Wednesday, December 13, 2017

LPGA 2018 Schedule Features 34 Tournaments and Record Breaking Prize Money

The LPGA officially announced today its 2018 LPGA schedule, and it was worth the wait!

Here are the highlights:

  • The 2018 LPGA schedule features 34 events (33 official tournaments + the UL International Crown)  across 14 countries.
  • There will be three new events. Two in the state of California, and one on the mainland of China. Here are further details on these new events.
  • Two events have been permanently removed from the schedule: The Lorena Ochoa Match Play event in Mexico and the Manulife Classic held in Canada. 
  •  The MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open will take a hiatus for 2018 and move to spring 2019, making a logical pair with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
  • The LPGA Tour expects to have more than 400 hours of domestic broadcast coverage on Golf Channel and network TV in 2018, with more than 450 hours available in 175 countries around the world. Domestic TV ratings continue to climb annually. They were up 17% in 2017.
  • Will feature a record $68.75 million in prize money (up from $65 million in 2017).
  • The U.S. Women's Open is in its new spot on the schedule, moving from mid-July to early June. Shoal Creek G.C. in Alabama will serve as host, with its $5 million purse the largest of the season.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “There is simply no better Tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”


Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, Korea, will host the third staging of the UL International Crown on Oct. 4-7. This marks the first time that the competition, which features the best female golfers from the top eight countries across the globe, will be staged outside the USA. Record crowds are expected to line the fairways, and Korean legend Se Ri Pak will serve as the competition’s honorary director.
The eight countries to compete in the UL International Crown will be set following the U.S. Women’s Open, while the top four players in those countries after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will receive the honor of representing their homelands.
The UL International Crown was first held in 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., where the Spanish team of Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari won all four singles matches on the final day to become the inaugural champions. Two years later, a powerful United States lineup of Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller and Lexi Thompson came from behind to win the prestigious title at Merit Club near Chicago.
The Evian remains in the same "dreaded" spot it was in during the 2017 season, when it was cut to 54 holes. But according to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, the plan is for the Evian to be a summer event as soon as possible, potentially as early as 2019. 
The LPGA will again kick off its season at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, from Jan. 25-28, and wrap up with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla. (Nov. 15-18).

This Week's Trivia Question: 

What LPGA player had the most top five finishes in 2017, without recording a single victory?

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LPGA Adds Three New Tournaments to 2018 Schedule

The LPGA officially announced today the addition of three new tournaments that will be added to the 2018 schedule.

  • The Hugel-JTBC Championship will be in Los Angeles, but the course hasn’t been announced yet. The tournament will be held April 19-22 and will have a purse of $1,500,000.
  • The following week, on April 26-29, the Tour heads north to the Bay Area and a return to Lake Merced Golf Club for a new event sponsored by Korean skincare company L&P Cosmetic. Lake Merced, located just outside San Francisco, hosted the Swinging Skirts LPGA Championship in 2014-16, but that sponsorship moved to the Tour’s event in Taipei in 2017. The official tournament name will be announced in early 2018.
  • Additionally, a new event to be held in Shanghai, the LPGA’s only tournament on the mainland of China, will join the calendar on Oct. 18-21 as part of the LPGA’s Fall Asian Swing. Further details about this new tournament, including the title and course, will be announced in 2018.

This Week's Trivia Question: (for those who missed it earlier)

What LPGA player had the most top five finishes in 2017, without recording a single victory?

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Breaking News: USGA & R&A Eliminate 4 stroke Penalty and Viewer Call-ins

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The USGA and the R&A have introduced a new local rule and new video protocols for 2018.

A working group led by the USGA and The R&A has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.
The group, consisting of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and The PGA of America, as well as the governing bodies, will implement the following measures from January 1, 2018:
  • Will assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve rules issues as they arise.
  • Will discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the rules decision process.
  • Video will be limited to material obtained from the committee's broadcast partner. Other video (such as from an individual smart phone or camera) will not be used.
  • The USGA and R&A have approved the adoption of a local rule to eliminate the additional two-stroke penalty for failing to record a penalty on the scorecard when the player was unaware of the penalty,
  • All working groups will introduce the rule for 2018, and the penalty will be permanently removed when the modernized rules of golf take effect on January 1, 2019.
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog will know that I have been very vocal about the need to make these changes. I am especially happy about the elimination of the 4 stroke penalty. Unfortunately it will not change the fact that it cost Lexi Thompson 3 Hall of Fame points (2 for winning a major, 1 for winning Player of the Year). The important thing is they have finally got it right, and this will not happen again to another player.

