Monday, January 26, 2015

Coates Golf Championship Presented By R&L Carriers Preview

Well here we go!

It is time to start the 2015 LPGA season. With 34 tournaments (including the Solheim Cup), more prize money, and more television coverage, the 2015 season promises to be the biggest and best ever. The season will open in Florida this year, with the playing of the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R&L Carriers.

Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club

This will be tournament #1 of 33 official tournaments this season.

Here are the key details:

Course: Golden Ocala Golf and Eqestrian Club
Location: Ocala, Florida
Defending Champion: This is the inaugural event
Winning Score: N/A

Final Field: 120 players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,541
Purse:  $1,500,000

This is a very strong field. My strength of field rating is 76%. As a comparison, this field would have been the 8th strongest field of the year last year out of 32 events. Twenty-two of the top 25 players in the Rolex Rankings, and 44 of the top 50 players on the 2015 LPGA priority list will be teeing it up. Notable players that are not in attendance this week include: Shanshan Feng, Catriona Matthew, Hee Kyung Seo, Lee-Anne Pace, I.K. Kim, Yani Tseng, Se Ri Pak, Natalie Gulbis, and Hyo-Joo Kim.

Here are the pairings for the first 2 rounds.

Here are the television times:
Jan 28 - GC 2:00 PM-5:00 PM ET
Jan 29 - GC 11:00 AM-2:00 PM ET
Jan 30 - GC 8:00 PM-10:00 PM ET
Jan 31 - GC 3:00 PM-5:00 PM ET

Here are my Pak Picker Picks for this week's tournament:
1- Stacy Lewis
2- Lydia Ko
3- Inbee Park
4- Suzann Pettersen
5- So Yeon Ryu
6- Michelle Wie
7- Chella Choi
8- Jessica Korda
9- Lexi Thompson
10- Azahara Munoz
11- Anna Nordqvist
12- Ha-Na Jang
Last season I finished in 3rd place among the 21 players who participated.
For those of you who might want to play this year, here is your chance to get in from the very beginning. You can post your picks either at Seoul Sisters, or at myLPGA.

Other Tidbits:
The two players who received sponsor exemptions this week are Cheyenne Woods and Alexandra Jacobsen. The Saturday qualifiers were Ha-Na Jang and Jing Yan.

Be sure to check back here daily for any updates. They will always be posted here, at the bottom of the blog, throughout the year. Links to live scoreboards are always available at the top of this page.
Feedback is always welcome in the comments section. Let's all enjoy this very promising 2015 LPGA season together.

Update #1 - Line Vedel and Sarah Kemp have withdrawn.

Here are the final results:

1Na Yeon Choi-16F
2Jessica Korda-15F
2Ha-Na Jang-15F
2Lydia Ko-15F
5Amy Yang-10F
6Alison Walshe-9F
7Brittany Lang-8F
8Sun Young Yoo-7F
8So Yeon Ryu-7F
8Stacy Lewis-7F
11Ariya Jutanugarn-6F
12Minjee Lee-5F
13Sydnee Michaels-4F
13Mo Martin-4F
13Inbee Park-4F
13Mariajo Uribe-4F
13Alison Lee-4F
13Azahara Munoz-4F
13Mirim Lee-4F
13Austin Ernst-4F

For full leader board, see link on top of this page.
 (currently 1222 followers)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

LPGA 2015 Priority List

2015 LPGA Priority List

I have been asked many times how the LPGA constructs their field lists for tournaments.
Below is the 2015 priority list taken directly from the LPGA website:

The following priority with regards to a Member’s playing status will be used for Standard Tournament fields and other tournaments as applicable:

1. Top 80 Members in the top 80 on the previous year’s season-ending Money List. Priority is based on the order of the list. Ties will be broken by the Members’ position on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

