Rivalries are nothing new to the pro golf scene. To the contrary, they’re the natural outcome of competitive golf where, as Cristie Kerr has observed in her Baltimore Sun blog, “week in and week out, professional golfers compete against other professional golfers, as individuals.” We’ve been energized by Tiger vs. Phil, and Annika vs Karrie, and Palmer vs Nicklaus and — for the old folks among us — Kathy Whitworth vs Mickey Wright, and the game of golf has been pushed to greater and greater heights by their epic battles. Are we about to be treated to a new rivalry, one that emerged from the humiliating defeat Team USA suffered last August at the 2013 Solheim Cup?
From friendships forged during off-week matches in South Florida to the 18th greens on Sunday at places like Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, CA and Ko Olina in Kapolei, Hawaii and Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, the American players on the LPGA Tour have been playing to win and put themselves in position to never again field questions about why they lost the Solheim Cup last August in Parker, Colorado, to reclaim the Cup and bring it home.
The strategy seems to be working. Playing with high energy, grit, and fierce determinations, there are four American players inside the top-10 in the world rankings; and while Wie, ranked 6th, just below Lexi Thompson (who’s ranked 5th), may look like a long shot to successfully challenge Stacy Lewis’s hold on the top of the rankings, that’s not necessarily the case.
Wie has her U.S. Women’s Open title, which she topped Lewis by two shots to earn, and her lead atop the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award standings after finishing second and first in the season’s first two majors. Lewis has three victories this season and followed up Wie’s U.S. Women’s Open win by overtaking Wie’s Sunday lead at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G for a come-from-behind win the following weeks.
Lewis sits at No. 1 and Wie at No. 2 in all the categories that measure a player – Rolex Player of the Year standings, Race to the CME Globe points, official money list, top-10 finishes and scoring average. It’s beginning to look like the best 1-2 punch in golf these days.
The drive to beat each other is there but the animosity isn’t. When Lewis finished runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open, she waited for Wie just off the green with a hug, a fist pound and a congratulations for her good friend.
. . . we are never going to hate each other . . . but I can tell you we both want to beat each other once we get on the golf course, and that’s all you need for a rivalry to work . . . -Stacy Lewis
Whether this season is merely the opening act of a career-long rivalry or simply a fleeting period of competition between two friends, this rivalry is great for the game.
Lewis, paired with Ayako Uehara and Charlie Hull, tees off Thursday morning at 6:41am and Wie, paired with Rikato Morita and Sandra Gal, will be right behind her, teeing off at 7:03am. We may have to wait until Sunday to see them again paired and playing yet another round that will leave their fans breathless!