As far as eliminating call-ins, this has been a long time coming. In no other major sport can a spectator change the outcome of a competition based on what they saw. 

Let me be the first to say that this will be forever known as the "Lexi Rule."

This Week's Trivia Question: 

What LPGA player had the most top five finishes in 2017, without recording a single victory?

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Memorable Moments of the 2017 LPGA Season

As we wait for the start of the 2018 season, I would like to look back at what I consider the most memorable moments of 2017.

It was a very interesting and exciting past year. There were multiple teenage winners, exciting playoffs, big comebacks, engagements, marriages, and a number of first time winners.

I have narrowed it down to 10, although I know there were many more. This list is very subjective, depending on who your favorite golfers are. A top story for me may be one that someone else might want to forget.

So in reverse order, here we go:

10- Pebble Beach to host the 2023 U.S. Women's Open.
This is a USGA event, but it definitely belongs on this list. It is nice to finally see the women playing on some of the great courses that we have watched the men play on for years. Oakmont, Pinehurst Resort, and now Pebble Beach. Progress is being made. Lets hope it continues.

9- Shanshan Feng becomes #1 in Rolex Rankings.
She has been one of the top players on tour for the past decade. It's hard to believe it took this long. Shanshan will start the 2018 season on top of the world rankings.

8- Danielle Kang wins the KPMG Women's PGA Championship
Danielle won the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship in both 2010 and 2011. Expectations were high when she joined the LPGA as a rookie in 2012. Unfortunately, in her first 5 years on tour she failed to win a single event, and had just 8 top ten finishes. That all changed this year when she made her first LPGA victory a major championship.

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Danielle Kang made her first LPGA victory a major championship.

7- In-Kyung Kim wins the Ricoh Women's British Open
For four long years every time we heard her name or saw her picture, all we thought about was THE PUTT. Of course what I am referring to, is the missed 16 inch putt on the 72nd hole, that cost her the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She now has her major championship and hopefully that missed putt will no longer define her career.

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I.K. Kim finally got that first major championship victory in 2017.

6- Team USA wins the Solheim Cup
After their 2013 Solheim Cup loss, everything we read told us that the U.S. players were a bunch of individuals who could not play as a team. Four years later they hold both the Solheim Cup (for the second consecutive time) and the International Crown trophies.

5- Stacy Lewis Wins Cambia Classic and donates entire winning purse
This was going to be a big story anyway, when you consider she hadn't won in three years. It became a much bigger story when she donated her $195,000 winning purse to the Hurricane Relief Fund in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

4- Ai Miyazato retires
Ai won 9 times on the LPGA tour. She won 15 times on the JLPGA tour. She made it to #1 on the Rolex Rankings. All very impressive, but you could sweep all of those stats under the rug. That is not what she will be remembered for. She will be remembered as, arguably, the classiest player ever to play on the LPGA tour. I have been around her for a very long time, and have never seen her not stop for anyone who wanted to talk to her or have her sign an item. When Ai walked off the 18th hole she always had a big smile on her face. There was no way of knowing if she shot a 65 or a 78. We will all miss her.

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Ai announces her retirement plans
3- Brooke Henderson shoots a 63 in front of her massive supporters.
If you weren't there, you might think that this is rated much too high. If you were, it was a tournament you will never forget. I have seen bigger turnouts (The U.S. Open in Lancaster, Pa. for one), but never seen such a high percentage of the crowd following one player. Unless you got a seat by a hole two hours before she got there, you weren't going to get to see much. Shooting a course record 63 on Saturday under that kind of pressure was remarkable. As each birdie dropped, the noise was deafening. How great would this tour be if they got this kind of support from some of the other big cities? Kudos to the Ottawa fans for showing such marvelous support.