(1) Stacy Lewis
(2) Inbee Park
(3) Lydia Ko
(4) Michelle Wie
(5) So Yeon Ryu
(6) Shanshan Feng
(7) Anna Nordqvist
(8) Karrie Webb
(9) Azahara Munoz
(10) Chella Choi
(11) Suzann Pettersen
(12) Lexi Thompson
(13) Na Yeon Choi
(14) Mirim Lee
(15) Cristie Kerr
(16) Jessica Korda
(17) Brittany Lincicome
(18) Julieta Granada
(19) Angela Stanford
(20) Pornanong Phatlum
(21) Jenny Shin
(22) Paula Creamer
(23) Mo Martin
(24) Lizette Salas
(25) Amy Yang
(26) Meena Lee
(27) Christina Kim
(28) Caroline Masson
(29) Brittany Lang
(30) Mi Jung Hur
(31) Mi Hyang Lee
(32) Catriona Matthew
(33) Karine Icher
(34) Hee Kyung Seo*
(35) Eun-Hee Ji
(36) Morgan Pressel
(37) Sandra Gal
(38) Ilhee Lee
(39) Lee-Anne Pace
(40) Gerina Piller
(41) Hee Young Park
(42) Austin Ernst
(43) Pernilla Lindberg
(44) Mariajo Uribe
(45) Carlota Ciganda
(46) Line Vedel
(47) Caroline Hedwall
(48) Haru Nomura
(49) I.K. Kim
(50) Haeji Kang
(51) Mina Harigae
(52) Danielle Kang
(53) Jane Park **
(54) Jodi Ewart Shadoff
(55) Beatriz Recari
(56) Yani Tseng
(57) Belen Mozo
(58) Moriya Jutanugarn
(59) Jennifer Johnson
(60) Kim Kaufman
(61) Se Ri Pak
(62) Nicole Castrale **
(63) Katherine Kirk
(64) Sun Young Yoo
(65) Sarah Jane Smith
(66) Natalie Gulbis **
(67) Thidapa Suwannapura
(68) Ayako Uehara
(69) Marina Alex
(70) Amelia Lewis
(71) Tiffany Joh
(72) Laura Davies
(73) Dewi Claire Schreefel
(74) Dori Carter
(75) Candie Kung
(76) Kris Tamulis
(77) Ji Young Oh
(78) Vicky Hurst **
(79) Sydnee Michaels
(80) Laura Diaz
(81) Giulia Sergas
(82) Paula Reto
(83) P.K. Kongkraphan
(84) Amy Anderson
** Medical
* Maternity

2. Career Top-20: Members in the Top-20 on the Career Money List as of the end of the last Official Tournament of the previous year. Priority is based on the order of the list. To be included in this category (a) the Member must notify the LPGA that she wants to be included in the Career Top-20 Category by December 15 of the previous year, (b) if a Member elects to be included in the Career Top-20 Category, she will be in this Category for one year,(c) a Member may be included in this
category only two times in her career, and (d) a Member may only be in the Career Top-20 Category or the Career Top-40 Category (but not both) in her career.

3. Major Winner: Members who have won an LPGA Major Championship while a Member during the previous five (5) years. Priority is based on the number of such wins during the previous five (5) years or during the current year. Ties are broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

4. Winner: Members who have won an Official Tournament while a Member within the last two (2) years or during the current year. Priority is based on the number of Official Tournament wins during the previous two (2) years. Ties are broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

5. Multiple Wins: Members who have won at least two (2) Official Tournaments while a Member during the previous four (4) years (2011-2014). Priority is based on the number of wins during the previous four (4) years. Ties are broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year. Beginning in 2016, Members who have won two (2) Official Tournaments in the same calendar year during the previous three (3) years (2013-2015). Priority is based on the number of wins during the previous three years. Ties are broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

(85) Ai Miyazato

6. Three Wins in the Same Season: Members who have won three (3) or more Official Tournaments while a Member during the same calendar year in the previous four (4) years (2011-2014). Priority is based on the number of wins during each calendar year. Ties are broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

7. Non-Member Win: Players who have won at least one (1) Official Tournament as a Non-member within the previous calendar year or during the current calendar year. Priority is based on the earliest date of such wins. A Player must be eligible and accept LPGA membership to be eligible in this category.

