Monday, January 31, 2011


Bubba Watson made clutch putts on the final two holes, including a 12-foot birdie on the par-5 18th for a 5-under 67 to win the Farmer Insurance Open in a finish filled with the kind of drama that few could have predicted.

Phil Mickelson, the San Diego favorite was one shot behind and was only 228 yards away in the rough when he decided to lay up before Watson even attempted his birdie putt.

Then came a loud cheer as Watson sank his putt for a two-shot lead, meaning Mickelson would have to hole out a wedge from 72 yards for eagle to force a playoff. He had his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay tend the flag and the gallery gasped when the ball landed just behind the hole and started to spin back toward the cup.

But it never had a chance.

Mickelson had said the secret to him playing the revamped South Course was to play it safe, and he followed that strategy all the way to a runner-up finish. Mickelson closed with a 69 to finish one shot behind.

Watson finished at 16-under 272 for his second victory, although this one came against a much stronger field than his playoff win at the Travelers Championship last summer.

He held off Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas, the Venezuela rookie coming off a win at the Bob Hope Classic last week. Vegas tied Watson for the lead on the 10th hole and stayed in range throughout the back nine until his 5-iron from the first cut of rough on the 18th came up well short and into the water.

He made bogey for a 68 and tied for third with Johnson, who shot 66.

Tiger Woods also was in the field, although no one noticed during the final two hours. Woods, who started the final round eight shots behind, closed with a 75 to end his five-tournament winning streak at Torrey Pines. He had never finished out of the top 10 at Torrey Pines, but wound up 15 shots back in a tie for 44th.

It was his worst season debut since his first full season on the PGA Tour in 1997.

England’s Paul Casey sank a 5-foot par putt at the last hole to win the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions for his first title in 20 months.

Casey needed the putt at No. 18 at the Royal Golf Club Sunday to secure the victory after playing partner and co-leader Peter Hanson of Sweden missed an up-and-down from the greenside bunker.

The Englishman closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 20-under 268, while Hanson fell into a tie for second with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, who earlier had made a birdie at the last to finish at 269.

Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher was another stroke back in fourth after a 67, and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, last year’s Dubai World Championship winner, was alone in fifth at 17-under after a 66.

Casey was relieved to end his victory drought, which also included a six-month period when he was injured.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson successfully defended their Champions Skins Game title Sunday, finishing with seven skins and $310,000 to edge Mark O’Meara and Bernhard Langer by $10,000.

Nicklaus and Watson took five skins and $250,000 on the par-3 17th. Nicklaus hit a 6-iron from 136 yards to 12 feet and Watson made the birdie putt in the alternate-shot event that they also won in 2007.

O’Meara and Langer had seven skins. Langer made a 7-footer for birdie on the 11th hole worth $80,000 and O’Meara tapped in for par on the second playoff hole for the final $100,000.

Fred Couples and Nick Price claimed $80,000, matching Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller.

With a sudden stiff wind swirling in his face, Nicklaus got a break when he teed off last on 17.

“I saw the guys try to hit 7-irons and they were hitting the ball, they were spinning it and they were going all over the place,” he said. “So I said, `I’m going to take my 6-iron, choke it down a couple inches and just pick it, and try to make sure I didn’t put any spin on the ball. Which is what I did. It turned out to be a pretty darn good shot.

A day earlier, Nicklaus’ 5-iron from 185 yards that landed within 3 feet on the second hole, leaving Watson a tap-in birdie for their only skins of the afternoon.

CBS has extended its contract to broadcast the PGA Championship for another eight years.
The network said Thursday the new deal with the PGA of America would go through 2019. CBS has aired the season’s last major since 1991.

CBS Sports President Sean McManus said the network used conservative estimates in predicting what kinds of ratings the tournament would draw in coming years.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is asking the USGA to review the Rules of Golf after two prominent players were disqualified for rules violations that were reported after they signed their scorecards.

Television viewers called in violations by Camilo Villegas in Hawaii and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi. They were assessed two-shot penalties, but because officials were notified after the round, the players were disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Finchem made it clear he is not asking that the penalty related to signing an incorrect card be changed.
He said he wants a “full and thorough review” of the rule, so golf officials can ask if there is a better way to penalize players. One suggestion is to assess the two-stroke penalty even after the card has been signed, provided the player was not aware he had broken a rule.

Regardless of the outcome, tours have a right to set their own rules for a tournament. Finchem, however, has not been in favor of the PGA Tour getting into the business of making rules. He prefers the USGA to handle that.

John Daly is upset with two tournaments that did not invite him to play. He says he will never go back to them.