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Brooke Henderson shoots a course record 63 in front of a massive crowd.

2- Lexi Thompson receives a four stroke penalty at the ANA Inspiration.
A viewer called in about a possible rules infraction during Saturday's round. The LPGA responded with a discipline a day later while the final round was well underway. Evidently, Thompson made a slightly incorrect ball placement that was 1 foot from the hole. In fairness, when viewed on TV later, it appeared that it did warrant a penalty. But the next day and 4 strokes? Lexi had a 2 shot lead with six holes to play when she was informed of the penalty. She would go on to lose in a playoff. Is there any other sport where a fan can change the outcome like it was changed here? This was a big black eye for the LPGA. Let's hope that they learned something from this and we won't have to see this again in the future.

1- CME Group Tour Championship
If we could put aside my #2 above (and cutting the Evian Championship to 54 holes), the 2017 LPGA season was a huge success. We had record breaking purses, more TV hours, five playoffs, 3 first time winners, and winners from 8 different countries. What we didn't expect was that they saved the best for last. If this was a Hollywood script, no one would believe it. How was it possible that after playing 33 tournaments, the award for player of the year, the Race to the CME Globe (and its 1 million dollar bonus), the LPGA money title, and the player to finish the season in the #1 position for the year in the Rolex Rankings, would all come down to the final stroke on the final hole, of the final tournament of the year? But yet that is exactly what happened. If this was a boxing match, I would have said it was fixed. Congrats to Commissioner Michael Whan and his staff for another exciting year. I wonder what they can do next year to top this.

Please feel free to add your own favorite moments in the comments section. I would like to hear your opinions.

This Week's Trivia Question: (for those who missed it earlier)

Who is the only player to win the final phase of LPGA Qualifying School twice?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

A Dream Come True for 17 New LPGA Members

They played 90 holes over a grueling 5 day period, but it all ended Sunday with nine players earning full time status on the LPGA Tour for the very first time.

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Tiffany Chan will be the first LPGA player from Hong Kong.

There were 165 players who teed it up on Wednesday, and the field was cut to the top 70 and ties for Sunday's final round.

Many of these players were seeking LPGA tour membership for the very first time. Only the top 20 finishers would be rewarded with full time playing privileges on the LPGA tour in 2018. Of those 20 players, nine of them will be rookies playing on the LPGA tour for the very first time.

  • Tiffany Chan (24 years old) - Hong Kong - She will be the first player from Hong Kong to ever play on the LPGA tour.
  • Rebecca Artis (29) - Coonabarabran, Australia - Has two wins on the Ladies Europeon Tour.
  • Luna Sobron Galmes (23) - Palma De Mallorca, Spain
  • Robynn Ree (20) - Rendondo Beach, California
  • Lauren Coughlin (25) - Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Georgia Hall (21) - Wimborne, England - Currently #41 on the Rolex Rankings, and 2017 Solheim Cup member of Team Europe.
  • Kassidy Teare (23) - San Diego, California
  • Gemma Dryburgh (24) - Aberdenn, Scotland
  • Maria Torres - San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Georgia Hall will be one of the favorites to win top rookie honors in 2018.

The above 9 players will be joined on the LPGA tour by 7 other rookies who last month received their full time 2018 LPGA playing privileges by finishing in the top 10 on the 2017 Symetra Tour money list. They are as follows:

  • Hannah Green
  • Nanna Koertz Madsen
  • Yu Liu
  • Erynne Lee
  • Lindsey Weaver
  • Emma Talley
  • Katelyn Dambaugh
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Nanna Koertz Madsen won 3 times on the Symetra Tour in 2017.

The LPGA will have one additional rookie in 2018 as KLPGA star, Jin Young Ko, earned her LPGA membership by winning the KEB Hana Bank Championship last October.

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Jin Young Ko will be trying to be the 4th consecutive Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year winner from South Korea.

For the 17 players listed above, it is a dream come true. I am sure you will all join me in wishing them success during the upcoming 2018 season.

Note: There will be 30 rookies on the LPGA tour in 2018, as 13 other players earned partial status for the upcoming season.

