Different Strokes: Lexi Thompson ready to take her best shot
LPGA star will team up with Tony Finau at this week’s Shark Shootout
Lexi Thompson will again play in this week’s Shark Shootout. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Remember those times when Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie were marketed into competing against the men in regular PGA Tour events stateside? Well, you’ve got to think that the way Lexi Thompson is doing it - playing in the Shark Shootout - is a much better way of showcasing how good these women professionals really are!
For the second year in a row, Thompson will play in the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida. Last year, she partnered Bryson DeChambeau (finishing 11th of 12 teams); and, this time, Thompson will be paired with one of the genuine big-hitters on the men’s circuit, when she goes side-by-side with Tony Finau.
First of all, let’s get a reality check out of the way. Thompson is considered one of the longest hitters in the women’s game - ranked third in driving distance this season, second last year and fourth in 2015 - but she will likely be some distance behind Finau when the GPS systems click in.
Finau ranked first on the PGA Tour driving distance stats this season with an average of 336.6 yards. For her part, Thompson ranked third on the LPGA Tour with driving distances averages of 273 yards. If she were to transfer that stat onto the PGA Tour, Thompson would be ranked 204th, between Carl Pettersson (203rd with 274.5 yards average) and Zac Blair (272.9 yards).
So, Lexi might be among the biggest hitters on the LPGA Tour but would be relatively short on the men’s. Tying up with Finau, though, makes for an appetising contest given the nature of the shootout which starts with a scramble in Thursday’s opening round and, to be honest, this is an ideal opportunity - in an unofficial PGA Tour event - for Thompson to show what she can do.
Shane Lowry - finalising his move to the Naples area, where his family will move to in January - is teaming up with Graeme McDowell in what will be a debut appearance in an event now in its 29th staging.
Matt Kuchar and Harris English are the defending champions, while other teams featured include Bubba Watson with Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson with Charley Hoffman, Daniel Berger with Gary Woodland, Jason Dufner with Billy Horschel, Pat Perez with Brian Harman, Russell Henley with Kyle Standley, Steve Stricker with Sean O’Hair, Keegan Bradley with Brendan Steele and Kevinn Chappell with Kevin Kisner.
The invitation criteria for the event - the brainchild of Greg Norman - has been changed this year to strengthen the field. In addition to the defending champions, tournament officials invited the top 12 committed players from last season’s FedEx Cup standings in addition to 10 exemptions, at least four of which went to players inside the top 40 on the PGA Tour’s career money list (the access route for McDowell, who invited Lowry to partner him).
Dynamic duo offering special prize
No appearance from Rory McIlroy on this year’s Late Late Toy Show, but the Northern Irishman has put a mouth-watering end of year prize up for grabs.
McIlroy and Niall Horan - who have four Majors and 40 million Twitter followers between them - are giving amateurs a chance to play alongside the poster boys of golf and music ahead of next month’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Horan’s golf management agency Modest! Golf, McIlroy’s club manufacturer sponsor Taylor Made and Vox Golf app have teamed-up to offer the prize which includes flights to Dubai, seven nights’ accommodation, a set of clubs, officials tournament merchandise and, biggest of all, the chance to play with the power duo in the pro-am.
It’s open to all golfers with official handicaps: simply download the Vox Golf app and play nine holes at a course listed on the app and submit your scorecard.
Word of Mouth (I)
“If you look at winning as your only sense of success, you’re going to deal with failure a lot” Rickie Fowler provides some food for thought on analysing just how successful a season can be.
Word of Mouth (II)
“You don’t get many chances, especially at my age. I’ll take a lot of positives out of this week but right now I’m really mad” Arjun Atwal, who lost out in a play-off to Dylan Frittelli in the Mauritius Open. The 44-year-old Indian’s last win on the PGA European Tour came in the 2008 Malaysian Open.
In the Bag - Rickie Fowler (Hero World Challenge)
Driver - Cobra King F8+ (8 degrees)
3-wood - Cobra King F8+ Baffler 5W (13 degrees)
5-wood - Cobra King F8+ Baffler %W (14.5 degrees)
Irons (4-Pitching Wedge) - Cobra King Forged MB
Sand Wedge - Cobra King V-Grind (52 degrees)
Lob Wedges - Cobra King V-Grind (56 and 60 degrees)
Putter - Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport 2 GSS prototype
Ball - Titleist ProV1
“So much to learn from the past three days. (78,70,73) I was pretty torn up after day 1. Wondering what I needed to do to play well after seeing so much success in practice at Phoenix. Well I’ve found confidence, self belief and GRIT. I know I can do it under pressure. It’s just a matter of time” Stephanie Meadow clearly disappointed at missing out on her LPGA Tour card at Q-School, where she missed the cut.
“Congratulations to @RickieFowler on an unforgettable victory at the #heroworldchallenge!” Tiger Woods clearly approved of the newest champion at his tournament.
“Pretty good end to the day! Although a post-win surf would’ve made it better” Dylan Frittelli, snapped holding the Mauritius Open trophy with his feet in the swimming pool, would clearly have preferred a more adventurous assignment.
Know the Rules
Q. A player whose ball lies in pine needles piled for removal drops away under Rule 25-1b. The ball comes to rest in such a position that the pile of pine needles intervenes on his line of play. May the player remove the pine needles from his line of play?
A. Yes. Pine needles piled for removal are loose impediments or ground under repair. Initially, the player was entitled to remove the pine needles under Rule 23-1 (Loose Impediments) or drop away, as he did, under Rule 25-1b. After the player dropped away a new situation existed and he was no longer entitled to invoke Rule 25-1b. However, he was not prohibited from removing the pine needles under Rule 23-1.