[Golf Week] Top 10 LPGA storylines of 2016
The LPGA continued its upward climb in 2016, delivering plenty of drama. Here’s a look at 10 of the year’s best storylines: • • •
1. Inbee Park’s golden moment: There were some in South Korea who felt the injured Inbee Park should give up her spot in the 2016 Olympics. Park made them look foolish. Her gutsy gold medal-winning performance in Rio was nothing short of spectacular. Park hadn’t finished a tournament since April, and sat out the two months prior to the Olympics due to an injured thumb. Didn’t matter. She swooped in like a super hero, grabbed the prize and flew off the grid for the rest of the season. Legendary.
2. A nation’s hero retires: You almost had to be there to appreciate the magnitude of the moment. To see the line of players stretched down the 18th fairway at Sky72 waiting to say thank you to a player whose success fundamentally shaped the projection of the tour was unforgettable. Pak’s goodbye in South Korea was largely under-appreciated on this side of the globe, but her impact and legacy put her high on this list.
3. Sensational Sahalee: Brooke Henderson shook the heavenly ground of Sahalee when she roared back to defeated Lydia Ko in a sudden-death playoff at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Henderson became the second-youngest player to win a major (behind Ko) and rose to No. 2 in the world, delighting the whole of Canada. Henderson (65), Ko (68) and Ariya Jutanugarn (67) were bogey-free in the final round. They sent a message that Sunday: We’re in charge now.
4. Jutanugarn sweeps May: It’s difficult to pick a top moment for Jutanugarn’s break-through season. The fact that she swept her namesake month after collapsing on the back nine at the ANA Inspiration, however, caught the golf world by surprise. She’d go on, of course, to become the first Thai player to win an LPGA major and take home Rolex Player of the Year and the CME Race to the Globe $1 million bonus. But she had to win that first one.
5. Ko in the clutch: TV cameras caught the conversation between Lydia Ko and caddie Jason Hamilton down the 72nd hole of the ANA Inspiration. After Hamilton talked Ko out of going for it in two on the closing par 5, she took out sand wedge for her third shot. Hamilton instructed his boss to put the ball half a yard left of the hole. Ko put it to 6 inches and went on to become the youngest player to own two major titles.
6. Chun sets major scoring mark: What started out as a bizarre year for In Gee Chun (re: runaway suitcase), turned to glory when she set a new scoring mark – for men and women – at the rain-soaked Evian Championship. Chun’s 21-under performance broke the 20-under men’s record set by Jason Day (2015 PGA) and Henrik Stenson (2016 British Open). Dottie Pepper (1999 ANA), Karen Stupples (2004 Women’s British), Cristie Kerr (2010 LPGA Championship), Yani Tseng (2011 LPGA Championship) and Inbee Park (2015 KPMG Women’s PGA) held the previous LPGA record at 19 under.
7. Americans beat the world: Two years after Team USA failed to make it to singles play at the UL International Crown, the Americans staged a comeback at the Merit Club, narrowly defeating South Korea. Cristie Kerr led the U.S. with six points. In a season in which Brittany Lang and Lexi Thompson were the only Americans to win on tour, the Crown seemed all the more important.
8. Nordqvist’s class act: Brittany Lang won the U.S. Women’s Open, but the way the USGA handled Anna Nordqvists’ ruling in the playoff at CordeValle overshadowed Lang’s efforts. One positive takeaway: Nordqvist’s sportsmanship and poise throughout the ordeal was admirable. She gained plenty of fans that day.
9. Reid’s solo surprise: Certainly one of the most entertaining days on tour came at the Crown, when England’s Mel Reid singlehandedly took a pair of top-50 players in the world to the 18th during four-ball competition. (Partner Charley Hull had come down with a fever and withdrew.) Reid ultimately lost to Haru Nomura and Mika Miyazato, but it was a moral victory for the ages.
10. Jang’s theatrics: The highly entertaining Ha Na Jang delivered one of the game’s best celebration moves at the Coates Golf Championship with her “ceremony lasso.” Jang learned the Japanese-style Samurai twirl off YouTube and showed the world on the 18th green after claiming her first LPGA title. One of several memorable moments for the burgeoning star.
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