(86) Hyo Joo Kim
(87) Kyu-Jung Baek

8. Current Year Top 80: Members in the Top-80 of the current year’s Money List after the (TBD) event with priority based on the order of the list. For the remaining Official Tournaments of the year, Members in the Top-80 on the current year’s Money List after the (TBD) event. Priority is based on the order of the list.

9. Top-10 LPGA Symetra Tour: Top-10 on the previous year’s season-ending Symetra Tour Money List. Priority is based on their position on the list.

(88) Marissa Steen
(89) Min Seo Kwak
(90) Christine Song**
(91) Jackie Stoelting
(92) Sadena Parks
(93) Min Lee
(94) Perrine Delacour **
(95) Wei-Ling Hsu
(96) Jaclyn Sweeney **
(97) Jenny Gleason**
(98) Yueer Cindy Feng
(99) Nicole Smith **
(100) Kendall Dye
(101) Demi Runas
(102) Mallory Blackwelder
** Medical

10. Non-Member Top-40: Non-Members who, as of the conclusion of the last Official Tournament of the previous year, won an amount of money during such year in Official Tournaments with a cut, that is equal to or greater than the amount of official money won by the Member who was in 40th place on the Money List at that time. Priority based on the amount of money won in such tournaments. A player must be eligible and accept LPGA membership to be eligible in this category.

11. Nos. 81-100: Members finishing Nos. 81-100 on the previous year’s season-ending Money List. Priority is based on the order of the list. Ties will be broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

(103) Xiyu Lin
(104) Juli Inkster
(105) Karin Sjodin **
(106) Jennifer Song
(107) Christel Boeljon
(108) Alison Walshe
(109) Katie Burnett
(110) Brooke Pancake
(111) Kelly Tan
(112) Danah Bordner *
(113) Jennifer Rosales
(114) Paige Mackenzie **
(115) Mika Miyazato
(116) Sarah Kemp
(117) Jaye Marie Green
(118) Alena Sharp
(119) Lindsey Wright
(120) Kristy McPherson
(121) Ashleigh Simon
(122) Joanna Klatten
(123) Seon Hwa Lee **
(124) Paz Echeverria
** Medical
** Maternity

12. Top-20 Q-School: Players finishing Nos. 1-20 at the previous year’s LPGA Qualifying Tournament. Ties are broken on the basis of the lowest, most recent round in Stage III of the Qualifying Tournament. In the event of a tie for 20th place, the 20th place shall be determined through a play-off held at the Qualifying Tournament.

(125) Alison Lee
(126) Minjee Lee
(127) Ariya Jutanugarn
(128) Maria Hernandez
(129) Ryann O’Toole
(130) Victoria Elizabeth **
(131) Sei Young Kim
(132) Lisa Ferrero **
(133) Simin Feng
(134) Ha Na Jang
(135) Nannette Hill
(136) Kelly Shon
(137) Cheyenne Woods
(138) Therese Koelbaek
(139) SooBin Kim
(140) Sakura Yokomine
(141) Amanda Blumenherst *
(142) Sophia Popov
(143) Ju Young Park
(144) Garrett Phillips
(145) Laetitia Beck
(146) Karlin Beck
** Medical
* Maternity

13. Three-Time LPGA Symetra Tour Current-Year Win Category: Winners of three (3) official LPGA Symetra Tour tournaments during the current year. (A player does not gain LPGA membership by winning three times on the LPGA Symetra Tour. If the player entering through this category is a Non-Member, any prize money she wins will be unofficial. If the player is a Member,
any prize money she wins will be official)

14. Career Top-40 Category: Members in the Top-40 on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year. Priority is based on the order of the list. To be included in this category (a) the Member must notify the LPGA that she wants to be included in the Career Top-40 Category by December 15 of the previous year, and (b) if a Member elects to be included in the Career Top-40 Category she will be in this category for one year, (c) a Member may be included in this category only one time in her career, (d) a Member may only be in the Career Top-40 Category or the Career Top-20 Category (but not both) in her career.

