Kraft Nabisco results shake up women’s rankings

Here is a quick look a the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this Monday morning after last week’s Kraft Nabsico Championship:

1. Stacy Lewis. Despite never being in the mix at the top of the board this week, Lewis holds onto the No. 1 spot for the third week in a row — barely.

Inbee Park with her Dinah Shore Trophy at the Kraft Nabisco Championship (Michael Snyder/The Desert Sun)

2. Inbee Park. Park’s win moved her up to spot and puts her just fractionally behind Lewis. It is so close that Lewis could easily lose the top spot in the rankings event if Park doesn’t win the next event or two.

3. Yani Tseng. A month ago, she was No. 1 in the world. Now she has slipped to third. Like Lewis, she was never at the top off the board last week. She’s a better golfer than she is showing right now.

4. Na Yeon Choi. After being a co-leader on the first day of the Kraft, Choi slipped down the board and finished tied for 32nd, so she slips from third to fourth because of Park’s big week.

5. So Yeon Ryu. Ryu’s big day Sunday, a tournament-week best 65, pushed her to second place and allowed her to jump five spots in the rankings.Is she a future No. 1?

6. Suzann Pettersen. A tie for third this week was another great performance that came up just a bit short for Pettersen in the Kraft. She already has three runner-up finishes in the event. She moves up two spots this week.

7. Jiyai Shin. Consistent and always seemingly capable of winning a tournament, Shin tied for seventh in the Kraft at 5-under. And she remained seventh in the world rankings.

8. Shashan Feng: Feng opened the Kraft with a 78 and never really recovered, although she did make the cut and finish tied for 25th. That was still enough to drop her three spots as Ryu, Pettersen and Shin passed her in the rankings.

9. Ai Miyazato. Another solid player who was never really heard from at the Kraft last week, Miyazato also dropped three spots in the ranking. Weekend socres of 75 and 76 didn’t help.

10. Paula Creamer. Tied tied for 13th last week, which also happened to tie for low American with Jennifer Johnson. She stayed in the 10th spot from the previous week.

Other notable moves: The biggest move in the top 50 came from Caroline Hedwall, whose tie for third moved her up 11 spots to 28th. . . . Two players dropped four spots in the top 50, Sandra Gal down to 42nd and Ji-Hee Lee down to 32 . . . Lizette Salas, who had a chance to win the tournament at the start of Sunday, dropped to a tie for 25th with a final-round 79. But she did move up three spots in the rankings to 37th . . . 2012 Kraft winner Sun Younhg Yoo dropped three spots after missing the cut this week and is now 27th.

 

One last look at the LPGA this year

The LPGA’s season ends this week with the CME Group Titleholders tournament, a limited field event that saw three players from each official LPGA event this year qualify for the event.

There is a certain amount of anti-climax in the event this year, since Stacy Lewis has already clinched the player of the year award and Inbee Park will be the LPGA’s money list champion. That doesn’t mean there is no reason to watch the tournament, though.

Stacy Lewis has clinched the LPGA's Player of the Year award (AP photo)

There is still a chance to see if Lewis can cap off the year with a fifth win, a number that takes a good year and makes it great. There is a chance to see if Yani Tseng can rally from the disappointment of having no wins since March, even though she won three times on tour before April.

Can another American win on tour this year, joining Jessica Korda, Angela Park, Brittany Lang, Cristie Kerr and Lewis?

See, plenty of nice story lines left on the tour even if Lewis and Park have wrapped up two of the major awards. And remember, you won’t be seeing the LPGA officially again until late February. So take your last look at the best women players in the world this weekend. After all, there is no PGA Tour for the women to compete against this week.

 

Another week, another national championship

The U.S. Women’s Open is being played this week at Black Wolf Run in Kohler, Wis., and it is sure to be a difficult test for the best women players in golf.

This is the third major on the LPGA this season, with Sun Young Yoo winning the Kraft Nabisco in a playoff back in April on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, followed by Shanshan Feng’s win at the LPGA Championship.

