Lydia Ko Ends LPGA Season on Top

Say the name Lydia Ko a few weeks back and you might get a few confused looks. That was pretty much the type of response that the young lady’s mere mention seemed to elicit while her fellow LPGA competitors like Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson seemed to be headed on a track of increasing popularity. Add Lexi Thompson’s steady top 10 finishes and competitive Sunday rounds and you could see where Lydia Ko might not have risen to the top of many people’s radar.

Personally, I remain delighted to see Korda, Henderson and Thompson play their hearts out. I think that they all are deserving of the fury of fandom that has arisen for them. However, I find that Lydia Ko has demonstrated another side of professional golf that many fans seem to forget along the way.

Promising Early Years

Look back on Lydia Ko’s early years in the professional ranks. At one point up until 2017, Ko was the youngest player to win an LPGA event at age 15. She set the record on August 26, 2012, when she won the Canadian Women’s Open at age 15. That’s remarkable but not the only thing.

In 2015, Ko rose through the LPGA ranks to become the youngest golfer on the LPGA Tour ranked No. 1. Considering the level of competition and the amount of hard work and dedication required to maintain throughout a professional golf tour, Ko demonstrated an ability to hang among the top players early on in her career.

The Struggle Got Real for Ko

Professionals are not immune to what happens in the world. In fact, their world seems to either explode or implode based upon what’s happening around them and within them and their inner circle. The emotional drain and the pressure from the press can seem to eat away at the joy of fulfilling a lifelong dream of success at the sport a pro loves to compete in time and time again.

Lydia Ko was not immune to the bad press either, especially as she sought to remain among the top-ranked LPGA players. During her down times, it probably didn’t help her professional motivation when she was struggling professionally and people started pointing fingers in the press. Her former coach David Leadbetter blamed her parents in 2019.

Her struggles on the course showed up in different ways:

The fat-shaming and other psychological stress can take it’s toll on a person, even a professional golfer with promise and potential. In an interview with Henni & Hally, a more personal side of Lydia Ko was shown to reveal how “she’s just like everybody else.”

At the end of the day, Lydia Ko struggled for a matter of time within her career. Let’s not get too judgmental about it, though. Tiger had his struggles. Lefty has had his low points. We could name a slew of pros who haven’t always made it to the top 10 finishes and some who have not always made the cut. Ko’s struggles are not limited to her career alone.

Her Return to Glory

Lydia Ko golf swing in slow motion

One golf journalist called Ko’s swing “picture perfect.” Some have pointed out how the slow motion videos of her golf swing reveal her training to achieve that turn. I think that her golf swing, especially with a driver, stands out as one of her mainstays.

Admittedly, Ko says that her slump period had her not leaving herself in contention to compete for any type of championship finishes. But all of that seems to be in the past. It seems as though she’s shaken off the down times and approached the game with a newfound vigor.

With her recent finish at the CME and taking the Rolex Player of the Year, Lydia Ko finished the 2022 LPGA season back on top among the best of the LPGA. With that $2 million dollar CME purse and her upcoming wedding in focus, it appears that Lydia Ko is on top of the world.

Let’s see what next season brings about.

LPGA CME Group Tour Championship Race to the Top of the Leaderboard for the Final Round

This year’s top 60 LPGA players in women’s golf have been going at it in the CME Group Tour Championship. There’s a $2 million prize for the outright winner. On top of that, the Rolex Player of the Year Award is on the line as well. Past Rolex Player of the Year winners include Lydia Ko (2015) who was tied for first place in the CME Group Tour Championship going into this final round. This final round is bound to be eventful.

Round 3 Made it a Race

In Round 1, Lydia Ko made her presence known and set the tone for much of the tournament, finishing atop of the leaderboard ahead by 1 stroke. Going into Round 2 with such a slight lead, Lydia Ko separated herself from the leaderboard pack with a 66 as other top players averaged higher scores. By the time Round 2 ended, Ko had a comfortable 5 shot lead.

But any of us who have played the game of golf know that means nothing when there is plenty more golf to play.