This Week's Trivia Question:

Who is the only player to win the final phase of LPGA Qualifying School twice?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

LPGA Player Profile: Azahara Munoz

It has been a while since I did my last LPGA player profile.

The player I have chosen this week is the very popular:

                                   Azahara Munoz

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Azahara Munoz continues to be one of the most popular players on the LPGA tour

Born:  11/19/87 (30 years old)
Hometown:  San Pedro del Alcantara, Spain
Resides:  Jupiter, Fla.
Rookie Year: 2010
2017 Earnings:  $286,417 (63rd)

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Azahara holds up the 2012 Sybase Match P

lay trophy

She has won once on the LPGA tour:

  • 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship

Best finishes in Major Championships:
  • ANA Inspiration - Finished 7th in 2014
  • KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Finished 4th in 2014
  • U.S. Women's Open - Finished 19th in 2010
  • Ricoh Women's British Open - Finished 12th in 2014
  • The Evian Championship - Finished 19th in 2013

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Career Stats:
  • 202 career starts
  • 175 cuts made (86.6%)
  • 38 top tens (18.8%)
  • Has $4,894,331 in career earnings. (61st on the all time LPGA career money list)

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Azahara (pictured here with Carlota Ciganda) was a member of 3 Solheim Cup teams

Other career highlights:
  • Posted a career high 10 top ten finishes in 2014
  • First Spaniard to win the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award in 2010
  • Turned professional in 2009 and qualified for the LPGA tour in her first attempt, finishing 5th at the 2009 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
  • Recorded her first professional victory at the 2009 Madrid Masters on the Ladies European Tour (LET) - has added three additional wins on the LET, including the 2013 and 2014 Lacoste Ladies Open de France and the 2016 Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open de Espana.
Special Achievements:
  • Represented Spain in the 2016 Rio Olympics finishing 21st.
  • Three-time member of the European Solheim Cup Team (2011, 2013, 2015) with an overall 4-6-1 record.
  • Member of the winning Team Spain at the inaugural 2014 UL International Crown with a record of 3-1-0.

Links to Previous Player Profiles:

This Week's Trivia Question: (for those who missed it earlier)

Who holds the record for the lowest score in the history of the final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

LPGA Qualifying Tournament 2017 - Final Stage

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The Final Stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will be held Wednesday November 29 through Sunday December 3 at LPGA International - Jones & Hills Courses, Daytona, Florida.

Players will rotate between the Jones and Hills courses over the first 4 days. 

There will be a 72 hole cut made after Saturday's round to the top 70 and ties.

Sunday's final round will be played on the Hills course.

Key Details:
Field: 166 players
Par: 72 on both courses
Hills Course: 6566 yards
Jones Course: 6,449 yards

Players who finish in the top 20 will earn category 12 Priority List membership. This means that they will get to play in all full field LPGA tournaments. Players finishing 21-45 will get category 17 membership, which amounts to conditional playing privileges. The players in category 17 usually do not get into many LPGA events and will probably spend most of the 2018 season playing on the Symetra Tour. Bronte Law, Aditi Ashok, Nicole Broch Larson, and Emily Pedersen were the only category 17 players who managed to retain their full time playing privileges because of their play on the LPGA tour during the 2017 season.

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Georgia Hall (winner of phase 2) will be one of the favorites to capture one of the top 20 spots

  • There will be 166 players in the field this week.
  • There are 81 players representing the USA, and 85 players representing 30 countries outside the United States. They include 9 players from Thailand and Sweden, 6 from Canada, and 6 from South Korea.
  • The field includes 10 teenagers and 43 players under the age of 23.
  • Included in the field are 8 amateurs.
  • There are 5 players that are past winners on the LPGA tour - Lori Kane, Mika Miyazato, Silvia Cavalleri, Ilhee Lee, and Julieta Granada.
  • Lori Kane is the oldest player in the field at 52.
  • Georgia Hall is the highest ranked player at #41 in the Rolex Rankings.
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USC golfer Muni He (aka Lily) is the only player in field that is both an amateur and a teenager

Although the most significant prize is leaving with a 2018 tour card, there is a $50,000 purse and the medalist will earn $5,000. 