Without prompting Thursday, Daly said he would never return to the Bob Hope Classic or the Phoenix Open. Daly has received exemptions to two tournaments this year, including the Farmers Insurance Open this week. He was turned down for the second straight year by the Hope and Phoenix.

Daly says he has done everything the tournaments have asked of him, and it hurts him to get turned down.

The two-time major champion has not had his full PGA Tour card for the past five years, so he has to rely on sponsor exemptions. Daly has not tried to get his card back at Q-school, saying he would rather rely on exemptions.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011


Martin Kaymer shot a 6-under par 66 on Sunday to win the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship by eight shots and climb above Tiger Woods as No. 2 in the world rankings.

Kaymer earned his third win in four years in Abu Dhabi with a 24-under total of 264. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland finished second after a final-round 69, while Retief Goosen and Graeme McDowell were another two shots back in third.

It was the biggest winning margin and lowest total score in the history of the tournament. The victory will lift Kaymer from third to second in the world rankings, below Lee Westwood.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was disqualified before the second round of the HSBC Championship after the Irishman was judged to have illegally moved his ball during Thursday’s first round.

European Tour senior referee Andy McFee said Friday that a viewer emailed to say Harrington replaced his ball on the green and, as he took the coin away, his hand moved the ball. Since the ball was not replaced, Harrington incurred a two stroke penalty not reflected on his scorecard.

Jhonattan Vegas made a 13-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to win the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday, holding off Gary Woodland for his first PGA Tour victory.

The first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour event, the rookie won in just his fifth tour start despite hitting his tee shot in the water on the 92nd hole of the five-day tournament. Vegas capitalized when Woodland made two poor chip shots, pumping his fist in celebration after his putt fell.

Vegas and Woodland eliminated defending champion Bill Haas with birdies on the first playoff hole after all three finished the final round at 27-under 333. Vegas is the third straight player to get his first PGA Tour victory at the Hope, joining Pat Perez and Haas.

Playing one group apart, Haas and Vegas both missed short putts on the final regulation hole. A few minutes after Haas botched a 6-footer for birdie, Vegas couldn’t connect from 9 feet, making his only bogey of the final day.

Vegas and Woodland closed with 3-under 69s and Haas shot a 66.

Woodland and Vegas shared the lead after each of the final three rounds, and Woodland got into the playoff with a birdie on the final regulation hole.

With the light fading Vegas shook his head in dismay after dropping his tee shot in the water on the second playoff hole but Woodland showed a bigger case of nerves with the win in sight. His approach shot landed in a bunker, and his sand shot trickled to the opposite side of the green.

After his drop, Vegas confidently put his exceptional approach shot behind the pin before holing a $900,000 putt.

While Vegas saved pars on the 15th and 16th holes with solid putts, Woodland appeared unable to make up for his early mistakes until he pulled back within one stroke on the 16th, putting a 103-yard shot from the fairway within 4 feet for an easy birdie.

At almost the same moment Vegas barely missed a 26-foot birdie putt on the 17th green, Haas missed his birdie putt on the 18th. Woodland then missed a 4 1/2 -foot par putt, falling two strokes behind Vegas heading to the 18th.

Vegas’ approach shot on the 18th was 47 feet short, and he failed to two-putt to victory.

Ryan Palmer shot an 8-under 64 in the final round to finish fourth at 26 under, while Brian Gay’s 10-under 62 shot him up from 37th place to a tie for fifth with Kevin Na at 24 under.

John Cook birdied five straight holes after the turn to win the Champions Tour’s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship on Sunday, shooting a second straight 8-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Tom Lehman.

The 53-year-old Cook had eight birdies in his bogey-free round for a 22-under 194 total and his second straight victory. He finished last season with a successful title defense in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

After two birdies on the front side, Cook scorched the back nine, dropping putt after putt. He birdied six holes during a seven-hole stretch to take home the trophy.

The win was Cook’s sixth on the 50-and-over circuit.

Lehman, who closed with a 64, had an eagle, eight birdies and two bogeys. Defending champion Tom Watson shot a 68 to finish third at 19 under.

Jose Maria Olazabal will captain Europe’s Ryder Cup team when it defends the trophy against the United States at Medinah in 2012.

The 44-year-old Spaniard, who played in seven Ryder Cups and was Europe’s vice-captain for the last two matches, was appointed captain on Tuesday. He succeeds Colin Montgomerie, who guided Europe to a 14 1/2 -13 1/2 victory at Celtic Manor, Wales, in October.

Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion was the unanimous choice among Europe’s leading players.

Davis Love III  was introduced Thursday as the next U.S. captain of the Ryder Cup. The daylong celebration of Love’s appointment wraps up a week that put the Ryder Cup in the news some 18 months before the next shot is struck. Europe, which won the gold trophy in Wales last October, appointed two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal as its captain Tuesday.

Love’s appointment was hardly a secret, and it was clear he’s already working on a plan to reverse the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup woes. Europe has won six of the last eight matchups.

Love has started talking with PGA and Medinah officials about course setup. He’s thought about the qualities he wants in his vice captains and who might be suited for those jobs. At dinner Wednesday night, he and wife Robin spent part of the time looking at the ballrooms and imagining how they could be configured for team meeting rooms.

Scottish golfer Elliot Saltman was banned for three months by the European Tour on Wednesday for marking his ball incorrectly during an event last year.

The incident happened during the first round of the Russian Challenge Cup in Moscow on Sept. 16. The 28-year-old Saltman was disqualified from the event and attended a disciplinary hearing in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

A statement released by the tour said its tournament committee unanimously found that Saltman “committed a serious breach,” suspending him from all European Tour and Challenge Tour-sanctioned tournaments with immediate effect.

Saltman is the first professional to be banned from the European Tour since 1992, when Johan Tumba of Sweden was suspended for 10 years for altering his scorecard at qualifying school. David Robertson was also banned for 20 years in 1985 for replacing his ball incorrectly in a qualifying event for the British Open.

Saltman admitted after the event in the Russian capital that he had broken the rules but has since retracted those comments, saying last month that he was “sorry now that I didn’t stand up for myself.”

He has the right to appeal against the tournament committee’s verdict within 28 days.

Saltman’s two playing partners in the event in Russia—Marcus Higley and Stuart Davis, both of England—also attended the disciplinary hearing.

Saltman gained full membership of the tour in November.

A nurse who was fired for looking at golfer Tiger Woods’ medical records in the days after his November 2009 car crash is suing an Orlando-area hospital for defamation.

David M. Rothenberg has sued Health Central for $400,000 in damages, reinstatement, and is asking for a letter from hospital officials explaining that he was fired based on circumstantial evidence.
Woods was treated at the facility after the crash outside his home in Windermere, Fla., Orlando’s richest suburb.

Officials say they fired Rothenberg, a registered nurse, in December 2009 for using his computer to look at Woods’ records three times over a 10-minute period. Rothenberg faces losing his nursing license because of the allegations.

In the lawsuit, he denies looking at the records.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011


Mark Wilson won his third career PGA Tour tournament at the Sony Open.  Wilson outlasted the field on a final day 36 hole marathon to gain the two stroke victory over Steve Marino and Tim Clark.

Wilson  made it through Sunday  without a bogey and held on for a two-shot victory that earns him his first trip to the Masters.

Wilson shot a 5-under 65 in the morning to take a one-shot lead into the afternoon round. He built a four-shot lead at the turn, then had to hang on as Clark and Marino made late run.

Clark birdied three of his last four holes, and narrowly missed an eagle putt on the ninth hole for a 64.

Marino made two late birdies, then hit a fairway metal with his feet in the bunker and the ball on the side of a hill about chest-high. He managed to reach the green, but his eagle putt turned away for a 68.
Wilson made one last birdie for a 67 to earn his victory.

Charl Schwartzel successfully defended his Joburg Open title on Sunday, birdieing the last hole for a 4-under 67 that gave him a four-stroke victory.

The South African finished at 19-under 265, overcoming a midround wobble at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Overnight co-leader and compatriot Garth Mulroy shot a 71 to finish second in the last of four events on the European Tour’s season-opening South African swing.

Thomas Aiken, also of South Africa, had a 72 and was another shot back in third. England’s Jamie Elson was another stroke back in fourth, one shot ahead of Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, who was alone in fifth.

The top five players all qualified for next week’s $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Schwartzel, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 32, had six birdies and two bogeys in the final round , but fired a string of wayward tee and approach shots and was forced to scramble to stay ahead.

He bogeyed Nos. 4 and 9, and struggled to save par on Nos. 10-11 before he moved three shots clear with a chip-in birdie from the bunker on No. 13 after which his lead was never threatened.


The LPGA Tour has denied the request of 15-year-old Alexis Thompson to double the amount of exemptions she is allowed. But under a change in open qualifying, the teenager can earn her way into tournaments.

Thompson has asked for a limited membership that would allow her to take as many as 12 sponsor exemptions instead of six.

