Jeff Brooke's Short Game
Alena Sharp missing LPGA Tour stop in her own backyard
Canadian was ineligible for circuit's first stop of season in North America
Published on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 08:03AM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 02:20PM EDT
The LPGA Tour is so close but so far this week for Alena Sharp.
The tour makes its first North American stop of the year this week in Phoenix, not far from where Sharp makes her home now.
But the Hamilton native is on the outside looking in. As of late Wednesday night, she was not in the field – listed as the sixth alternate.
For her to tee it up at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, six women already in the field would have had to drop out. Unlikely.
She faces a similar predicament next week at the Kia Classic in California. She was the third alternate as of late Wednesday.
Sharp, 32, has been on the LPGA Tour since 2005 but is coming off a disappointing year in which she finished 103rd on the money list – good enough to retain status but not high enough to give her entry into any tournament of her choosing.
After missing the tour’s season-opening swing through Australia and Asia and now the RR Donnelley, Sharp is already in a deep hole in her bid to win her 2014 card.
The Phoenix event is the fourth opportunity for the other regulars to earn a paycheque.
Sitting out this week has to be especially disappointing for Sharp given her show of good form this year. Working again with her original coach, Jeff Moore, she is coming off a mini-tour victory and a runner-up finish in a second-tier Symetra Tour event this winter.
Despite Sharp’s likely absence this week, Canada will be represented well at Wildfire.
Rookie Sara-Maude Juneau, Lorie Kane, Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Stephanie Sherlock are scheduled to play.
Lee-Bentham, a 21-year-old from Toronto in her second LPGA season, will tee it up despite a car accident while driving on the freeway in Phoenix.
"Got hit by a car and swerved into oncoming traffic. It was scary but I thank God no one got injured. Can't imagine how bad things could've ended up. Great reminder of how unexpected life can be, and to always appreciate what you have. Don't wait till it's gone," Lee-Bentham said on her Facebook account.
NO. 1 UP FOR GRABS: There could be a change at the top of the women’s world ranking this week.
It’s possible for either No. 2 Na Yeon Choi or No. 3 Stacy Lewis to usurp No. 1 Yani Tseng, whose grip on the top spot seemed unassailable at this time last year.
To reach No.1, Choi of South Korea would have to win the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup on Sunday and have Tseng of Taiwan finish fourth or worse.
Lewis of the United States can leap to the top with a win and a Tseng result of third or worse.
Tseng has been No. 1 for 109 weeks but stumbled, by her standards, in the latter half of 2012 and has yet to win this year.
Lewis is coming off a victory and tie for third place in Asia.
SNEDS RETURNING: Brandt Snedeker said Wednesday he’ll return to PGA Tour action next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
His caddy, Scott Vail of Oshawa, Ont., won’t wait that long. He’s back inside the ropes this week at the Tampa Bay Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., carrying the bag for Brendon De Jonge of Zimbabwe, golfchannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard reported Wednesday afternoon.
De Jonge’s regular caddy needed the week off.
World No. 4 Snedeker has been on the sidelines for five weeks recovering from a rib injury that he sustained at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won.
SEASON START: Rod Spittle will make his season debut on the Champions Tour this week at the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Niagara Falls, Ont., native earned a spot in the field at Newport Beach Country Club by winning the event's qualifying tournament on Monday.
Spittle shot six-under-par 65 to edge Barry Lane by one shot and grab one of the five berths available.
A winner on the tour in 2010, Spittle lost his card last year despite seven top-25 finishes and didn't win it back at the senior circuit's qualifying school last fall. Monday qualifiers are his best option to get into tournaments this year.
At Newport Beach, the 57-year-old will join fellow Canadian Jim Rutledge of Victoria, defending champion Loren Roberts and 2013 Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer in the field, among others.
The 54-hole tournament, the fourth of the season, begins Friday.
The Short Game blog is a compilation of small news stories, statistics and analysis from the wide world of golf, with a focus on Canadian content. Jeff Brooke, who has written about golf for The Globe and Mail since his first assignment at the 2007 Masters, will regularly refresh the blog with these quick-hit items that might otherwise fall through the cracks.