Stacy Lewis' ascent a tale of patience
Stacy Lewis won her second consecutive event to take over No. 1 in the women's world rankings. Meanwhile, the Copperhead course continued to impress the best players in the world at the Tampa Bay Championship. Americans showed domination on the PGA Tour. And Boo Weekley and Jordan Spieth had great weeks.
Lewis' rise to No. 1 after a 3-shot win over Ai Miyazato on Sunday in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup should serve as an important lesson for young women considering turning pro as teenagers.
Coming out of high school in the Houston area, Lewis was good enough to play with the grown-ups but she opted to enter college at Arkansas, where after sitting out her freshman year to have back surgery for scoliosis, she became a four-time All-American.
LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan has spent a good deal of his three years at the head of the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based organization handling petitions from girls who want membership on tour before their 18th birthday.
Lydia Ko, a 15-year-old New Zealander, became the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event in August when she took the CN Canadian Women's Open. Ko bested Lexi Thompson, who was 16 when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2011.
The tour would prefer its future stars to have longer amateur careers, including a few years in college. These are important times in a child's development. No one wants to see a young person flame out after exposure to too much too soon. Yet it's difficult to keep winners such as Ko, Thompson and other promising teenagers off the tour.
Lewis' route to the top of the game through four years of college might not work for everyone. But a couple of years of taking classes and traveling to tournaments on a team are good character builders.
When Lewis turned pro in 2008, she struggled with her game and the loss of the structure and guidance that came from being on a college team.
Thompson and Ko, if she turns pro, will have some of the growing pains with their golf swings and the hectic travel schedule much sooner in their careers.
But does this early start mean they will have an advantage over their contemporaries who went to college?
It's too soon to tell if one or both of them will be No. 1 in the world. Five years ago it would have been inconceivable that Michelle Wie would now be struggling to just make cuts.
Yet there is still time for Wie because in this game you don't have to win in your early 20s. At 28, Lewis is just reaching her prime. Since her breakthrough win at the Kraft Nabisco in 2011, she has been one of the best players in the world with six more victories.
She is only the second American woman to lead the women's rankings since they began in 2006. In 2010, Cristie Kerr briefly held the top position.
"I'm having a blast on the golf course," said Lewis, who shot a 64 in the final round. "To be No. 1 in the world, it's what everybody out here on tour is working for.
"It's crazy. That was my goal kind of since the middle of last year and I really didn't think it would be possible this quick."
Her timing was perfect.
Copperhead a keeper
Kevin Streelman thrilled us on Sunday in his emotional first career win at the Tampa Bay Championship. But the Copperhead course also deserves praise. The gem of the 72-hole Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., continues to be one of the most challenging but fair tests on the PGA Tour.
None of the 77 players who made the cut had four consecutive sub-par rounds on the course. The cumulative scoring average for the week was an over-par 72.531.
Since the event was first held in 2000, players have raved about the par-71, 7,340-yard Larry Packard-design.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 winner who finished in a tie for seventh this year, gave the perfect assessment.
"This doesn't really look like your stereotypical Florida golf course," Furyk said. "It's not flat. There are not houses on both sides of the fairways. You have to hit some shots to put the ball in the fairway, just not going to tee it up and bomb it here.
"You have to think your way around and play to certain spots of the fairway and hit some crisp iron shots and hit some greens here because there's a lot of them that aren't very deep from back to front or very big from left‑to‑right, so the green complexes are small."
Yet the tournament is on life support after losing its title sponsor, Transitions, last year. It was the only event on the tour schedule at the beginning of 2013 that didn't have a presenting or title sponsor.
EverBank, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based financial services company, came in a few weeks before the tournament as the presenting sponsor, but it's uncertain if they will upgrade to a title sponsorship.
It would be a great loss to the tour and South Florida if this event left the schedule, particularly because the Champions Tour ended its event in the area last year after 25 years.
But regardless of who becomes the title sponsor, and hopefully someone steps up to the plate soon, this golf course deserves a bigger profile.
It's unfortunate that the Tampa Bay event is stuck in the middle of a Florida swing that includes the Honda Classic, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Sheila Johnson, Innisbrook's owner and a former board member on the Tiger Woods Foundation, has worked diligently to bring Woods to the tournament. But it's very unlikely that Tiger will play four consecutive weeks.
Yet the 14-time major champion would do well to put Copperhead on his schedule, because this course merits the attention of the best players in the world for many years to come.
Players come and go on the PGA Tour. Major champions, Ryder Cuppers and guys who shoot 59 aren't exempt from the vicissitudes of the game. Back in 2008 when Boo Weekley was on the victorious 2008 Ryder Cup team at Valhalla, he was still the best-known player from Milton (Fla.) High.
Then he began having shoulder problems that led him back to Q-school in 2011. Playing off past champions status last year, the self-styled redneck made enough money to keep his card for 2013.
After a 63 on Sunday in the final round at Tampa, Weekley finished second. The two-time tour winner might be fully back to the great ball-striker who always captivated us with his folksy manner and rich Southern drawl. His showing here was his best since he won the 2008 Verizon Heritage.
"I'm getting there," said Weekley, who had a tie for eighth last week at Puerto Rico. "I'm close. I mean, maybe, you know, a couple more showings to get myself believing even more, and then be back, maybe trying that Ryder Cup out again, you never know."
Perhaps a few more finishes like the one he had at Tampa and he just might be able to beat out Bubba Watson for the top Milton High graduate on the 2013 money list.
Spieth makes right call
After a tie for seventh in Tampa, Jordan Spieth has now made $521,893 in four starts on the season: good enough to earn him special temporary membership for the rest of the year.
The most impressive thing about this feat is that the Dallas native is just 19. He could be in his junior year at Texas, but he thought it was time that he started pursuing his dream of playing the PGA Tour.
The former top-ranked amateur in the world made the right choice to leave school. He's got a chance now to develop his game at the highest level.
Americans rule at home
On a weekly basis there is not much discussion about what country has the most PGA Tour wins. It might come up around the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup when people are trying to handicap the teams. But for the most part, players are more closely linked by what club they belong to in Orlando, Scottsdale or Jupiter, Fla.
Yet it's worth noting that Kevin Streelman was the 12th consecutive player from the U.S. to win this year and the 14th straight dating back to last year.
The PGA Tour is predominantly made up of U.S. players. So by the numbers they should win most of these events. This doesn't mean that the Americans are better as a group than the best from Australia, England, South Africa, Ireland and Spain. There is just at the moment greater American depth in these fields.
On the European Tour, six of 12 events so far on the year have been won by players from South Africa. But four of those wins came in South Africa, where most of the fields were from that country. However, two of the winners, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, are guys who could win anywhere in the world.
It would be interesting to see how many victories there would be within a group of 50 Americans who played a full European Tour global schedule.
Would they dominate abroad?