Golf: A star-crossed season for Lexi Thompson ends on another gut-wrenching note, while the Race to Dubai finale ends with two winners and Luke Donald endures a medical scare.
By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor
Though Lexi Thompson went home from the LPGA’s season finale a million bucks richer, you have to think there’s a part that’s happy to put 2017 behind her. The Florida pro appeared set to win the CME Group Tour Championship – and ascend to No.1 in the world rankings – only to miss a 2-foot putt on the final hole. Worse, Ariya Jutanugarn drained a curling 15-foot birdie to snatch the win. The result still left Thompson with the CME Globe points title (and $1 million bonus) and Vare Trophy for top scoring average, but it also joined a 2017 litany that included the four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration, blown leads in the Bahamas and Canada and her mother’s cancer battle.
Luke Donald was the first to admit his final start of calendar year 2017 wasn’t what he anticipated. Hours before the former world No.1 was set to tee off at the RSM Classic, chest pains sent him to get checked out at a nearby hospital. Seven hours of tests turned up no concerns, though the episode did force Donald to withdraw from the tournament. “Time to put my feet up for a few weeks, recharge, regroup,” he told his Instagram followers, “and get ready for a big 2018.”
Davis Love III will spend his holiday hiatus breaking in a new hip, disclosing after the RSM Classic that he’d undergo hip replacement surgery this week with an eye on getting back to competition in the spring. The newly enshrined Hall of Famer will be out at least three months, though he could start putting and chipping again by New Year’s. “I won after a spine fusion (2015 Greensboro), and now I’d like to win with a new hip,” Love said. “That’s the reason I’m doing it – so I can get back to golf and keep up.”
Now that the PGA of America has figured out where the 2032 Ryder Cup will be held (Olympic Club), it’s starting to fill in the blanks on its next decade of PGA Championship venues. The 2024 event will return to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., where Rory McIlroy emerged from a twilight sprint in 2014 to capture his most recent major title. In 2027 the championship heads to Aronimink GC outside Philadelphia, where Gary Player prevailed in the 1962 edition. Aronimink also gets the 2020 Women’s PGA Championship in the deal.
While the U.S. tours step away to rest and recharge, it doesn’t mean there isn’t golf elsewhere. Jordan Spieth will defend his title at the Australian Open, teeing it up for the first time since the Presidents Cup. He’ll do so with a temporary caddie, using coach Cameron McCormick while Michael Greller spends extra time at home with his newborn son. Meantime, the new European Tour season commences at the UBS Hong Kong Open. The field features all three men who went 1-2-3 in the just-completed Race to Dubai – Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
PGA TOUR: Idle
Next up: Sentry Tournament of Champions, Jan. 4-7, Kapalua, Hawaii
Tour talk: Austin Cook’s victory at the RSM Classic made him the fourth consecutive first-time winner of the fall schedule, joining Patrick Cantlay, Patton Kizzire and Ryan Armour. That came after each of the first four stops went to vets. … Cook also is the fourth consecutive RSM Classic winner to make it win No.1. … Brian Harman finished in a tie for fourth, matching the best finish by a St. Simon’s Island resident on home turf. Davis Love III also shared fourth in 2012. … Webb Simpson withdrew after two rounds, telling Twitter followers his ill father is “living his last days.”
EUROPEAN TOUR: Season complete
Next up: UBS Hong Kong Open, Hong Kong GC, Hong Kong
Tour talk: Seemingly set to sweep both the DP World Tour Championship finale and Race to Dubai season crown, Justin Rose’s stumble over the final seven holes left him with no hardware. Three Rose bogeys allowed Jon Rahm to grab the tournament title, while Tommy Fleetwood held on to be crowned Race to Dubai winner. … Three Americans were among the top 10 in Dubai. Julian Suri tied for eighth, one shot ahead of Patrick Reed and Peter Uihlein.
LPGA TOUR: Season complete
Next up: Qualifying finals, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Tour talk: In a season of parity – no one collected more than three wins – it’s no surprise the awards were spread out. While Lexi Thompson took home the CME Globe points title and Vare Trophy for top scoring average, she fell just shy of joining the tie for Player of the Year – shared by So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. Shanshan Feng keeps the No.1 ranking for the rest of 2017. … Park joins Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez as the only women named Player of the Year and top rookie in the same season.