CHAMPIONS
Champs Update: Ryu Wins Again, Ascends to No. 1 June 26, 2017 By David Shefter, USGA

So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion, is the new No. 1 player in the world, two weeks away from the 2017 Women's Open. (USGA/JD Cuban)

Four years ago, Inbee Park produced one of the best seasons in women’s professional golf history, a year that included six victories and three major championships, including her second U.S. Women’s Open title. Park clearly had established herself as the No. 1 player in the world.

Fellow Republic of Korea native So Yeon Ryu is on a similar trajectory as that of Park in 2013. Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion who turns 27 on Thursday, won her second LPGA Tour event of 2017 on Sunday in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She ascended to the top spot in the Rolex Women’s Rankings for the first time and now heads into the next two majors – this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club and next month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., with a chance to match Park’s 2013 feat.

Ryu won the season’s first major championship – the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif. – in a playoff over 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson.

On Sunday, Ryu backed a second-round, 10-under-par 61 at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., with a 69 to defeat Amy Yang and Moriya Jutanugarn by two strokes in the 54-hole event. Her 18-under total of 195 established a tournament record, breaking the mark set last year by 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and then No. 1 player Lydia Ko by one stroke. The LPGA Tour’s first multiple winner in 2017 also moved past 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Ariya Jutanugarn, who held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for two weeks.

“Dreams come true! I always dreamed about it. I cannot believe it. I didn’t expect two good things coming together,” said Ryu, reacting to the news of becoming No. 1. “First of all, I really want to appreciate everyone who has been supportive of me, to make me the No. 1 player in the world. That’s finally made my dream.”

Ryu is the fourth straight USGA champion to ascend to No. 1, succeeding Jutanugarn, Ko and Park. The top spot has been held by a USGA champion since Park assumed it on Oct. 27, 2014.

Michelle Wie, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion, registered her sixth top-10 finish of the season after carding a final-round 64 to vault into a tie for fourth at 13-under 200. Wie has yet to win since her triumph at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, but is trending upward. Park and 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee tied for sixth at 12-under 201.

Dramatic Win for Spieth in Connecticut

Jordan Spieth had never played the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., before this week, but the 2015 U.S. Open champion used his momentum from a strong final round in last week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills to earn a dramatic playoff victory over Daniel Berger on Sunday.

Spieth, 23, of Dallas, Texas, holed out a bunker shot on the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, to edge Berger after the two were deadlocked at 12-under 268 in regulation. He struggled at Erin Hills through three rounds, but rebounded with an impressive 3-under 69 on Sunday in gusty conditions to finish in a tie for 35th at 1-over 289. 

With the win, Spieth matched nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods as the only PGA Tour players in the post-World War II era with 10 victories before the age of 24. Spieth and Woods are also the only players with multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles, the former winning his in 2009 and 2011.

“That was one for the ages,” said Spieth, who added the Travelers to his schedule this year. After opening with a 7-under 63, Spieth went wire to wire for the title. Berger, the winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis two weeks ago, birdied three of his last six holes to get into the playoff.

Another Thomas Title for Harvey

Scott Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, earned his second consecutive George C. Thomas Invitational title on Sunday at The Los Angeles Country Club, defeating four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith and Patrick Christovich in a three-hole aggregate playoff. This year’s win was significant, given the fact that the Walker Cup Match will be contested Sept. 9-10 on the same North Course at L.A.C.C. in September.

Harvey, 39, of Greensboro, N.C., made birdies on the first and third playoff holes to secure the victory after all three players tied at 215 in the 54-hole competition.

In the Senior Division, 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Chip Lutz prevailed by four strokes over Gene Elliott.

A Title for Talley

Emma Talley, the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, picked up her first professional victory on Friday in the rain-shortened Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour. Talley, in her second full season on the LPGA’s developmental tour, entered the week with back-to-back top-10 finishes in her previous two starts. With the victory, Talley moved into fourth place in the season-long Volvik Race for the Card, where the top 10 at the end of the year earn LPGA membership for the following season.

An end-of-year promotion would mark consecutive years a member from the victorious 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team has played their way onto the main stage. Talley’s teammate and Mississippi State standout Ally McDonald was among the 2016 class who earned a spot through the Symetra Tour’s Road to the LPGA.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.