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LPGA Power Rankings: Minjee Lee knocks Jin Young Ko from No. 1

Minjee Lee finished tied for runner-up at the PGA Championship a few weeks after winning the U.S. Open. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Welcome to a mid-season edition of the Just Women’s Sports LPGA power rankings. Two majors have wrapped up since our third iteration, leading to plenty of shake-ups. Two more majors will play out over the next three weeks, with the Amundi Evian Championship teeing off Thursday and the AIG Women’s Open on Aug. 4.

Our new top player, the first to knock World No. 1 Jin Young Ko from the power rankings pedestal, is the defending champion at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

1. Minjee Lee

The newest two-time major champion claims the top spot in our power rankings after her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. Lee nearly won back-to-back majors, if not for In Gee Chun’s four-foot putt on the 18th hole to secure the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title. The Australian is now second in the Rolex World Rankings and has an opportunity to be the first player to knock Jin Young Ko off her No. 1 perch since Nelly Korda in 2021.

Lee leads the LPGA in all of its major award categories at this stage in the season. She’s earned 135 Player of the Year points, awarded based on top-10 performances and worth double in majors. Lee holds a 40-point edge over Jennifer Kupcho in the POY race.

She also earned 84 points in the Rolex Annika Major award race with her victory and runner-up finish in the last two majors. Kupcho and Chun, with 60 points each from their respective major wins, are tied for second.

Lee is also leading the Vare Trophy race with a 69.025 scoring average. If that lead held for the remainder of the season, the Australian would have the second-lowest winning scoring average in tour history, trailing only Annika Sorenstam’s 68.7 average in 2002.

Lee is averaging -1.05 in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, a -.121 advantage over Jessica Korda. The winner earns a crisp $1 million at the end of the season. It’s another potential million-dollar paycheck Lee could cash alongside the $1.8 million she earned at Pine Needles Golf Club.

Starts: 11
Wins: 2
Top-10s: 5
Notable finishes: Victories at the U.S. Women’s Open, Cognizant Founders Cup, T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

2. Jennifer Kupcho

Kupcho has won two of her last three tournaments, raising trophies in back-to-back LPGA starts in Michigan for the most titles on tour so far in 2022. Her victory at the Chevron Championship set her up for success at Midland Country Club, with Lizette Salas asking her to team up during the first round at the Dinah Shore Course.

“In the end, I think it really calmed us down to have each other by our sides,” Kupcho said at her victory press conference. “So, to come out on top, it’s really amazing next to Lizette.”

After starting the season in 44th place in the Rolex World Rankings, Kupcho has surged into ninth despite earning zero points for her victory at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The team event doesn’t give any out.

Kupcho is now the third highest-ranked American in the world, trailing just Nelly Korda (third) and Lexi Thompson (sixth).

Starts: 15
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Wins at the Chevron Championship, Meijer LPGA Classic, Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational,
Last month: 9th

3. Jin Young Ko

The reigning LPGA Player of the Year hasn’t won in eight starts, knocking her out of the top spot in these rankings for the first time this year.

For most, that’s normal. For Ko, it’s an aberration.

Should she not win for the second time in four years at the Amundi Evian Championship this week, she’ll have gone her second-most starts between victories since her third-career title at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March 2019. The 13-time winner went 10 starts between her wins at the 2020 CME Group Tour Championship and 2021 Volunteers of America Classic.

Ko breaking that streak at one of the upcoming major championships would reaffirm her grip on the No. 1 spot in the World Rankings. Moreover, it would bring her closer to another historic mark on her resume.

Ko has held the No. 1 spot for 137 weeks in her career, the second most all-time. She trails recently inducted LPGA Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa, who spent 158 weeks atop the rankings.

Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, Runner-up Palos Verdes Championship, fourth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 1st

4. Atthaya Thitikul

Thitikul’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year lead teetered at the PGA Championship as she entered the weekend tied for 41st while Hye-Jin Choi, her top competitor, sat in ninth.

Instead, the No. 4 player in the world delivered the lowest score Saturday to vault into sixth place. Thitikul followed through with a fourth-place finish, two strokes behind In Gee Chun’s winning mark. She now holds a 53-point edge over Choi, who ended up T-5 at Congressional’s Blue Course.