This Week's Trivia Question:

Who holds the record for the lowest score in the history of the final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Rating the 2017 Rookies - Final Analysis

Let me start off by saying that 2017 was a much better year for LPGA rookies than was predicted at the start of the season. When looking over the rookie roster back in January, this much was obvious:

  • Sung Hyun Park, coming off seven wins on the KLPGA in 2016, was a sure thing.
  • Nelly Korda sure had the famous name.
  • Madelene Sagstrom broke just about every Symetra Tour record that previously existed.
  • Mel Reid was the crafty veteran coming from the L.E.T.
Of the above four players, only Park was a sure shot to succeed.

Korda struggled for most of the year on the Symetra Tour in 2016, before finishing strong and just barely squeaking into 9th place to secure her card. LPGA success was not a guarantee.

Sagstrom had the best year in Symetra Tour history, but success on that tour certainly has not always translated in success on the LPGA.

Reid has always been a solid player on the L.E.T. But that tour is not even close to being as strong as the KLPGA or even the JLPGA. 

With thirty-seven rookies on the LPGA tour in 2017, it did not look promising that many would retain their playing cards for another season.

As it turned out, we had some very big and pleasant surprises! Twelve rookies finished in the top 100 on the LPGA money list. One more will keep her full time playing card because of her stellar play on the Symetra Tour. This is a huge increase over 2016, when only 9 players advanced to 2017.

When comparing this year's rookies to the rookies of the last half dozen years, you have to remember that 2015 was a year that we will probably never see again in our lifetime, and should not be used as a benchmark. Brooke Henderson, Sei Young Kim, Hyo-Joo Kim, Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee, Ha Na Jang, Alison Lee, and Charley Hull were all rookies that year. 

Let's see how 2017 ranks by percentage when compared to previous years:
  • 2015 - 19 of 33 = 57.6%
  • 2014 - 14 of 29 = 46.4%
  • 2012 - 12 of 33 = 36.3%
  • 2017 - 13 of 37 = 35.1%
  • 2016 -  9  of 29 = 23.1%
  • 2013 -  8  of 35 = 22.8%
Now if we rank them by number of players who succeeded in keeping their cards:
  • 2015 - 19
  • 2014 - 14
  • 2017 - 13
  • 2012 - 12
  • 2016 -  9
  • 2013 -  8
Not such a bad year at all!

Below are my ratings for all 2017 LPGA rookies. These ratings are strictly based on how they fared on the LPGA tour this season. Any successes or failures on other tours, excluding the Symetra Tour, are not considered here. Success in retaining their 2018 LPGA playing card was my determining factor for my final ratings.

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Sung Hyun Park holds up her 2017 U.S. Women's Open championship trophy

The Best:
1- Sung Hyun Park - What can I say that hasn't already been said? Park is the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1988 to win both the Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year award. She played in 23 tournaments this year and didn't miss a single cut. She won twice in 2017, one of them being a major championship. She had 9 top five finishes, 11 top tens, and 20 top twenty-fives. Her scoring average of 69.247 was 2nd to Lexi Thompson. 

Strong Rookie Season:
2-Angel Yin - Angel had quite a solid season of her own. She made the cut in 19 of her 25 starts, and her 70.75 scoring average was 31st on tour. She had 2 consecutive top five finishes at the Lorena Ochoa Match Play Championship and the Texas Shootout. She had those two top fives, 5 top tens, and 12 top twenty-five finishes. She finished the season #44 on the money list.

3- Nelly Korda - Nelly actually had a better season on the LPGA Tour in 2017 than she did on the Symetra Tour last season. In 23 starts she missed the cut just four times. Her 70.61 scoring average ranked her 27th. She had two top five finishes, 5 top tens, and 10 top twenty-fives. She finished #47 on the year end money list.

4- Madelene Sagstrom - Madelene came onto the LPGA this season after having the best season in Symetra Tour history. She not only broke the record for prize money in one season, she shattered it! That said, as we have seen in the past, not every Symetra Tour star is successful. After a slow start, Madelene came on very strong in the second half of the season. She had 2 top fives, and finished in the top 11, six times. She needs to improve on her driving accuracy (ranked outside the top 100), but her short game (20th in putting average and 7th in sand saves) is superb. Her 71.47 scoring average is solid. She finished #49 on the year end money list.

