Golden Year For Thompson
Lexi Thompson enters this week at the CME Group Tour Championship with a chance to take home the Race to CME Globe title and the $1 million bonus which would be the cherry on top to what has already been a stellar season.
Thompson is in her fourth season on Tour and currently ranks first in greens in regulation, fourth in money, fourth in scoring average.
“I would say this has probably been my best year of my career yet, just with overall the consistency of it,” Thompson said. “Even if I didn’t have the wins and just played consistent, had more top 10s, I mean, I would be very happy with it. Coming into the year, my goal was just to play consistent golf. I worked on my short game a lot in the off season, and that came around, and overall this year I’ve stayed very positive on the golf course, so I’m very happy with that.”
The numbers certainly back up Thompson’s statement as she has tallied a pair of victories and 10 additional top-10 finishes in 2015.
“I put in a lot of time at the gym these last two years, just trying to improve on things on my body and just trying to feel good out on the golf course, make sure I get through my days a lot easier, making sure I get in my cardio and focus on core strength,” Thompson explained. ”That’s extremely important with the golf swing and balance exercises. I have my own fitness goals for this off season, too, so it’s going to be a fun few months for me, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Sei Young Kim came to the CME Group Tour Championship having already locked up the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award with her strong three-win season and she admitted today that she didn’t have big enough expectations of her first year on Tour. She didn’t foresee having a presence among the Tour’s best- she’s second in wins and only trails Lydia Ko and Inbee Park in victories.
“Just one time, one win, I expected. But three times, I couldn’t expect that. Amazing,” Kim said.
The three victories and Rookie of the Year honors have earned Kim some new fans.
“When I came first time stay, so nobody didn’t know me,” Kim said. “After now, a couple peoples know me. “Sei” and cheer me, so I’m very excited. Wow, American people know me.”
While Kim may seem cool, calm and collected on the course there is one thing that has the rookie nervous – her Rookie of the Year acceptance speech tomorrow night at the Rolex Awards Celebration.
“Very, very (nervous),” Kim said. “I prepare a lot with my manager and then my friend. They fix my sounds. So I’m very look forward to tomorrow.”
Quotablep>“No. My trophy is still in the box. We need to find a good place for that. No, I still vacuum my own house and do everything normally. I don’t think anything would change, so no. Just me.”
-Kris Tamulis on if anything has changed for her since winning at the Yokohama LPGA Classic
Top 3 Status Within Reach For Thompson
Lexi Thompson has ascended to the No. 4 spot in the Rolex Rankings – the highest rank in her career – and is just on the cusp of being in the conversation of the top 3 on Tour. Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis have been the dominating trio the past few seasons and Thompson has the opportunity and star power to expand that to the “top 4.” But it’s not something the 20-year has on the front of her mind.
“I can’t say I really think about that, but with golf, you just really it’s kind of selfish, but you kind of have to just worry about yourself and not worry about all the other players because then if you get caught up thinking about ranking or other players that are ahead of you that you’re trying to beat, it’ll just get to you,” said Thompson.
Thompson only trails Ko, Park and Sei Young Kim in victories this year and continues on an upward trajectory with an improved short game and ability to close out tournaments. Thompson admitted a selfish attitude on focusing on her own game and not worrying about what others are doing will keep her moving up in the rankings.
“You won’t play what you’re capable of, so you have to go out there, just try and do your best, just focus on the positive things that you’re doing well and just keep on trying to do better and improve on yourself and your game, and then you’ll see the results that you wanted to,” said Thompson.
Sweet Homecoming For Tamulis
Kris Tamulis’ victory at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in August meant more to her than the $195,000 check. It meant more to her than a breakthrough for her after 11 years. It meant that for the first time in the three years since the CME Group Tour Championship moved to Naples, Fla., that Tamulis would be in the field in her hometown.
Tamulis would have been in a year ago if the field had been decided by the money list, but it was decided by Race to the CME Globe points and she narrowly missed it by three spots on the list. However, her win at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic this year guaranteed that the third edition in Naples would not go on without her on the first tee on Thursday. She would have gotten in even without her win though as her points have her 44th in the Race to the CME Globe standings.
“The last few years have been a huge disappointment,” Tamulis said. “So I’ve tried to make myself accessible [this week]. I’ve done a couple things down here the week of the event just to help out. I’m very thankful that CME Group has brought us down here and they think as highly of Naples as I do. We are very fortunate on Tour to have this event.”