(147) Maria McBride
(148) Michele Redman

15. Current-Year Reshuffle: After the tenth (10th) Official Tournament (Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout), Members in categories 16 through 20 who have earned official money will be re-seeded into Category 15. Members placed into Category 15 will be ranked in the order of their position on the current year’s Money List through the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout. Members will remain in their position within this category until the next reshuffle. After the sixteenth
(16th) Official Tournament (Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G), Members in categories 15 and 16 through 20 who have earned official money will be re-seeded into Category 15. Members placed into Category 15 will be ranked in the order of their position on the current year’s Money List through the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
presented by P&G. Members will remain in their position within this category for the remainder of the calendar year.

16. Nos. 101-125 Category: Members finishing Nos. 101-125 on the previous year’s season-ending Money List. Priority is based on the order of the list. Ties will be broken by the Members’ positions on the Career Money List as of the end of the previous year.

(149) Jee Young Lee
(150) Becky Morgan
(151) Lisa McCloskey
(152) Alejandra Llaneza
(153) Chie Arimura
(154) Paola Moreno
(155) Hee-Won Han
(156) Jacqui Concolino
(157) Rebecca Lee-Bentham
(158) Jennifer Kirby
(159) Felicity Johnson
(160) Cydney Clanton
(161) Giulia Molinaro
(162) Jenny Suh
(163) Jeong Jang
(164) Sandra Changkija
(165) Sue Kim
(166) Haley Millsap **
(167) Jane Rah
(168) Stacey Keating
(169) Pat Hurst
(170) Jimin Kang
(171) Hannah Jun Medlock
** Medical
17. Nos. 21-45 Q-School Category: Players finishing Nos. 21-45 and those players tied at the 45th position at the previous year’s LPGA Qualifying Tournament. Priority is based on the order of their finish at the Qualifying Tournament. Ties are broken on the basis of the lowest most recent round in the Final Qualifying Tournament.

(172) Julie Yang
(173) Stephanie Meadow
(174) Casey Grice
(175) Nontaya Srisawang
(176) Daniela Iacobelli
(177) Louise Stahle
(178) Charley Hull
(179) Natalie Sheary
(180) Jeong Eun Lee
(181) Jean Reynolds
(182) Lindy Duncan
(183) Jing Yan
(184) Celine Herbin
(185) Emma de Groot
(186) Sophie Giquel
(187) Elizabeth Nagel
(188) Caroline Westrup
(189) Katy Harris
(190) Marta Sanz Barrio

The above players all have active playing cards going into the 2015 season.

 (Currently 1,220 Followers)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Top 30 Player of the Year Predictions for 2015

We are just about a week away from the beginning of the 2015 LPGA season.
With 34 tournaments on the schedule (including the Solheim Cup), this year promises to be the most interesting season ever.

Here are my top 30 picks for the 2015 LPGA Player of the Year: (last year's actual finish is in parenthesis)

1- Stacy Lewis (1) - This one is really tough. I kept changing my mind. Any one of my top 4 players could finish here. I pick Stacy because I believe she wants that #1 Rolex Ranking back very badly and will come out of the gate faster than anyone else. I look for her to repeat.

2- Lydia Ko (3) - Can she become the next Player of the Year? Of course she could. For the reasons I stated above, I think she will have to wait another year. It will help if she could win her first Major Championship.

3- Inbee Park (2) - The 2013 winner, almost pulled it out again last year. I look for her to slip back ever so slightly into this position.