Things heated up when Leona Maguire shot a 63 in Round 3. Shooting a 70 in Round 3 didn’t help Ko’s quest for regaining a Rolex Player of the Year Award, but it was enough to keep her tied at the top of the leaderboard. Both players ended the round 5 strokes ahead of 2 players tied for third place on the leaderboard as well as 6 strokes ahead Brooke Henderson and Anna Nordqvist tied for fifth place.

Stellar play in that third round helped both Maguire and Henderson make their runs for the top of the leaderboard. Maguire shot a stunning 63 for the round to match her 66 and 66 for the first 2 rounds, while Henderson shot a solid 65 to make a strong push towards the top after sitting tied for 26th going into Saturday’s round. Nordqvist has remained in contention for a top 10 finish since Round 1.

What I Like So Far

You’ve most probably read my prior post on the stakes of higher prize money for this event. The possibility and prospect of bagging $2 million to wrap up the season is a great focal point for plenty of the top 60 LPGA golfers in the field. That’s a key factor in this final round for the CME Group Tour Championship. Throw in that Rolex Player of the Year Award and you’ve got you a battle going on for the final event of the season for the best of the best.

Nelly Korda already showed the strength to go back to back with her title defense at the LPGA Pelican Championship. That served as a storied lead-in to the CME Group Tour Championship.

Lydia Ko is demonstrating steady play. Her 70 shot in the third round isn’t a sign of her losing it. She still remains poised and positioned to play for the title. Brooke Henderson did something amazing by climbing to the top 5 of the field from being 11 strokes behind Ko’s lead in Round 2. The type of play that we’re seeing from Maguire, Henderson, Ko, and even Nordqvist shows what happens when you put the top 60 players in the same field for the same top prize.

What This Does for the Game of Golf

The $2 million purse alone will not end the gender pay gap in professional sports. However, this type of finish for any segment of sports stands out as a new standard in a new era.

This is in the midst of the Astros regaining the World Series with Dusty Baker as its manager in a competition without a single U.S.-born African American player participating. At the same time the FIFA World Cup is cranking up on a global scale as Lionel Messi prepares to walk away from the sport and Ronaldo is doing more Ronaldo type of drama with Manchester United in the background. Not to mention football season has shown us upset upon upset week by week and the NBA has the Lakers looking like losers at the bottom of the Western Conference.

In my opinion, sports fans need truth serum every so often just to bring folks back to reality. Watching the season opener of the Lakers, I was disappointed. The shot selection was horrible. Every single NBA pro isn’t a 3-point shooter. Maybe that memo got missed. I can critique all that I want to and all day long. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re pros and I am nothing but a fan of both the sport and team.

I can Monday quarterback all that I want to in hindsight as I explain why the Raiders are losing the way that they keep losing and break down how it’s not all on Derek Carr until I am out breath and totally drained of ideas. That doesn’t change a single thing. That has me thinking I can do better. Or, better yet, it has fans like me basically saying that what the pros need to do is listen to me.

That’s not going to work.

What the current CME Group Tour Championship is doing sets a tone for pros and fans. We see the top 60 players entering a field that is wide open for a coveted prize. The best performers will rise to the top as their best remains on display before the world.

I’m a fan, not a pro. I am just trying to break 90 consistently. Heck, I’ll settle for the leisure time to be able to truly play consistently. I’ve got nothing of substance to offer Lydia Ko when she shoots a 70 in a round of tournament golf.

And where does that leave us as fans? We’re either watching our TVs or standing on this side of the ropes in admiration of what the players put out there.

At this very moment, the final round of the event is set to get underway. Keep track of the leaderboard online or watch live on NBC at 1 PM EST.

The Biggest LPGA Purse Yet

Thi year’s CME Group Tour Championship will provide the biggest LPGA purse yet.

Equal pay for equal work is an argument for social equity and economic equality. The “pink tax” (also known as the “tampon tax”) has been an example of women working for less pay on the job (many times the same exact position) and paying more for consumer products. It also includes a higher degree of markup in costs for certain consumer products targeted towards women, items men do not have to even consider like tampons, pantyhose, and makeup.. This has been played out across the board in corporate America as well as among K-12 educators and higher ed institutions.

Sports are a totally different ball game when it comes to the gender pay gap.