The Thai teenager has been one of the most consistent players on tour, riding back-to-back top-5s into the Amundi Evian Championship this week. She’s leading the LPGA with 4.3 birdies per round. Her ability to score low makes her a constant threat to top leaderboards this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the JTBC Classic, fourth KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 HSBC Women’s World Championship
Last month: 4th

5. Lydia Ko

Ko’s ironwoman top-30 streak finally ended with a T-46 finish at the PGA Championship. The result came a year after her last finish outside the top-30, with a T-52 at the 2021 PGA. This week, she has her first opportunity to win a major championship since the 2016 ANA Inspiration.

“I think we all try and peak at the majors,” Ko said at the U.S. Women’s Open. “You’re just trying to play the best golf you can and, at the same time, not think of it any differently than any other event. But to play solid, I think it just shows what point my game is at. I know there are things to improve, but there’s still a lot of good from there.”

Ko has played her most consistent golf at the Evian Resort Course. Including her maiden major win in 2015, she’s posted six top-10s in eight starts at the Amundi Evian Championship.

Starts: 12
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Win at the Gainbridge LPGA, T-3 Palos Verdes Championship, Fifth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 2nd

6. Brooke Henderson

Henderson’s victory at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club completed a boomerang of a season for Canada’s winningest golfer. The 24-year-old started the season on a tear with four top-10s, including a second-place finish to earn fifth place in the first edition of these power rankings.

Then Henderson faltered. She withdrew from the Lotte Championship and missed the cut in both Los Angeles-area tournaments.

Henderson has since turned her season around, finishing within the top 16 in her last four starts. That run includes her 11th-career victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic. Despite the rollercoaster nature of her season, Henderson is third on the tour with a 69.791 scoring average.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, runner-up Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, T-4 Honda LPGA Thailand
Last month: Not Ranked

After losing her lead at the PGA Championship last month, Lexi Thompson hasn't won a major since 2014. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

7. Lexi Thompson

Not all runner-ups are created equal. Thompson’s runner-up finish at the PGA Championship was her fourth at a major, and came after she squandered a two-stroke lead to Chun on the final three holes. Thompson’s lone major victory remains her title at the 2014 ANA Inspiration.

That low moment doesn’t take away from Thompson’s impressive campaign near the top of leaderboards. All of her top-10 finishes this season have come inside the top 6. Thompson’s 69.6 scoring average is second only to Lee. She’s hitting the most greens in regulation (76.8 percent) of any player on tour. Thompson missed her first cut of the season at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational last week, and the 27-year-old is fourth in the Annika Rolex Major award, one win away from seizing the lead.

Thompson took a chance off the board by not entering the field at the Amundi Evian Championship field this week. Instead, she’ll have to wait for her opportunity at major redemption when she tees off at the AIG Women’s Open.

Starts: 10
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 Chevron Championship, second LPGA Drive On Championship Crown Colony
Last month: 5th

8. Nasa Hataoka

After missing the cut at the LOTTE Championship in April, the Japanese star started working with a new coach and has turned her season around. Including a win at the DIO Implant LA Open, she’s finished in the top-6 in four of her last six starts.

Her last top-6 was a T-5 at the PGA Championship. Her final-round 69 at Congressional Country Club was the only score in the 60s on Sunday for her best finish at a major this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at DIO Implant LA Open, T-5 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

9. In Gee Chun

Chun’s first-round 64 at the PGA Championship matched Mickey Wright’s five-stroke opening round lead at the same tournament in 1961. No one else even got to eight-under par at any other point that week. Chun followed it up with a three-under 69 in the second round, giving her a six-shot cushion entering the weekend. After losing the lead, she came back to win the fourth LPGA title of her career.

Only Anna Nordqvist (three) and Inbee Park (four) have won as many different major championships as Chun, who added the PGA trophy to her victories at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 2
Notable finishes: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Win, T-2 HSBC Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

10. Hye-Jin Choi

The rookie leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes this season, made more impressive by the fact the 22-year-old is seeing some of these courses for the first time.

Because of her success in South Korea, however, she has made major starts on the LPGA Tour before this year. As an amateur, she finished runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and she made two starts at the Amundi Evian Championship in 2017 (T-14) and 2019 (T-49).

Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 8
Notable finishes: Third U.S. Women’s Open, Third Lotte Championship, T-5 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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