4- Michelle Wie (4) - A late season injury prevented Michelle from contending for this title last year. Looking as comfortable as she has ever been on the LPGA tour, I see this as a 4 way race for the top, and yes, if healthy Michelle could win it.

5- Chella Choi (16) - I will probably get some criticism for picking her this high. I just think she is ready to take her game to the next level. Look for her to get that elusive first LPGA victory this year, and it just might be a Major Championship. The talent is there, but as the slowest player on the tour, she needs to speed up her game.

6- Suzann Pettersen (12) - If her back injuries continue to affect her game, then I am picking her too high. If she is healthy she is still a threat to win every week.

If healthy, look for Suzann to be among the best of 2015

7- So Yeon Ryu (6) - I always feel that she should win more than she does. Contends on a regular basis, but has a difficult time finishing. If she could drop a few more final round putts, watch out!

8- Shanshan Feng - (5) - One of the premiere players on the LPGA tour, she could finish anywhere from #5 to #10 on this list.

9- Hyo-Joo Kim (N/A) - I haven't seen enough of her to make a real intelligent pick here. What I have seen is sure impressive. A rookie this year on the LPGA tour, she has won 10 times in Asia. The competition is stronger here, but look for her to finish in the top ten.

10- Lexi Thompson (7) - It shows just how strong the LPGA is, when I can just barely fit her into my top 10. Lexi won her first Major Championship in 2014, but cooled off a bit after that.

11- Azahara Munoz (14) - After a poor 2013, Azahara bounced back to have her most consistent year of her career. Still looking for that first stroke play victory (she won the Sybase Match Play tournament), I predict it will come this year.

12- Jessica Korda (10) -  She won twice last year but didn't do much of anything else. I need to see more consistency in her game before I can rate her higher. She has the potential to be a top 5 player.

13- Pornanong Phatlum (26) - I am predicting many first time winners this year, and Pornanong is on the top of my list. Look for her to get to that next level this year.

14- Mirim Lee - (11) - She won twice last year and didn't win the Rookie of the Year award because of a player named Lydia Ko. I don't think she will win twice again this year, but I do expect another solid year.

15- Brittany Lincicome (19) - At the mid point of last season it appeared that her better days were behind her. She fooled us all by having a very strong second half. In fact, she had 3 top five finishes, and 5 top tens in her last 8 starts. When she is focused she is still one of the top players in the world. I look for a continuation of that 2nd half focus.

Will her hot second half of the 2014 season lead to big things in 2015?

16- Julieta Granada - (22) -  She had an excellent 2014 season, and I expect continued improvement this year.

17- Minjee Lee - (N/A) -  I know I may be getting a few Minjee Who? Those people will find out this year just how good this Australian rookie is. She could very likely be higher than this.

18- Anna Nordqvist  (9) - She won twice very early in the year and it appeared that she had regained that spark that had been missing in previous years. Unfortunately, the spark seemed to fade in the second half of the season and she was just another very good player.

19- Na Yeon Choi (23) -  She should be in the prime of her career, but she seems to be fading. I look for a slight improvement in her game this year, but there are too many good players to rate her higher than this.

20- Paula Creamer (18) - Paula won her 10th career victory last year but did not have a very good season. Not up to our expectations anyway. She recently got married and that makes this year even harder to predict. Her days of being among the elite players have seemed to have come and gone. I hope I am wrong and she makes this prediction look foolish.

21- Karrie Webb (8) - Speaking of looking foolish, Karrie makes me look that way every year. I keep predicting a decline in her game and it never happens. I'm going to be stubborn though, and predict that drop off in her game to come this year.

22- Cristie Kerr - (15) - She did everything but win in 2014. Her putting just doesn't seem to be what it once was, and the fact that she is now a mother, both point towards a decline in 2015.

23- Angela Stanford (20) - Just penciling her in about where she finishes every year.

24- Jenny Shin - (34) - Has streaks when she looks like a top 10 player, then disappears for long stretches before resurfacing again. She is still only 22 years old, and I look for those good stretches to be longer this year.

