberg the spot. High school golfer Maddie Szeryk also teed it up this week and did some media interviews on Thursday, but both players won’t be playing on the weekend after a tough first two rounds.
Sandra Gal was up early in Dallas on Wednesday, when the temperatures were chilly for the pro-am, and Brittany Lang’s agent rented a tiny car for the week. Michelle Wie got a colorful tape job on her feet in the LPGA physio trailer, Azahara Munoz posed with former Texas Rangers star catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez on pro-am day, and Sports Illustrated posted this nice digital feature on April’s tournament champs.
These lucky ladies got to play nine holes with Hall of Famer Juli Inkster and another nine with Lexi Thompson in the pro-am and Wie broke out yet another colorful Kia golf bag and mugged for the camera with good friend Kim and also signed autographs for kids on Thursday. Ryann O’Toole overcame this gnarly lie during the first round and ESPNW posted this cool article about the LPGA Tour’s social media prowess on Friday.
Thompson visited the tournament’s Cadillac Lounge on Friday and heads into the weekend at 1-under, Gulbis checked out some watches, and Cristie Kerr had the support of a pair of veterans on Friday as she finished the first two rounds at 5-under.
Meanwhile, back in Florida, last week’s winner Lydia Ko was in studio at Golf Channel for “Morning Drive” and other segments, and it appears everyone had a great time during the 17-year-old’s visit. She even got some driving lessons (of another kind) from some of the hosts.
Also elsewhere, Charlotta Sorenstam helped instruct some juniors on a busy day at the Annika Academy. Annika Sorenstam and Golf World’s Ron Sirak broadcast another “Annika Hour” on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio on Wednesday as well, and Brittany Lincicome reeled in another fish during a week off before attending a charity event in Ontario, Canada.
As you can see, it has been another hectic week for the LPGA and its players, and that’s just the way they want it.
Until next time….
Neal Reid is a full-time freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colo., who just spent nine weeks covering the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, as a sports writer for the Olympic News Service. The Auburn University graduate spent six years as an LPGA media relations coordinator from 1998-2004. Follow him on Twitter @NealReid21.
Topics: Social Scene