THOMPSON READY FOR BIG WEEK
The smile on Lexi Thompson’s face said it all. Her mom and best friend, Judy, is officially cancer-free.
“We got the news about a few months ago,” said Thompson of the exciting development, which came after Judy was diagnosed with uterine cancer in June.“ She went through all the radiation treatments and has been cleared. It’s great to have her here, along with a lot of other family members that will be coming throughout the week.”
This might be the first step in what could be a huge week for Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship, who sits atop the Race to the CME Globe and Scoring Average standings and is also in contention for the Rolex Player of the Year and Official Money titles. But as she often says, the 22-year-old from Coral Gables, Fla., prefers to keep her eyes on the golf course rather than on the statistics. To her, golf is a feel game, not a numbers game.
“I don’t really pay attention to stats and everything. My dad does, but I don’t,” said Thompson. “I really just go on how I feel with my game throughout rounds. I know where I missed putts, where I need to improve on, where I didn’t get up and down or anything like that. I think it’s the same things I need to work on this offseason, but maybe tighten up my ball striking even more.”
Thompson devoted her 2016 offseason to her short game, saying she spent upwards of three hours a day working on her chipping and putting. That work clearly paid off, as she leads the LPGA in scoring average at 69.147, more than a stroke better than her 70.370 average in 2016. So the thought of an even better Thompson is hard to comprehend.
“I definitely think my game is getting there, and being well rounded,” said Thompson. “I still think that it can be tweaked and keep on improving. I think that’s why we’re all still playing golf. If we were done improving we wouldn’t be playing probably if we perfected it.”
ROCK STAR RYU
“I want to be a rock star.”
So Yeon Ryu had the assembled media in stitches following that comment when asked if the LPGA needs a dominant player or if its current depth is an asset. For the record, she sees positives in both, though she says having the aforementioned rock star wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
The former World No. 1 also admitted to loving food and wine, especially wine nights with best friend Inbee Park, and ballet, which she recently took up for the combination of art and athletics. Finding that balance between work and personal is precious for Ryu, who was open throughout the season that the rigors of being on top of the Rolex Rankings were often a challenge.
“Even though when you reached everything you still cannot enjoy fully. You want to be great, you have to do your best and you have to keep working hard,” said Ryu, who works with a sports psychologist to keep her mind and body in balance. “But I guess deep in my mind I was like, ‘Okay, after I’ve done like everything what I wanted to do, I’m just going to be like relaxed.’”
Ryu comes to Naples with a nagging right shoulder injury that has hindered her game since the Tour’s stop in Malaysia in late October. She skipped last week’s event in China to rest the joint and spent her practice time focusing on her short game rather than full swings.
“My expectation level with my long game is not really high right now as it could be, “ said Ryu. “I think it could be really good thing, but good news is this is my last tournament of the year so I can have plenty of rest. I have the best team, so for sure I can get back to a healthy shoulder.”
GOALS MET FOR PARK
To say that Sung Hyun Park had a rookie year to remember is an understatement. Park, who won the U.S Women’s Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, clinched Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors with five events left on the LPGA schedule. She leads the LPGA in official earnings, is second in the Race to the CME Globe and could join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win Player and Rookie of the Year honors in the same year.
But for the player known as “Dak Gong,” or “Shut up and Attack,” her laser focus on the golf course keeps her in the moment and not thinking too far ahead.
“I know I’m not the only one in the chase,” said Park, who met her pre-season goals of winning a tournament and being Rookie of the Year. “I know all the other competitors are feeling the same pressure. From that standpoint, I try not to put too much pressure on myself. Once a tournament begins, when I’m inside the ropes, then I don’t really worry about winning or chasing those titles. I really just try to focus one shot at a time. I think once the competition begins it becomes easier for me.”
HOW WOULD YOU SPEND $1 MILLION?
For the top five players in the Race to the CME Globe, it’s easy to understand – win the CME Group Tour Championship and win $1 million. The question remains – how would each player spend $1 million?
“Since becoming a professional golfer, I always wanted to do my own foundation. I haven’t made my own foundation yet. If I’m going to have $1 million, that’s going to be great base money for launching my foundation.” - So Yeon Ryu
“I’ve been looking at getting a new car, so that would definitely go toward it. Besides that, I’m honestly not too sure. Probably donate some to charities.” - Lexi Thompson
“I would like to buy a nice gift for every member of my family. I just realized last week during my play it was my sister’s birthday. I had totally forgot to even call her. I felt really bad. They’ve made a lot of the sacrifices in their life so I could move forward in my golf career. I would like to give something back to my family.” - Sung Hyun Park
- So Yeon Ryu is playing in her fourth CME Group Tour Championship and also played in the 2012-13 CME Group Titleholders; her best finish is second in 2012 and 2016
- Lexi Thompson is playing in her fourth CME Group Tour Championship and also played in the 2011-13 CME Group Titleholders; her best finish is fourth in 2015
- Sung Hyun Park is playing in her first CME Group Tour Championship