5- Nicole Broch Larsen - The 2015 Player of the Year on the L.E.T. had a fine season. She made 18 of 22 cuts, had 3 top tens, and five top twenty-five finishes. Her 71.70 scoring average ranked 69th on tour. She finished the season #57 on the money list.

Consider Them a Success:
6- Peiyun Chien - Peiyun's season lacked consistency as she missed 13 cuts in her 29 starts. Her 3rd place finish at the Marathon Classic was her only top ten finish, but she did have 4 more top twenty-fives. Her 72.12 scoring average (98th) needs to improve. That said, she did do enough to finish #67 on the money list. 

7- Laura Gonzalez Escallon - Laura started out quickly with a top ten in her very first start, but would only get one more the rest of the season. She did have 5 top twenty-fives, but struggled mightily in the second half of the season. She teed in up 25 times, making 17 cuts. Her 71.73 scoring average (70th) was certainly good enough. She finished #73 on the money list. 

8- Olafia Kristinsdottir - My readers have heard me say many times, "It only takes one really good one". That was certainly the case with Olafia. In 26 starts she only had two top 25 finishes, but she struck gold with her 4th place finish at the Indy Women In Tech Championship saving her season. Her 72.40 scoring average (ranks 122nd) needs to improve as does most of her other stats if she she wants to stay on the LPGA Tour. But that one big paycheck put her at #74 on the money list and she will be playing full time in 2018.

9- Aditi Ashok - It wasn't easy, but Aditi did enough to retain her full time playing privileges for the 2018 season. Her 8th place finish at the Marathon Classic was her only top 10, but she did have 6 top thirty finishes. She made 14 cuts in 21 starts, a 71.74 scoring average (71st), and finished up #84 on the year end money list.

10- Emily Pedersen - Came out of the gate like she was going to challenge for top rookie honors when she made her first 8 cuts and six of them were top 25 finishes. It went downhill the second half of the season as she missed 6 consecutive cuts and never finished higher than 47th. Fortunately for her, she did enough in that solid first half to retain her 2018 full time playing privileges. Her 71.43 scoring average (53rd) was solid. She finished the year #90 on the money list.

11- Bronte Law - If you look at her stats, you have to wonder how she was able to keep her playing card. In 17 starts she had only 1 top 25 finish. You will be seeing her next year because she was a "cut making machine." Bronte only missed 2 cuts the entire season. Unlike a few of the players above who made most of their money with one big finish, Bronte proved you could make a little bit of money every week and still be successful. Her scoring average was 71.75 (75th) and she finished #93 on the final LPGA money list.

12- Mel Reid - Mel had been an outstanding player on the LET from 2008 to 2016. During that period she won 6 tournaments and had 53 top tens. Expectations were high that she would be one of the top 3 rookies in 2017. It didn't turn out that way. It was a struggle week in and week out. Mel was able to make just 10 of 19 cuts, and her 13th place finish at the year's first tournament would be the highlight of her season. Her 71.93 scoring average ranked 93rd on tour, but it was just good enough for her to sneak into the #94 position and get to play next year.

Retaining Her Playing Card Through the Symetra Tour:
13- Celine Boutier - Celine was the only player to retain her card this way. She played just 1 event on the LPGA tour and missed the cut. It didn't matter. Her 3rd place finish on the Symetra Tour money list was good enough for her to get the opportunity to play all full field events in 2018.

They are Going Back to Q-School:
The following 2 players are going back to Q-school to improve their priority list ranking for 2018. Although they still have a playing card (category 16), they did not play well enough to guarantee them many starts (if any) in 2018.

1- Mariah Stackhouse - Mariah made just 7 cuts in 15 tournaments during the 2017 campaign. The highlight of her season was when she finished in 8th place at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. Unfortunately, she did very little to add money to the purse she won that day. She had just 2 finishes better than 55th place. Her scoring average of 71.83 (82nd) shows she has some potential. She finished outside the top 100 on the money list (114th), meaning she did retain her card but would probably get into very few events in 2018. Look for Mariah to do well in Q-school and improve her 2018 LPGA status.

