Back 9: Lee Westwood, Lexi Thompson, Ian Poulter pick up winsWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The 2011 golf season is winding down. Luke Donald has all the cash, Tiger Woods got back to the winners circle, Yani dominated the LPGA and Greg Norman lost another Presidents Cup.
There were a few items of golf business left to attend to before Santa comes to town.
Lee Westwood joined a stellar field on the Asian Tour for the inaugural Thailand Golf Championship played on the 7,453 yard Amata Spring Country Club.
Westwood fired a career low 12-under par 60 in the opening round on Thursday and never looked back. He followed up his outstanding first round with a 22-under par 266 (64-73-69) which bested runner-up Charl Schwartzel by 7 shots.
It was Westwood’s 37th career win and moved him into the No. 2 spot on the Official World Golf Ranking behind No. 1 Luke Donald and ahead of No. 3 Rory McIlroy.
The Ladies European Tour (LET) held a small shindig in Dubai this week and young upstart Lexi Thompson proved again why the LPGA made a wise decision to allow the 16-year-old to join the LPGA Tour in 2012.
In September, Lexi became the youngest winner ever on the LPGA Tour when she won the Navistar Classic. She just doubled down and became the youngest winner ever on the LET by winning the Dubai Ladies Masters.
The Dubai Ladies Masters had a very respectable field including several Solheim Cup members from both Europe and the USA. Lexi turned in scores of 70-66-70-67 for 15-under par and won by four strokes.
Thompson does not turn 17 until February of 2012. The LPGA made an exception to allow her membership for next year.
There won’t be any Friday night football games or high school proms for Lexi. She is putting the future of the LPGA squarely on her young shoulders and could be the key to bringing the LPGA back to prominence.
The always “Dressed for Success” Ian Poulter captured a Gold Jacket to add to his wardrobe for winning the Australian Masters.
Melbourne Home Boy Geoff Ogilvy took a two-shot lead into the final round after posting an 8-under par 63 on Saturday. He could only manage a 73 in the final round and finished at 11-under par good enough for third place.
Poulter drained a 15-foot eagle putt on the very first hole to erase Ogilvy’s lead and turned in a 4-under par 67 in very windy conditions on Sunday to pick up the win.
Ian had fallen to No. 28 in the OWGR and this win in Australian Masters should get him back into the top 15 heading into 2012 a Ryder Cup year.
This puts a wrap on a very exciting 2011. Youth was the catch phrase in golf and the trend will undoubtedly continue next year.
Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley and Gary Woodland are just a few of the youngsters on the PGA Tour that should continue to be major factors next year.
Yani Tseng is only 22 years old, but her domination of the LPGA is about to be challenged by 17-year-old Lexi Thompson. Throw in Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and a host of young talented Asian players and the LPGA should regain some of its audience and badly needed sponsor dollars should follow.
Jack Nicklaus said in a speech last week that golf needs to make some changes. He may be right, but a resurgent Tiger, a teenager, Lexi Thompson, and a slightly improving economy might just be what the Doctor prescribed for a healthier golf community next year.
I’ll see you all on the “Back 9.”