Just a couple of quick questions as Open Week for the women begins:

–Is there something wrong with Yani Tseng or is she just struggling like all golfers struggle at some point. She hasn’t won since March (okay, that’s a criticism only Tseng could be targeted with these days) and in her last two tournament she has a tie for 59th and a missed cut. Very un-Yani-like.

–Are we ever going to see Paula Creamer or Cristie Kerr win again? Neither of these top two Americans won last year, and neither has won this year. Stacy Lewis is now the top American on tour, and Lexi Thompson is the American darling now. If Kerr or Creamer is going to get excited about winning, this would be the week.

–Would there be a more popular winning than I.K. Kim? Having lost the Kraft Nabisco when she missed a one-foot putt on the final hole of regulation to fall into a playoff, Kim is a player almost everyone connected with the LPGA would love to see win a major. Maybe this is the week, though Kim has done little in the five tournaments she has played since the Kraft. She has one WD, one MC and no top-10s in that time.

If would make Tseng and Stacy Lewis co-favorites going into the event at about 6-1, with Ai Miyazato maybe 8-1 and defending champion So Yeon Ryu about 10-1 to repeat.

 

Kraft Day 4: Can Lewis win this on the practice range?

When Morgan Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco, she finished ahead of the closing groups. So when she knew she had won and burst into tears, it was on the practice putting green at Mission Hills Country Club.

Stacy Lewis could be crafting a great Kraft finish herself. The defending champion fired a 66 today and is currently tied for third, just two shots behind leader Hee Kyung Seo. But Seo is playing the 11th hole and Lewis is in the clubhouse.

Seo still has a very tough stretch of holes on the back nine yet to play, as does Karin Sjodin, who has bogeyed the last two holes to fall into second place. other golfers can make a move to pass Lewis, but they still have those tough holes to play, too.

So Lewis could win this tournaments standing on a practice green.

 

Kraft Day 4: A nice defense for Lewis

I’m sure Stacy Lewis is quite disappointed that she is about to tee off in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship a full 100 minutes before the leaders tee off.

Lewis was in the last group last year and caught and passed Yani Tseng to win her first LPGA title. Lewis became the fourth player to make the Kraft her first title.

Lewis’ tournament kind of was over in the first nine holes Thursday, when she strung together four consecuive bogeys to go to 4 over and dig herself a massive hole. But Lewis rebounded, finished that round at 74, fought to make the cut with a 71 on Fridya and then shot 70 Saturday. The leaves her at 1-under 215 for the week and eight shots back of the leaders.

She won’t win this week and she won’t join Sandra Post and Annika Sorenstam as back-to-back Kraft winners. But she showed spirit by fighting back in a week that was full of distractions for her. It was a nice defense, and she could make it nicer with an under-par round today.

 

Two sponorships in two days for LPGA players

As the LPGA makes a push to continue its rally from a couple of pretty awful years in terms of tournament sponsorship and overall image, two LPGA players have managed to grab two pretty nice sponsorship deals in the last week.

First, on Tuesday, 2007 Kraft Nabisco champion Morgan Pressel announced she has signed a new deal to represent the Lilly Pulitzer clothing line. I’m told (I’m a guy, I need to be told these things) that Lilly Pulitzer is a quite feminine and colorful line of clothing. Based on Pressel’s outfits the last two days, that seems an apt description.

Then today reigning Kraft title holder Stacy Lewis announced a new sponsorship agreement with KPMG, the accounting and auditing firm. This is a big deal for Lewis, but it is also a big deal for the LPGA because KPMG also sponsors Phil Mickelson. To have Lewis on kind of equal footing with Mickelson in any forum is a nice thing for the LPGA.

So the tour and its players are working hard to get the word out about the women’s game, and there are starting to be some rewards for the players in return.

 

A weekend of golf thoughts . . .

—Greg Norman is making noise about changing the way the International team is selected for the Presidents Cup after the Internationals lost for the seventh time in nine attempts with a 19-15 loss to the U.S. team. Norman might be right about some changes, but the truth is the U.S. team was just better than the International team. And Norman hurt his own cause with a captain’s pick for Robert Allenby, who hasn’t been on form in years. Vijay Singh or even Jhonnatan Vegas would have been a better selection.