Originally hitting the mainstream through the the lawsuit filed for equal pay by U.S. Women’s Soccer team in 2019. Despite winning back-to-back titles, the FIFA World Cup prize money for the women and men has a gap of 114.89%. In terms of dollars, that boils down to $360,000 difference.

What we’re seeing being done through the LPGA and CME Group Tour Championship is literally a move in the right direction to close the gender pay gap.

Prior Attempts at Gender Pay Equality

The U.S. Open made efforts to close the gender pay equality gap this season. With such a wide gap in pay between women and men professional golfers, the tournament’s move to raise the prize money this season has been seen as a sign and gesture of both good faith and a step in the right direction. This stemmed from a newly-established partnership reported in January of this year where the USGA secured a major sponsorship from ProMedica in order to provide top a record $10 million purse for the U.S. Open. The 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles included a winner’s share of $1.8 million.

Rising LPGA Prize Money Not Resulting in Equality

In March of 2021 by BBC Sport shared research reports that showed an ‘overwhelming majority’ of sports offering ‘equal prize money’ to both men and women at the top level. Given the rise in LPGA prize money, the gender pay gap has yet to arrive at a point of closure. LPGA golfers still run the risk of losing money after making the cut for certain tournaments and in certain situations.

As Kikue Higuchi reports for the LPGA, the top 60 women professional golfers of the LPGA Tour will compete for a $2 million winner’s purse at the CME Group Tour Championship, the final event for the 2022 season. This represents “the largest purse of any non-major tournament,” a total purse of $7 million for the tournament prize money. The prize money for the tournament winner of the CME Group Tour Championship is 28.57 percent of the overall purse. In comparison to average LPGA Tour events, 28 percent is 13 percent higher than the average percent of the overall purse to the winner.

These are major shifts towards closing the gender pay gap. Golf seems to be doing its part to bring more attention to the women who are playing on the course. The LPGA has established partnerships and sponsorships to push forward with making headway in this area.

The gap has yet to see widespread moves towards closure throughout sports.

LPGA at Pelican Heats Up in Round 2

LPGA Players Came to Play

Maria Fassi’s 62 in Round 1 set the tone for the tournament. Round 2 lived up to the test and did not disappoint.

Fassi held her ground among the top competitors to stay in the upper echelon of the leaderboard. She sits 1stroke back from the lead behind Allisen Corpuz. Fassi is currently tied for second place at -9 with Lexi Thompson and Maja Stark.

The second round of the Pelican Women’s Championship was filled with highlights. Maja Stark had the best showing of all players in the field with the top score of 63 at seven under for the round. Lydia Ko showed her skills with a remarkable recovery from under a tree. Nelly Korda swept up sand from the greenside bunker and sent her ball sailing right near the hole. Yet, Corpuz dazzled with her 65 on her scorecard.

Rookie Corpuz Takes the Lead

LPGA rookie Allisen Corpuz made a great showing in Round 2. Her 65 showed her LPGA competitors that she could compete and contend for a potential championship victory. Currently ranked at 51st on the LPGA money list, the 24-year old Corpuz has a CME ranking at 44th. Despite her being a product of USC, I can see her skills on display throughout the tournament thus far.

As the field enters into Round 3, the LPGA rookie currently has a 1 stroke lead. Not far in the distance, Nelly Korda is 2 strokes behind along with Carlota Ciganda.

Impressive Early Rounds Intensify Round 3

Round 3 seems to be fueled with intensity. In a golf season that has seen 11 first-time winners, Corpuz and Fassi seem to be making a push for a potential #12 first-time winner on the tour. The Pelican Women’s Championship could foster a star-studded competition for the victory.

Nelly Korda wants to defend her title that had her fighting vigorously against Lexi Thompson last year. So far Maja Stark has 1 top 10 finish and a single victory on the LPGA Tour this year.

No matter how you look at it this field is on fire and full of potential highlights.

62 for Fassi in LPGA Event

Lowering my score is the goal. I’m here to show how I am getting there on my journey to breaking 90 on a consistent basis.

It takes practice to get there. It calls for focus. I have to improve my fitness. Also, I’m constantly seeking ways to motivate myself to improve at a higher level.