Tamulis was born in Lapeer, Michigan, but her parents bought a house in Naples in 1987 when she was in second grade and she spent her childhood between Naples and Michigan. She graduated from high school here in 1999 and says she hasn’t played a tournament in Naples since, but she’s thrilled to be doing so this week.
“This year, being here and qualifying has been fantastic,” Tamulis said. “I mean, it’s a dream for me. This doesn’t get any better. Winning was a great experience, but winning was just the culmination of the week. I didn’t know going in there that I was going to win that week. It was kind of like – after it happened, it was exciting afterwards. But now this whole week of an experience instead of just an experience after the tournament. It’s been terrific. I’m glad it’s the last week of the year. I think it’s a great way to finish.”
So many people from her home country club wanted to attend this week that the tournament director put a package together for the club and she put in at least 40 requests to will call this week as well. She’s also done a particularly special job this week of interacting with the volunteers.
“I usually do a good job of thanking the volunteers on the holes and everything and this week I’ve been even more aware of that just because I know they know who I am,” Tamulis said. “At the same time, I’m very thankful for everybody who is taking time out of their days and week and their golf and tennis to help us out here. So they’re fans and everybody says, “Go Naples!” to me as I walk by. I’m very appreciative and thankful.”
The “Go Naples!” chants motivate her and inspire her and they could even lead to more pressure to perform. Tamulis though is trying not to let it have an impact.
“I know everybody is cheering for me,” Tamulis said. “At the same time that doesn’t really – that doesn’t lead into made putts. I know that I have a lot of local support here and people will be cheering for me and for that I’m very thankful.” “It’s a little extra pressure just because I want to play well for my town, but at the same time I know that doesn’t really help me. So I’m just going to tee it up and keep it in the fairway and see how it goes.”
However it goes, Tamulis will enjoy the experience even if it means being at home means she misses out on some of the great Ritz Carlton Golf Resort food.
“I’m actually having dinner with my parents at home tomorrow which will be nice. At the same time, the food at the Ritz is probably a little bit better than my mom’s cooking!” Tamulis joked.
Numbers To Know
1 – The battle for the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings rages on with Lydia Ko leading Inbee Park by just .09 points, meaning Park could overtake Ko this week for the No. 1 spot with a good week.
2 – Lydia Ko needs to beat Inbee Park by two shots in total over the four rounds to overtake Inbee Park in the Vare Trophy standings.
3 – Lydia Ko leads Inbee Park by three points in the Rolex Player of the Year standings and Park needs at least an eight place finish this week to have a mathematical chance of tying Ko.
10 – Julieta Granada, Carlota Ciganda and Lydia Ko each posted 10-under-par over the four days here a year ago Tiburon Golf Club to head into a three-way playoff. Shanshan Feng won with 15-under-par 273 during the 2013 edition.
44 – Kris Tamulis hasn’t been in the field during the two years prior in which this tournament came to Naples for the season finale, but Tamulis earned her way into the field this week via her win at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic and also her 44th place standing in the Race to the CME Globe points race.
6,540 – Tiburon Golf Club will play to 6,540 yards when the Tour’s best tee it up Thursday morning.
188,321 – Inbee Park trails Lydia Ko by $188,321 on the money list heading into this week. For Park to top the money list standings at the end of the season, she would need to win the tournament.
Some Things Are Meant To Be
As excited as fellow players and caddies were to see Kris Tamulis break through after 11 years on the LPGA Tour with her first win in August, they were even more excited for her caddie, Thomas “Motion” Frank. Frank found out over the phone at the Lotte Championship earlier this year in April that his house in Houston had burned to the ground, and the whole Tour rallied around him to donate and help him with anything they could.
So when Tamulis was able to cut Frank a check for his portion of the winner’s check, she was admittedly thrilled at the timing.
“I think he puts things in perspective just because of his great attitude,” Tamulis said. “At the same time, I think that my parents have always done a good job of putting things in perspective for me. Nothing is really life or death, especially on the golf course. As long as my family is doing well and they’re healthy, I have food to eat at night and I have a roof over my head and people that care about me, I don’t think that anything really changes for me. At the same time, sometimes I think people forget about that. And Mo is a daily reminder.”
Frank’s house wasn’t insured so he lost everything in the fire that was started by a lightning strike. None of the 20-plus years of memorabilia that he’s collected throughout his career was salvageable, but he does have the flag from the 18th green. That and a nice check to start the process of getting a new house or condo or whatever he decides.
“Luckily I was able to write him a very good check,” Tamulis said, “and I know he’ll put that to good use and it probably came at a great time for him.”