—Hey, Tiger Woods played well! Okay, it was just the Presidents Cup and nothing we saw makes you thing Woods is ready to win another U.S. Open just yet. But it was the best performance we’ve seen from Woods since the Masters last April. That 7 and 6 thrashing Woods ans Steve Stricker took in the opening foursome matches seems like a long time ago now.

—Give NBC/Golf Channel credit for trying to make the broadcasts of the 12 singles matches exciting. But in the end, it was 6-6 in singles, and the Internationals never had a legitmate chance to catch the U.S. team.

—Peter Thomson, the five-time British Open winner from Australia and former Presidents Cup captain, suggest the event get rid of foursome, or alternate-shot, play. Seriously, do you ever play alternate shot? HAVE you every played alternate shot? Just a question . . .

—Hee Young park of South Korea won her first LPGA event Sunday at the season-ending CME Titleholders. Finally something that yani Tseng didn’t win.

—In the season-ending women’s world golf rankings, Kraft Nabisco winner Stacy Lewis is 10th. You might think Lewis has struggled a bit since winning the Kraft, but in reality she has nine top-10 finishes since the Kraft win, including a second at the Evian masters and a tie for second at the Canadian Women’s Open.

—The PGA Tour final qualifying tournament, the Q-school, will have a desert flavor this year with three more desert players making the field through second-stage qualifying over the weekend. Alex Coe of La Quinta, Ryan Yip of Indio and Jesse Schutte of Indio will play for either PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour berths next year. David Duval, a past Hope winner, will be in the field. And Scott McCarron of La Quinta is exempt into the finals and is looking for a full tour exemption for 2012. Lots of good local stories to be interested in.

—In the Champions Tour Q-school, desert fans will remember the name of Jeff Freeman, the medalist in the finals this year. Freeman lives in Florida now, but when he was an assistant pro at Tamarisk in Rancho Mirage, he was among the best playing club pros in the nation. He won the PGA Club Pro Championship, reached the tour Q-school and qualified for the PGA Tour. Jeff Never seemed to have the ouright confidence in his game that his brother, PGA Tour pro Robin Freeman, had. But now the younger Freeman is exempt on the Champions Tour, or at least will be once he turns 50 in April.

Lewis fighting for LPGA Grand Slam chance

Stacy Lewis celebrated her Kraft Nabisco Championship win (Desert Sun photo)

The last time most golf fans thought about what Stacy Lewis was doing, she was pulling off a pretty neat trick by catching and passing world No. 1 Yani Tseng in the final round to win the 40th annual Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

That win in the LPGA’s first major of the year meant that only Lewis could pull off the feat no LPGA player has ever accomplished, winning all four major title in a single year. And she’s has kept that chance alive with her performance in the first two rounds of the Wegman’s LPGA Championship this week.

Lewis is 3-under through the first 36 holes of a rainy tournament back in Rochester, N.Y. At this moment that puts her five shots behind Tseng, through Tseng is still in the middle of her round. Tseng won the last LPGA event played and has won five titles worldwide this year in distancing herself from the pack in what at one time last year seemed like a horserace for the No. 1 spot in the world.

Give Lewis credit for a good start in her chase for a Slam, although I have to think winning all four majors is the furthest thing from her mind. In the era of four majors, the closest anyone on the LPGA has come to winning the Slam was in 1986, when Pat Bradley won three of the four majors (including her only Kraft Nabisco title) and finished fifth in the U.S. Women’s Open.

Lewis has a combination that could be important to the LPGA. She’s a very talented player, she’s young, she has an interesting back story (no pun intenedt) of overcoming scoliosis to play professional golf. Oh, and she is an American on a tour that seems to want an American to take back the No. 1 spot on the tour. Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer have name recognition, as does Michelle Wie. But Lewis has the Kraft title right now and two decent rounds under her belt at the LPGA Championship. If she could make a run at Tseng over the weekend, it would be a big story locally and nationally for the LPGA.