Such ignominy seems only appropriate given the way U.S. golfers have fared on tour the last three months. Since Mo Martin claimed the Ricoh Women's British Open with her tap-in eagle on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale in July, just one American has been victorious in the last 11 LPGA events—Austin Ernst at the Portland Classic in August.
Granted, the dry spell in and of itself isn't remarkable given the depth of talent internationally in the women's game. But it comes in stark contrast to how the 2014 season began. During the first 17 events of the year, Americans won 11 times, including nine of 11 tournaments from Kraft Nabisco to the British Open.
Now, it's not just winning but simply contending that has become difficult of late. Top-five and top-10 finishes have both declined in the last 11 tournaments, with Americans averaging only 1.18 top-fives each week (compared to 2.53 the first 17 starts) and 2.91 top-10s (down from 4.41).
Not all news is bad for fans of the red, white and blue. Wie now has two top-five finishes in two starts as she returns from a finger injury that sidelined her in late August and early September. Meanwhile, Lewis, a three-time winner in 2014, still leads the money list by more than $450,000 over second-place Park, and has a 1,071-point advantage in the LPGA's Race to CME Globe year-long competition. Lewis is also 30 points ahead in the Rolex Player of the Year standings, an award she claimed in 2012.
A few hours after the practice round, Lewis had the ankle taped up, and in her usual resilient manner, assured everyone the injury isn't going to affect a thing. "If anything, it's helping me stay down and not jump in front of the ball, which I've been trying to work on for two weeks,” Lewis said, “so maybe it's a good thing."
Lewis is on the four-person American squad and will be paired with Lexi Thompson in a four-ball match against Chinese Taipei with the International Crown beings Thursday.
(Photo by Getty Images)
By Alex Myers
One of the most surprising winners in major championship history did it by authoring one of the most remarkable clutch shots ever.
Mo Martin nearly made the sport's first known walk-off albatross. But she happily settled for a rare walk-off eagle to capture the Ricoh Women's British Open in stunning fashion.
Playing more than an hour ahead of the final groups, Martin reached the par-5 18th hole at Royal Birkdale trailing by two shots. But after a good drive, her 3-wood from about 240 yards away found the green and clanged off the flagstick to about six feet, setting up an eagle and a 72 that matched the low score of a difficult final round.
Martin's score of one under for the tournament held up as neither Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng, or Suzann Pettersen could catch her on Birkdale's closing stretch. Park and Feng had the best chances, but neither could birdie either 17 or 18, both par 5s. Yahoo!'s Shane Bacon captured the end of the remarkable shot that nearly went in:
While she waited to learn her fate, Martin described the shot on ESPN:
"This was a full 3-wood. I was off a little bit of a left-to-right lie, which let it feed. At this point, I'm saying 'sit.' And then I said 'go.' And then I said 'I don't know what else to say.' And then I actually heard it hit the flag and that's when I just said, 'Oh, my god,'" she said before bursting into laughter.
Here's the full footage:
The short-hitting Martin, a three-time winner on the Symetra Tour, picked the perfect time to make her first eagle of year. Before this week, the 31-year-old had never even had a share of the lead after any round of an LPGA event and her best previous finish at a major was a T-29 at this year's Kraft Nabisco.
Martin joined Lexi Thompson (Kraft Nabisco) and Michelle Wie as major winners this season. It's the first time since 1999 that Americans have won three straight majors in women's golf.
"Is this real life?" Martin wondered when informed she had won.
She'll have an incredible highlight to remind her that it is for the rest of her life.
By Alex Myers
Remember when Michelle Wie was overhyped? That's not the case anymore.
Wie may have snapped a 79-event winless drought on Sunday with a victory at the Lotte LPGA Championship in Hawaii, but the breakthrough was inevitable. Wie, 24, hasn't just been playing well in 2014, she's played the best of anyone on the LPGA Tour.
Don't believe our hype? Let's examine the numbers. Wie is first on the money list at $615,555 in seven starts. She's first in scoring average at 69.57, more than .3 ahead of Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park. And she's first in greens in regulation at an eye-popping 81 percent (No one has cracked the 80-percent barrier for a season since the LPGA officially started keeping track of the stat in 1992).
Even Wie's putting -- weird stance and all -- has improved. She ranks only 70th in putting average, but that number is skewed because of the high number of greens in regulation she hits (Again, 81 percent!). More telling is Wie ranking 17th in putts per greens in regulation (Unfortunately, the LPGA doesn't keep strokes gained/putting). She ranked 119th in that category just two years ago.
Wie's four top 10s in 2014 are one fewer than what she had in the past two seasons combined, and her worst finish so far was a T-16 at the Kia Classic last month. She also finished runner-up to Lexi Thompson at the year's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
After starting the year at No. 61 in the Rolex Rankings, Wie has moved all the way up to No. 13 with three terrific months of golf. At this rate, she'll be knocking on the door of the top five soon. Believe it.