I had recently posted about Fred Couples hitting a 60, but I’ve got to say that I’m a little bit more impressed with Mexico’s Maria Fassi scoring a 62. I’ve got my reasons, believe me.

Motivation via Maria Fassi

Motivation comes from all over.

Maria Fassi just pulled a 62 as an LPGA player. The 24-year old female golfer from Mexico had her career-best score in the LPGA’s Pelican Women’s Championship. This 8-under scorecard earned Fassi a two-shot lead in the event.

Currently ranked number 72, Fassi scored her lowest score of her career at an appropriate time. Only the top 60 players qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship. Fassi is on the hunt for her first LPGA victory. So, playing bogey-free golf is definitely one way to get there.

Something to See

I play a lot of golf with a woman who can keep up with and even outdrive quite a few men off the tee. She’s an avid golfer and plays some of her best golf when facing the chauvinistic assumptions of some golfers when we meet at the first hole to be paired up. She’ll play from the whites or even the black tees if need be. I play with her because playing with her makes my game better and motivates me to give it my best while we’re having fun.

Maria Fassi has a picturesque golf swing off the tee. The slow motion view of her technique is masterful. It is like a master class in motion. Her balance and torque combine along with fully-extended swing to bring about some big results.

Fassi’s drive averages just under 280 yards. Most weekend golfers would kill for that. I’d take a consistent 250 yards without any Advil, please.

Even so, Fassi has just 4 top 10 finishes and 0 victories. At 24, she’s got a Rolex ranking of 130 and her CME ranking is 72. Two of her 4 top 10 finishes came this year.

Her play in this most recent round was exquisite. It was a something to see.

Something to be Said

We don’t talk about LPGA players enough.

Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson are two of my favorite players to watch tackle a course. They play the course and the conditions, approaching key shots along the way with a form of confidence any golfer could respect and admire.

What Maria Fassi did with her 62 speaks volumes about what is possible for any duffer with determination. Take out the cameras and the gallery following along. Just focus on the gamesmanship, the style of play at hand. Shot selection and self-confidence are all mixed in with a rhythm that just seems to flow.

Have you ever had that round where everything seemed to just click rightly?

That’s the type of motivation that keeps guys like me coming back for more. I’m not a glutton for punishment and defeat. I’m determined to conquer the challenges offered by the game of golf. This is part of the formula for growing the game.

And what Maria Fassi just showed us is that facing the challenge is part of winning at the game.

Play on!

You can watch more of Fassi and the Pelican Women’s Championship.

Getting Over the Mud Ball Ruling and Other Controversies in Golf

Before I get too far into the whole mud ball ruling and Patrick Reed’s advantage in his recent PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines by 5 strokes, I have to admit that golf fans can get into a frenzy over all things golf related. This is especially a sensitive issue when it comes to the rules of golf. We see golf fans up in arms of things that span the full spectrum of play from the new rules regarding the flagstick to the highly-debated controversy of Mudgate, the muddy ball ruling that has sparked so much chatter and fodder on discussion boards like Reddit and social media like Twitter. At the end of the day, we spend a great deal of time discussing and debating these occasional hiccups in the professional ranks and end up pointing fingers rather than developing real-time solutions and accepting human error as part of the game.

Am I a Patrick Reed fan? I think some would do well to read hist story before passing judgment on a journeyman golfer who finally broke the ranks to win in the professional ranks. His journey to where he is now says a lot of who he really is and might help some folks see the man beyond the hoopla of the headlines.

Controversy or Convictions

Will I win many fans based on this post? No, this post is bound to split the entire span of golf fandom right down the middle. We are so likened to baseball and its vanguard of the legacy and integrity of baseball that even we at times can’t see that the times are a-changing right before our eyes. Golf today is nowhere near what it once was to so many diehards, but most of the changes have led to increased diversity and all sorts of innovations to spread the gospel of the game of golf to new fans and players alike.