25- Kyu Ju Baek (N/A) - I will have a better chance of rating her when I get the chance to see her play. A rookie this year, she has already been ranked in the top 10 in the world. I am told by the experts that she is rated a notch below Hyo-Joo.

26- Charley Hull (N/A) - Another 2015 rookie, but this one I have seen play many times. She earned a category 17 playing card (limited play) in Q-School, but look for that to change after the first re-shuffle when she will then get to play regularly. I am sure she will use her sponsor exemptions to play earlier in the year when she doesn't qualify. A future superstar!

27- Mi Jung Hur (24) - It was a strong comeback season for MJ. I look for more of the same this coming year.

28- Ihlee Lee (37) - After a horrendous first half of the season where she made very few cuts, she found her game and seemed to be in contention every week. I rate her game somewhere in the middle of those two half seasons.

29- Lee-Anne Pace - (29) - She won her first LPGA tournament in 2014. A player that misses very few cuts, look for another solid season.

30- Kim Kaufman - (50) - My surprise pick of 2015. She had a very solid rookie season in spite of not playing the first one third of the year on the LPGA Tour. I look for continued improvement in 2015.

My surprise pick. Can Kim Kaufman break into the top 30 this year?

Player most likely to make me look foolish for not picking her - Ariya Jutanugarn.

Player that could be the biggest surprise of the season - Alison Lee.

Player most likely to disappoint - Sakura Yokomine.
Be sure to add your own picks in the comments section.

  (currently 1,213 followers)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ten Questions for the 2015 Season

As we approach the beginning of the 2015 LPGA season, there are a number of questions that I am looking forward to getting the answers to. In reverse order, here are my top ten:

10- Can Sakura Yokomine (2015 LPGA rookie) break the terrible slump that Japanese players have been in for the past couple of years?

9- Will Azahara Munoz, one of the most consistent players on tour, break through and get her first stroke play victory? (She won the Sybase Championship which was a match play event.)

Azahara Munoz Holds Up Her Match Play Trophy for Winning the Sybase Championship

8- Can Hyo-Joo Kim (ranked #7 in the world) and Kyu Jung Baek (ranked #11), have the same kind of success on the LPGA Tour that they had on the KLPGA?

7- Will one or more of the following players: Pornanong Phatlum, Chella Choi, Carlotta Ciganda, or Gerina Piller, finally break through and get that highly anticipated first victory?

6- Is this the year that former #1 player Yani Tseng (now #83) starts climbing back in the right direction?

5- With youngsters Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson winning their first Major Championships in 2014, is it Lydia Ko's turn to do it in 2015?

Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie Both Won Major Championships in 2014

4- Can the U.S., coming off major disappointments in the last two Solheim Cup competitions, bounce back and bring the trophy back to America?

3- Can Stacy Lewis return to the #1 position in the world for the third time, or will Lydia Ko take Inbee Park's spot on top of the Rolex Rankings?

2- With Michelle Wie coming off the best season of her career, is she ready to join the big three (Inbee, Stacy, Lydia) and make it the big four?

1- Is it even possible for the LPGA to match or better the success it had in 2014?

Feel free to add your own questions, or give your answers to the above in the comments section.

 (Currenly 1,210 followers)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top LPGA Stories of 2014

As we wait for the start of the 2015 season, which is only three weeks away, I would like to look back at what I consider to be the top stories of 2014.

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

I have narrowed it down to ten, 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.

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

So in reverse order, here we go:

10- Christina Kim Wins the Lorena Ochoa Invitational
Normally winning this tournament probably wouldn't make this list, but it's the story within the story that makes this news worthy. Her problems were well documented. It appeared her golfing career (and maybe much more than that), were in a serious downward spiral. She started playing better earlier in the year and capped her season off with this extremely unlikely victory. Whether you're a fan of hers or not, this was a heart warming story

9- Hyo-Joo Kim Wins the Evian Championship
Unless you are big fan of women's golf, you may not have known who she was. You do now. She had already won 8 times on the KLPGA Tour (and once on the JLPGA), and she isn't even 20 yet. She will be a 2015 LPGA rookie, and the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award.

