Two of the world’s top golfers who have dominated their sport at times, Tiger Woods and Yani Tseng, earned selection as the United States Sports Academy’s March Athletes of the Month.
Woods, who has won the second most majors in history with 14, finally snapped a streak of 31 tournaments without a victory in March when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It was Wood’s first tour win since the Sept. 13, 2009 BMW Championship. Woods, who closed with a two-under 70 in the final round to defeat Graeme McDowell, moved up 12 places in the professional golf rankings to No. 6. For the first time in over a year, he is ranked in the top 10 again in the world.
Meanwhile, Yani Tseng won back-to-back LPGA tournaments in March. She captured the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., by six strokes and the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, Ariz., by one stroke after overcoming a three-stroke deficit. The 23-year-old Taiwanese golfer’s Kia Classic title gave her 15 career wins on the LPGA tour and it was her third win in five starts in 2012. The victories increased Tseng’s lead in the world rankings over No. 2 Na Yeon Choi by a bigger margin than the gap between Choi and the final name (No. 766) on the rankings.
The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website between the first day and second Tuesday of each month to vote on the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.
Finishing second in the men’s category was Ashton Eaton, who shattered his own world heptathlon record by 77 points with a seven-event total score of 6,645 points at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Instanbul, Turkey. The American’s world-record performance included the fastest ever 60-meter hurdles (7.68 seconds) in the heptathlon event at the indoor competition. His victory margin of 574 points over silver medalist Oleksiy Kasyanov of Ukraine was the largest victory in world indoor history.
The runner up to Tseng on the women’s ballot was American skier Lindsey Vonn, who won the giant slalom race in Are, Sweden, to clinch her fourth FIS Alpine World Cup overall title. That is the most of any American skier and second only to Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who has won six. In the final competition of the year in Schladming, Austria, Vonn did set a women’s record for most points in a World Cup season with 1,980. She overtook Croatia’s Janica Kostelic’s best mark of 1,970 points.
Third place winners for December were Spanish soccer player Lionel Messi, who became Barcelona’s new career scoring leader with 233 goals, and Caitlin Leverenz, an American swimmer for the University of California, Berkley, who was the top performer at this year’s NCAA Championships with victories in four races.
The winners of the Academy’s male and female Athletes of the Month will be considered as candidates for the 2012 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2012, the Academy will name the male and female Athlete of the Year for the 28th consecutive year. The recipients of this prestigious award are selected annually through worldwide online balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
In 2011, the Male Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the Female Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked golfer Yani Tseng of Taiwan. Both of them dominated 2011’s ballot that drew as many as 50,000 votes a day from across the world.