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Pettersen closing in fast on LPGA awards

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Just more than three months ago, Inbee Park went to St. Andrews with a shot at becoming the first golfer to win four straight majors in one year. She was No. 1 in women's golf by any measure - world ranking, money list - and it wasn't even close.

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But as the LPGA Tour goes into the final two weeks of its season, there's a chance Park won't win any of the major awards.

And she might even lose her No. 1 ranking.

Suzann Pettersen, who had only one win after the Women's British Open the first week in August, might have a mathematical chance to overtake Park at No. 1 in the world if she were to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this week in Mexico.

Pettersen is only $93,613 behind on the money list with two events left, including the season-ending CME LPGA Titleholders, which pays $500,000 to the winner. The LPGA player of the year is based on points. Park leads 290-252, but with 30 points awarded for a win, that's not out of Pettersen's range.

The other big award is the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Park has fallen to No. 3 behind Stacy Lewis (69.54) and Pettersen (69.59).

How did it happen?

Pettersen got hot. Park did not.

The 32-year-old from Norway won the Portland Classic and two weeks later captured the Evian Championship, the fifth major of the year. She also won in Taiwan, giving her three wins in her last five tournaments. Park won for the sixth time this year at the U.S. Women's Open, her third straight major. She has played eight tournaments since then with only one top-10 finish, third place in China.

Both are playing the final two weeks of the year.

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Q-SCHOOL TUITION: The PGA Tour qualifying tournament is nothing like it used to be except in one respect - the entry fees.

For the first time, Q-school no longer offers a player direct access to the PGA Tour. Instead, cards will be awarded only for the Web.com Tour. The entry fee, however, remains at the same level.

Players who have to go to pre-qualifying pay $2,500, and then an additional $2,700 to $3,500 (depending on how close they file to the entry deadline) if they advance. The fee for the first stage is between $4,500 and $6,000. Those exempt into the second stage pay between $4,000 and $5,000, while the final stage costs $3,500 to $4,500.

Even though the prize - a PGA Tour card - is not the same, it doesn't sound like the fees are coming down.

''Right now, we continue to have an entry fee at the same level,'' said Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations. ''One of the factors in setting that is making sure only the high-caliber player enters Q-school who legitimately is competitive at a high level. In some ways, we're making a player in his mind ask himself if his game is ready to make this kind of commitment.''

Another change this year is the prize money. D.H. Lee won Q-school last year and earned $50,000 (in addition to his PGA Tour card). The winner of this year's Q-school earns only $25,000.

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SEMINOLE: These are good times for American amateurs who are good enough to be selected for the Walker Cup. Golf Digest reported on its website this week that Seminole Golf Club is the latest classic to host the Walker Cup in 2021.

For Seminole, the Donald Ross design along the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida, it will be the first time for a public competition since it opened in 1929.

The course is not long by modern standards - 6,836 yards all the way back - but the wind and difficult greens make it a strong test for even the pros. Ben Hogan used to prepare for the Masters every spring at Seminole. The club has a pro-member event each spring, and Rickie Fowler has the low score at 65.

The Walker Cup was played this year at National Golf Links on Long Island. It previously was at Merion in 2009 and Chicago Golf Club in 2005. The next American venue will be Los Angeles Country Club (2017). When held in Britain & Ireland, it has gone to Royal County Down and Royal Aberdeen in recent years. The event next will be played in 2015 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

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BIG EASY: The original field for the World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts each year in California included Ernie Els, who had never played the unofficial event. The Big Easy has kept his streak alive.

He withdrew this week to play the Nedbank Challenge in his native South Africa on Dec. 5-8.

''This tournament holds some really wonderful memories for me and my whole family,'' Els said on his website. His staff sent him a list of achievements at the Nedbank Challenge, which included his three wins, record 16 appearances, a 69.93 scoring average and 46 rounds under par.

Els was replaced in the 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club by Dustin Johnson.

For a tournament that counts only toward the world ranking, the World Challenge still managed to attract 18 of the top 29 players in the world.

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WELCOME TO THE 60s: Tiger Woods doesn't play a lot of PGA Tour events where he has all four rounds in the 60s and still doesn't win. It happened once this year at The Barclays, where he was runner-up. It happened once in 2012 at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Before that, go all the way back to the Tour Championship in 2006.

Part of that is because of the difficult golf courses on his schedule.

There were 10 players in the 2013 season who had at least three tournaments where they shot in the 60s every round without winning.

The leaders of the hard-luck category: Zach Johnson and Brendon de Jonge each had four tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s and no trophy.

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DIVOTS: The McGladrey Classic at Sea Island might not be hurt so much next year from missing players who were in Shanghai the previous week. Tournament officials said the 2014 event will be held Oct. 23-26, before the tour does its two-week Asia swing. Equally important for Sea Island, it will be before the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville, Fla. Sea Island is the unofficial headquarters for Georgia fans going to the game. ... Los Angeles Lakers great Jerry West is stepping away from his role as executive director of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera after just more than three years. The tournament has hired former UCLA golf coach O.D. Vincent to replace him. Vincent recently was senior associate athletic director at Washington. ''My goal was to help elevate the tournament as a way to give back to the city that has given me so much,'' West said. ... Jack Nicklaus helped the Western Golf Association raise $900,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation last week when he was honored at the WGA's annual ''Green Coat Gala'' in Chicago.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Eleven Americans are in the final stage of European Tour Q-school, up from five a year ago.

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FINAL WORD: ''I enjoyed the summer. Everybody leaves, you see, so it's nice and quiet.'' - Lee Westwood of England, on his first summer since moving to South Florida.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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