8- The LPGA Holds Its First International Crown.
Chalk up another success for Commissioner Michael Whan. The LPGA clearly needed a competition like this that gave all countries a chance to compete. It wasn't perfect, it could use a little tweaking, but it was hugely successful. Spain was the inaugural winner. 

Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Carlotta Ciganda, and Belan Mozo Win It For Spain

7- Lydia Ko Wins the Race to the CME Globe.
It was a season long fight, and Lydia came up big and took home the one million dollar bonus. By the way she won that tournament also, her third win of the year.

Lydia Ko Wins the CME Race to the Globe and One Million Dollars

6- Men & Women Play Back to Back at Pinehurst.
They said it would never work. There was severe criticism from the press, some fans, and even some of the players, when it was announced that the men and women would be playing their U.S. Open Champion on successive weeks on the same course. It turned out to be one of the true highlights of the 2015 season. LPGA ratings soared to new highs. Put another feather in the cap of Mr. Michael Whan, the best Commissioner in all of sports.

 5- Paula Creamer Sinks Miracle Putt to Win HSBC Women's Championship.
We will be seeing this putt over and over again for years to come. It was in a sudden death playoff, it was 75 feet, it was for eagle, and it gave Paula her 10th career LPGA victory. 

Paula Creamer sinks Miracle Putt To Win HSBC

4- Mo Martin Wins British Open.
I wonder what the Vegas odds were for Mo winning this championship. A career Symetra Tour player, nobody saw this coming. She did it in dramatic fashion, carding an eagle on the 72nd hole. By the way, all she did was nose out Suzann Pettersen, Inbee Park, and Shanshan Feng for the major trophy. 

3- Stacy Lewis Sweeps All 3 Major Season Ending Awards.
Betsy King was the last American to do it, in 1993. Stacy Lewis Won the 2014 Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, and was the leading money winner. In doing so, she picked up an additional 2 Hall of Fame points.

2- Michelle Wie Wins U.S. Open.
It was a long time coming, but Michelle finally won that elusive first Major Championship. It could not have come on a bigger stage (see #6 above).

1- Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie Go Head to Head at the Kraft.
Why do I have this as the year's biggest story? Because many people who weren't big LPGA fans, tuned in for that final Sunday round. It was a clash of two young superstars. One that we will be seeing many more times in the future. Lexi would go on to win her first Major Championship. In my opinion this was the turning point of the great 2014 LPGA season. 

 (Currently 1,208 followers)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why The LPGA is Pro Golf's Fastest Rising Tour

The LPGA Pro Golf's fastest Rising Tour?
If I said that 5 years ago you would have laughed at me. You can't now as the LPGA has not only become the fastest rising pro golf tour, but it just might be the fastest growing tour in all of sports.

We have all seen the television ads stating "See Why It's Different Out Here".  At first glance you might say that sounds corny. The truth of the matter is that it is absolutely true. It is different out there, and that is why the LPGA has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 5 years. What are the reasons for such rapid growth?

1- Commissioner Michael Whan - On January 4th 2010 Mr. Whan took the reigns as the Commissioner of the LPGA. He took over what many called "a sinking ship" and made a difference immediately. He took over a tour that only had 23 tournaments on its schedule. In 2015 the LPGA has 33 tournaments on its schedule, and that does not include the Solheim Cup. Mr. Whan has continuously come up with ways to make the tour better. Anything else I say about this man would be repetitive (See my article on Commissioner Whan).

2- Influx of Young Talent - The LPGA is loaded with bright young superstars. Michelle Wie (yes she is still very young), Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Mirim Lee, Charley Hull, and Jessica Korda, just to name a few. Not even the PGA can boast having as many young superstars.

