As we wait for the start of the 2018 LPGA season, I’m taking a look back at my ten most memorable moments of 2017.
It was a very interesting and exciting 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 just 10, although I know there were many more. Naturally, this list is very subjective, depending on who your favorite golfers are.
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. Let’s hope it continues.
9. Shanshan Feng becomes #1 in Rolex Rankings
She has been one of the top ranking 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.
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.
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 Ai Miyazato.
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.
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.
Update: On December 12, 2017, The USGA and the R&A announced that they have introduced a new local rule and new video protocols for 2018. This will eliminate the call-in rule violation reports from TV Viewers. Full details.
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 Mike Whan and his staff for another exciting year. I wonder what they can do next year to top this.
Tony Jesselli is the author of the very popular blog TONY’S LPGA REPORT, which has been covering tour and player news since 2010. Every week Tony reports on the latest news and results from women’s professional golf around the world and previews upcoming tournaments with player news, the strength of field ratings, and TV times. It has earned the reputation as the ‘go-to’ resource for up to date and accurate news about the LPGA.