We’ve got basically two distinct but overlapping sets of golf fans. There are those who just watch and follow golf, and then there are those who play golf and try their best to keep up with the latest PGA Tour and LPGA Tour buzz. A few are dedicated followers of the senior ranks in the Champions Tour, but for the most part people keep their eyes out for PGA Tour major tournaments and some serious competition within the LPGA ranks like the Koda sisters, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, and Lydia Ko. Brooke Henderson, Anna Nordqvist and Charley Hull are popular LPGA players with a fan following that includes some rowdy boys shouting out their undying love every now and then at an otherwise quiet par 4 hole. That’s not the entire realm of golf fandom but it puts some major groupings in order for starters.

Here’s the scoop on all of this. They’re pros. We’re not. They’re human. Yes, they are. They make mistakes just like us and they tend to err in judgment just like the rest of us who seek relief or declare a ball unplayable when we know good and well that we’re just not that good.

Questionable Play Beyond the Mud Ball Ruling

There have been plenty of questionable antics on the PGA and LPGA tournament circuits that we’ve witnessed televised right before our eyes. Golf fans keep an eye out for some of the slightest rules infractions as well as some of the most egregious ones. It’s part of the phenomena of watching golf live and seeing things go down during real-time viewing.

Lefty in the 2018 U.S. Open

Albeit one of my favorite guys to watch, Lefty took things to an extreme in 2018 U.S. Open. He putted a ball while it was rolling. He took the 2 stroke penalty and moved on. Most golf fans did not. Such an act was unfathomable and it was just too much for too many fans.

Really?

I dare most weekend golfers to go back over their weekends on the links and recall the most outrageous act by that guy in your foursome- you know the one who pushes the envelope at every opportunity and says to hell with the rules. Whether he claimed that his twelve feet left to putt should be a gimme or he used 2 mulligans before you reached the 6th hole, that guy gets a pass with his constant rule-breaking antics and Phil Mickelson needs to be demonized?

#CMonMan

Lexi’s LPGA Loss Due to Fan Calling In a Penalty

Fan input took to an all-time new high when a fan dialed in to share that Lexi Thompson should have been docked four strokes. The fan stated that since Lexi moved the ball she should have been assessed a two stroke penalty and then a second two stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Four strokes? That cost Lexi the win despite her heroic efforts in a major tournament playoff round.

Vice Golf Appereal

Imagine playing with that guy. Well, you probably have played with him before. Or, you have played with someone with a similar disposition of knowing what’s best. You know the guy who keeps the scorecard and asks after every hole: “How many you get on that one?” and he still counts every stroke and step you took from the tee to the green. Some people take the fun out of just enjoying a sunny afternoon on the course. It’s different if you got some money on the game, but this is an otherwise futile fun-stripped outing at best with this guy.

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LPGA Q-School Rules Violation

I don’t know who is really to blame for this. It seems like part of the point of Q-School is to get more familiar and prepared for entry into the professional ranks. The primary folks in any Q-School whether PGA or LPGA are people coming up from the amateur ranks. Either way, the controversy in 2019 LPGA Q-School involved two players, a par 3, an 8 iron, and a two stroke penalty. The real funky part of this ruling was that it simply involved asking another or his or her caddie for information during play. She asked what club the other player was using, and the other player’s caddie obliged by divulging the information.

Whoa! How many times in similar situations have you heard another player ask a fellow member of his or her foursome: “What club did you use on that shot?” I mean I would imagine that unless you have been playing with some tight-lipped golfers, plenty of us have gone so far as to break that one on every dogleg and tucked away green on the course. And, like these ladies involved in the ruling, we didn’t realize it was a rule either.

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Where do we go from here? Patrick Reed will continue to be demonized as a PGA tour menace for all kinds of reasons that people feel comfortable tossing his way. Lefty will always get a side eye glare as he plays until his retirement. Fans will no longer have input on rulings, though. That might remain a good thing that comes out of all of this controversy.

I find that the best answer to all of this comes in the form of a controversial video of one of my favorite golf guys Bubba Watson. He has a recovery shot and a fan belts out advice from the other side of the ropes on what Bubba should do, but Bubba takes to addressing the ball and striking it pure to make a sensational recovery. He looks around for the guy afterwards but no sign of him. What is most delightful is Bubba stating that there’s a reason that the fan is on that side of the ropes and he’s not before taking his swing.

They’re pros. and we’re not.

Leave it at that.