In denying the request, LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said she would be able to pursue additional playing opportunities by trying to qualify on Monday. Until this year, only LPGA Tour members were allowed to Monday qualify.

Thompson, who turns 16 next month, earned the equivalent of 34th on the LPGA money list last year. Her best finish was second place at the Evian Masters.

Ernie Els has reached a point in his career where he will not be traveling as far, and making decisions based as much on his business ventures as the golf itself.

One of the first tournaments to go is the Scottish Open, which he has won twice and played the last nine years.

Els signed an endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Canada, the title sponsor of the Canadian Open. The third-oldest national championship in golf falls at an awkward time in the PGA Tour schedule—one week after the British Open, two weeks before the start of a grueling stretch that includes a World Golf Championship, the PGA Championship and four FedEx Cup playoff events.

The Big Easy said he would be there.

Els said he wants to focus more on America, where he now spends most of his time, and where his children are in school. He also is trying to raise money for an autism center in Florida.

Golfers at a South Florida course found their game took an unusual turn Saturday afternoon, as a single-engine plane was forced to make an emergency landing in front of them.

One player, told a local tv station that  the pilot made a perfect landing near the seventh hole as he was about to putt for par on the eighth. He missed the putt.

Pilot Annette Simon, 35, who landed her aircraft on the Greynolds Park Golf Course in North Miami Beach after she heard an unusual noise and experienced engine roughness, said she checked to make sure no one was on the green as she landed.

Simon’s plane was carrying an advertisement banner, which she released before landing safely. The plane later took off again and landed at North Perry Airport.

Young guns, move over, because we have a veteran in Hawaii that defines all parts of the word. Dave Eichelberger,  a four-time PGA Tour winner, qualified for this week's Sony Open, and has a chance to become the oldest player ever to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

How did he get there? By shooting his age, a 67, at the Aloha Section Stroke Play Championship back in September. The announcement was made in early September that the winner of the event would get a spot on the Sony, and Eichelberger is pleased to be back on the PGA Tour.

So how did he do? He missed the cut after rounds of 76 and 78.

Congratulations to Hunter Mahan and Kandi Harris, the latest marriage on the golf scene. Hunter and the new Kandi Mahan were married Jan. 15.

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Monday, January 10, 2011


 The 2011 PGA Tour season started with a playoff won by Jonathan Byrd on the second extra hole when Robert Garrigus missed his par putt from about five feet.

Garrigus had birdied the 18th to tie leader Jonathan Byrd. Byrd was unable to birdie 18 , settled for par and a playoff.

It had been 10 years since an American had won the season-opening Tournament of Champions, and Byrd reached the same conclusion as most everyone else. Players like Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy, who combined for five of those wins, had been playing deep into the previous season in Australia. That or the fact Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson stopped coming to Maui.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that a sudden-death playoff on Sunday came down to Byrd and Robert Garrigus, who won the last two tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.

Garrigus was in danger of losing his card until winning Disney. In the previous domestic event, Byrd won a three-man playoff in Las Vegas by making an ace in near darkness for perhaps the most stunning win on tour all year.

Byrd and Garrigus each closed with a 6-under 67 to finish on 24-under 268, and both had a chance to win in regulation.

Someone forgot to tell the Graeme McDowell that 2010 is over, for the man from Northern Ireland showed he wasn’t quite ready to leave a dream season. Even though he started the final round six shots back, McDowell played as though he had something to prove.

He made 11 birdies through 16 holes and suddenly was atop the leaderboard, although others still had birdie holes ahead of them. McDowell had a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole that he hit too hard. If he had made it, McDowell would have been in the playoff.

He had to settle for a 62, matching the Plantation Course record set by K.J. Choi in the third round of 2003. Most frustrating was that he didn’t birdie the 18th hole all week.

Next up is the Sony Open. Ryan Palmer defends.

British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen won a three-way playoff on the first hole to win the Africa Open title at the East London Golf Club Sunday.

The South African finished the final round at 16-under 276 and sank a 12-foot birdie on the 18th to dash the hopes of Chris Wood of England and Manuel Quiros of Spain.
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It was Oosthuizen’s first victory since the British Open at St. Andrews in July.

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa posted a final-round 70 to finish tied for fourth alongside countryman Jaco van Zyl and Steven O’Hara of Scotland at 15 under.

Oosthuizen struggled with his control off the tee throughout the early going Sunday, but managed to find his touch on the 545-yard 15th. A solid and straight drive set up an 8-iron to the green. From there Oosthuizen sank a 15-footer for eagle and a share of the lead.