2- Katherine Perry - Like Mariah above, her 122 place finish this year on the LPGA money list allows her to keep her playing card, but will not get her into many tournaments, if any at all. She had plenty of opportunities in 2017, as she did tee it up 20 times. She was only able to make 8 cuts, and never finished better than 15th. Her scoring average of 72.65 (136th) tells us her game still needs some work.

The following players finished outside the top 125 on the money list and will have to be successful in Q-school next week to earn back their playing privileges. (In alphabetical order). Number of cuts made / Position on money list.

1- Brittany Benvenuto - 0 of 1 / N/A
2- Hannah Burke - 1 of 6 / 167
3- Karen Chung - 8 of 19 / 138
4- Jenny Coleman - 1 of 10 / 171
5- Emily Collins - 0 of 7 / N/A
6- Daniela Darquea - 0 for 1 / N/A
7- Regan De Guzman - 1 of 13 / 163
8- Justine Dreher - 1 of 9 / 169
9- Allyssa Ferrell - 2 of 7 / 162
10- Dana Finkelstein - 7 of 17 / 136
11- Jennifer Ha - 1 of 18 / 168
12- Nasa Hataoka - 7 of 19 / 140
13- Caroline Inglis - 0 of 2 / N/A
14- Augusta James - 2 of 9 / 154
15- Lauren Kim - 0 of 2 / N/A
16- Min-G Kim - 2 of 8 / 164
17- Maria Parra - 3 of 18 / 165
18- Krista Puisite - 1 of 9 / 166
19- Madaleine Shiels - 5 of 13 / 144
20- Jessy Tang - 0 of 8 / N/A
21- Emily Tubert - 6 of 12 / 147
22- Britney Yada - 1 of 10 / 176

This Week's Trivia Question: (for those who missed it earlier)     

Three players won their first LPGA tournament in 2017. Can you name them?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

Be sure to check back here early next week for my preview of phase 3 Q-School.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Stats & Facts - Final 2017 (includes 2018 schedule announcements)

First let me congratulate Ariya Jutanugarn for winning the CME Group Championship. Ariya made long birdie putts on both the 17th and 18th holes to win by one stroke.

That wasn't the whole story of the weekend though as three big season ending awards were decided:
  • Lexi Thompson won the Vare Trophy
  • So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award
  • Lexi Thompson won the Race to the CME Globe and its 1 Million Dollar bonus check.

We have come to the end of another exciting LPGA season. In many ways it was one of the most exciting seasons ever. Each week we were treated to exciting and competitive tournaments. It certainly seemed that almost every week the tournament wasn't decided until the last hole. In fact, there were 5 tournaments that needed a playoff to determine the final outcome. There were 10 tournaments that were decided by one stroke, and 9 more that were decided by two. We had winners from 8 different countries. We also saw Team USA retain possession of the Solheim Cup with a very impressive victory.

Image result for Team USA wins 2017 solheim cup
Team USA successfully defended the Solheim Cup Championship in 2017. 

On that note I would like to take a look at some of the most important stats of the 2017 season.

1- In-Kyung Kim - 3
1- Shanshan Feng - 3
3- Seven players tied with - 2

Most Top Ten Finishes:
1- Shanshan Feng - 12
1- So Yeon Ryu - 12
3- Sung Hyun Park - 11
3- Moriya Jutanugarn - 11
3- Lydia Ko - 11

Most Top Twenty-five Finishes:
1- Moriya Jutanugarn - 22
2- Brooke Henderson - 21
3- Sung Hyun Park - 20
4- Shanshan Feng - 18
4- Lydia Ko - 18

Rolex Player of the Year:
1- So Yeon Ryu - 162 points
1- Sung Hyun Park - 162 points
3- Lexi Thompson - 159
3- Shanshan Feng - 159
5- In-Kyung Kim - 127

Vare Trophy:
1-* Lexi Thompson - 69.114 strokes per round
2- Sung Hyun Park - 69.247
3- In Gee Chun - 69.415
4- Stacy Lewis - 69.609
5- Inbee Park - 69.673 (did not play enough rounds to qualify for title)
  * Second best figure in LPGA history, and best since 2002.