3- Rivalries - With Tiger Woods not remotely the player he was in past years, and Phil Mickelson also past his prime, the most die hard PGA fans will have to admit that the lack of rivalries is responsible for that tour's declining TV numbers. That is certainly not the case with the LPGA. Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have been battling each other not only on the course each week, but for the number one spot in the world rankings. Who could forget the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship this past year? Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie went head to head with Thompson winning her first major championship. Just a few weeks later Wie got her revenge by winning the U.S. Open. This rivalry should go on for years to come.

4- The LPGA is by Far and Away the Most Accessible and Fan Friendly Tour - This one isn't even close. If you bring your kids to a football game, what are the chances of you getting a Peyton Manning autograph? How about getting one from Lebron James at a basketball game? Probably not very good, or better yet, next to impossible. Take your kids to an LPGA event and there is an excellent chance that they will be going home with a hat or ball signed by their favorite player. Commissioner Michael Whan and Kraig Kann (Chief Communications Officer), have made this tour more fan friendly, and press friendly, than any other professional sport. Don't take my word for it, go out to a tournament. I am sure you will want to go back again!

5- The LPGA is Truly an International Tour - In 2014 there were players from 35 different countries teeing it up on the LPGA Tour.  This has not only brought interest to the tour from all over the world, but has opened up many new opportunities for tournament sponsorship. In 2015 the first player from Isreal will be competing. In 2014 the LPGA held its first International Crown tournament. It was won by Spain.

6- We Can Learn More From Watching the Women Than We Can From Watching the Men - Let's face it, most of us can't hit 365 yard drives. The men on the PGA Tour are out of our league. That is not the case when watching the LPGA players. Especially live. These girls are really good, and I am not saying that we can beat them, but it is easier to learn from them. Come on out to a tournament earlier in the week and I am sure you could pick up a few pointers watching their routines on the driving range and putting greens.

7- The Depth on this Tour Leads to Exciting Finishes - Those of you who read my blog know I am always saying that it seems every tournament comes down to the 72nd hole. With so many great players on the LPGA tour, there are very few runaway victories. This makes for great television, and explains why the LPGA ratings are rising each and every year. In fact, going into the final tournament of the year, we still didn't know who would win the Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy, who the leading money winner for the year would be, who would win the Race to the CME Globe and its 1 million dollar prize, and who would be #1 in the Rolex World Rankings. Tell me that wasn't exciting TV.

8- The U.S. Dominated the Winners' Circle in 2014 - I have already stated how important it is to this tour to have an International flavor. I couldn't imagine going to a tournament and not seeing such great players as Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, and Lydia Ko. That said, this is still a U.S. based tour. This tour's continued growth is reliant on the American players holding their own. They more than held their own in 2014, leading all countries with 13 victories. With Stacy Lewis winning three times, and victories from such big stars as Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, and Lexi Thompson, television ratings soared. In fact, Stacy Lewis was the first American player to win the top 3 awards (Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, and leading money winner) since Betsy King in 1993. It was a huge comeback for the American players who hadn't achieved this rate of success in a very long time. Here is what the last 10 years have looked like:

2005- 31 tournaments - 9 U.S wins = 29.0%
2006- 33 tournaments - 7 wins = 21.2%
2007- 30 tournaments - 10 wins = 33.0%
2008- 34 tournaments - 10 wins = 29.4%
2009- 27 tournaments - 5 wins = 18.5%
2010- 24 tournaments - 4 wins = 16.7%
2011- 23 tournaments - 4 wins = 17.4%
2012- 27 tournaments - 7 wins = 29.6%
2013- 28 tournaments - 7 wins = 25.0%
2014- 32 tournaments - 13 wins = 40.6%

To sum up, in recent years we have seen the talent grow, the purses grow, the ratings grow, and the number of tournaments grow. They have all grown significantly. The LPGA has now become the most interesting tour in professional golf.

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