By Lisa D. Mickey - Article Courtesy of Duramed FUTURES Tour
Just in case you are keeping track of the race between three top Americans in their respective rookie seasons on the 2009 LPGA Tour, note that each of the "Big Three" - Michelle Wie, Duramed FUTURES Tour alumnae Vicky Hurst, and Stacy Lewis - finished in the top 20 at last week's SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
A native of Hawaii, Wie was hoping to win her first tournament as a professional at home last week on the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii. She contended, but finished second at seven-under-par 209, three shots behind winner Angela Stanford of Texas. Also an alum of the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Stanford opened her 2009 season with a victory at 10-under 206.
Playing in her first tournament as an LPGA member, Hurst hung around the top 15 all week. She was tied for 12th after the first round, tied for fifth after the second round, and then finished tied for 15th at even-par 216 with rounds of 70-71-75. That finish was worth a paycheck of $15,539 for the native of Melbourne, Fla.
Lewis went from a tie for 22nd after the first round and leaped into a tie for fifth (alongside Hurst, Brittany Lang and 2008 top LPGA rookie Yani Tseng) in the second round. But a final-round score of 76 dropped Lewis into a tie for 20th. The native of The Woodlands, Texas, who was the medalist last December at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, carded rounds of 71-70-76 for a one-over total of 217. She pocketed $12,930 for her week.
Hurst and Lewis were paired together in the first round of the SBS Open. The two were tied at 3-under-par 141 after 36 holes. Lewis posted four birdies and two bogeys while Hurst, the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, recorded three birdies and two bogeys. Heading into the final round, Hurst and Lewis were the only rookies to join Wie in the top 10.
So, the LPGA's official Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race is off to a star-spangled start. Wie currently leads the LPGA rookie race with 80 points, followed by Hurst with 40 points and Lewis with 30 points. (While she's not an American, Duramed FUTURES Tour alumna M.J. Hur moved into the fourth place in the rookie points with her tie for 60th at the SBS Open.)
How else did the rookies' nerves hold up last week in the LPGA's official tournament statistics? Hurst led the field in driving distance with 261.3 yards. Wie had the most birdies for the week with 14 sub-par holes. She also tied for first (with Natalie Gulbis) with putts per greens in regulation with 26.67 putts per round.
The LPGA's next tournament will be the Honda LPGA Thailand, set for Feb. 26 through March 1 at Siam Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand.
An American player has not won the LPGA's top rookie award since Paula Creamer grabbed the honors in 2005. So, will these three players be slugging at each other for the rest of the season?
You could say there is just a "wee" bit of competition for honors as the LPGA's top rookie in 2009, and a better-than-average chance that an American could emerge this season as the LPGA's best young rising star.