Official Money:
1- **Sung Hyun Park - $2,335,883 
2- So Yeon Ryu - $1,981,593
3- Lexi Thompson - $1,877,181
4- Shanshan Feng - $1,728,191
5- Ariya Jutanugarn - $1,549,858
  ** Lowest winning figure since 2012.

*Race to the CME Globe:
1- Lexi Thompson $1,000,000
2- Sung Hyun Park - $150,000
3- Shanshan Feng - $100,000
* All unofficial money, and does not count on official money list.

Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year:
1- Sung Hyun Park - 1,620 points
2- Angel Yin - 732
3- Nelly Korda - 599
4- Madelene Sagstrom - 479
5- Nicole Broch Larsen - 405

Average Driving Distance: (minimum 15 tournaments played)
1- Maude Aimee-Leblanc - 279.256
2- Joanna Klatten - 278.073
3- Lexi Thompson - 273.786
4- Angel Yin - 272.452
5- Yani Tseng - 270.815

Greens In Regulation: (minimum 15 tournaments played)
1- Lexi Thompson - 77.7%
2- So Yeon Ryu - 77.5%
3- Anna Nordqvist - 77.4%
4- In Gee Chun - 77.0%
5- Marina Alex - 76.2%
5- Shanshan Feng - 76.2%

Putts Per Green in regulation: (minimum 15 tournaments played)
1- Inbee Park - 1.734 
2- Cristie Kerr - 1.737
3- Lydia Ko - 1.741
4- Stacy Lewis - 1.742
5- Moriya Jutanugarn - 1.747

Most Wins by Country:
1- South Korea - 15
2- United States - 7
3- China - 3
4- Three countries with - 2

Other Tidbits:
Lexi Thompson's second place finish at the CME Group Tour Championship was her 6th of the year. No other player had more than 4.

The Cambia Portland Classic has extended its contract with the LPGA through the year 2020.

The Race to the CME Globe will last at least 6 more years, as Michael Whan announced an extension through 2023.

The LPGA is likely going to lose three events next year, but it will gain three new ones, leaving the tour with 34 events, including the UL International Crown. That’s the same number of events being played this year. Total prize money is expected to reach $69 million, up from the record $65 million played for this season.

The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada is off next year’s schedule, and the Lorena Ochoa Match Play also is not expected to return. The McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open is not returning, but only because it is sliding off the schedule to move up early on the 2019 schedule.
Whan said two new West Coast events are being added, and they will be positioned on the calendar next to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, to give players more reasons to stay out west.
Whan said there’s also a new international event being added to the schedule, but details of the new events won’t be released until the full schedule is released sometime after Thanksgiving.
Q-School officially overhauled . . .
Whan said the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will still be played in three stages next year, but the final stage will get a makeover as the Q-School Series.
The LPGA will continue to host first and second stages, but instead of a five-round final stage, there will be an eight-round finals series, with two four-round tournaments scheduled in back-to-back weeks in the same city, with cumulative scores used over eight rounds. The new Q-Series site will be announced early next year.
A field of 108 will make the Q-Series finals, with 40 to 50 LPGA tour cards up for grabs.
The Q-Series field will be filled by players finishing 101st to 150th on the LPGA money list, players finishing 11st to 30th on the Symetra Tour money list, with up to 10 players from among the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who don’t have LPGA membership. Also, the field will include the top five in the Golfweek Sagarin College Rankings. The rest of the field will be filled by players advancing through Q-School’s second stage, which could be anywhere from 23 to 33 players, depending how many from the world rankings and college rankings choose to go to the Q-Series.
Rolex Movers of the Week:
Ariya Jutanugarn makes the most important move this week jumping from #9 to #5. Jessica Korda leaps up from #37 to #26. Further down the list, Kim Kaufman jumps up 16 spots to #103. Shanshan Feng retains the #1 spot by the narrowest of margins over Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, and Lexi Thompson. Any one of those players mentioned can take over the top spot after the first tournament of 2018. Stay tuned!

This Week's Trivia Question: 
Three players won their first LPGA tournament in 2017. Can you name them?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

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