His waywardness off the tee returned on the playoff hole when he hooked his drive left. However, the South African salvaged the hole with an approach to within 12 feet.

Quiros’ chip from the fringe for birdie was unsuccessful and Wood’s 25-footer narrowly missed the hole, leaving Oosthuizen to hole out and take the win.

Joint overnight leader Markus Brier of Austria shot a final-round 73 and finished three shots back in a six-way tied for eighth.

Europe dominated Sunday’s singles matches to produce an unlikely comeback over Asia and defend its Royal Trophy title with a 9-7 victory at the Black Mountain Golf Club. Asia needed 2 1/2 points from the eight singles matches to clinch the win but the Europeans held them to just one, winning six of the eight matchups with the other two all square.
Asia had led 6-2 going into the final day after sweeping the fourball matches Saturday.

Three days after gouging his right index finger on a coral reef at the beach, two-time defending champion Geoff Ogilvy had no choice Thursday but to withdraw from the Tournament of Champions.

“It’s just a shame,” Ogilvy said. “It’s a treat to play here because it’s just the guys who won last year. It’s just a place I like to play. The longer you play, you gravitate to the ones you like playing. And to miss out on that chance is a big part of the disappointment.”

Ogilvy said it was doubtful he would play next week in Honolulu, hopeful of returning at Torrey Pines at the end of the month.

He was denied the chance to join Stuart Appleby and Gene Littler as the only players to win three successive years at the Tournament of Champions. Instead, he joins Jerry Barber (1961) as the only defending champion to not play.

Ogilvy is looking at 2011 as a big year. After taking his long break in the offseason, he won the Australian Open and lost in a playoff at the Australian PGA Championship last month.

He said doctors told him he might be able to play without ripping out the 12 stitches, just to the side of his knuckle. But without being able to put pressure on his finger, he couldn’t swing the club properly.

The freak accident happened Monday at Ironwood, a beautiful stretch of beach below the Kapalua Resort. He had planned to go surfing earlier that afternoon but “the surf was hopeless,” so he went for a swim. Walking in shallow water, Ogilvy said he slipped on a rock and instinctively put out his hands on the ocean floor when he hit a piece of coral. The cut reached the tendons, but did not do any damage.

The Golf Channel has won approval from the PGA Tour to mike up players during the course of the season, and is now in the process of figuring out who wants to have the world listen in on their thoughts, and when.

Many players simply don't want to be miked at all, which is a good idea if you have a tendency to comment on the gallery. Others want to get back into the swing of the game this year before committing, which means we may not see this happening in the next couple weeks.

Tiger Woods ended his 13-year relationship with golf’s biggest magazine when they couldn’t agree on how many hours he should devote to the job.

Golf Digest, with a circulation of 1.65 million, announced Thursday the mutual end of a relationship that began at the 1997 Masters. He made his debut in the magazine in June that year, and the endorsement had been his second-longest, behind Nike.

Golf Digest never disclosed terms of the deal, although it was believed to be among the smallest financially for Woods—no more than $2 million a year. The value came from exposure, along with some content provided for Woods’ website.

Golf Digest  needed more time from him. He wasn’t ready to commit to any more time , trying to get his swing back and working on his game.

The announcement comes two weeks after Gillette said it would not renew its contract, which expired at the end of 2010. That brings to five the number of endorsements Woods has lost since he was caught in extramarital affairs. The other three are Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade.

Golf Digest put his column on hold last February while Woods took time off to sort out his personal life, resuming the column in September.

Woods’ last column will be in the February issue, an indication that both sides had been negotiating a new deal.

Other playing editors at Golf Digest include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.

“I enjoyed my relationship with Golf Digest,” Woods said in a statement released by the magazine. “But we have decided it’s now time for a break. I wish my friends at Golf Digest continued success.”

The LPGA Tour will play 13 times in the United States as part of a 25-tournament schedule it released Thursday, including a new event in Arizona where the players will forgo paychecks to recognize the LPGA founders.

The LPGA plays more times in Mexico (twice) than Florida (once), and its 12 trips outside the country includes seven tournament in Asia. The season begins Feb. 17 with the Honda LPGA Thailand, and concludes Nov. 20 by resurrecting the Titleholders name in Orlando, Fla.

One new event offers a unique twist.

To honor its founding members, the first domestic tournament March 18-20 at Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix will be called the LPGA Founders Cup. Instead of getting paid, the prize money will go to the LPGA Foundation that runs the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. The money and other points the players would have earned will still be applied to the money list, world ranking and award races.

The tournament will have a title sponsor—RR Donnelley, which has a marketing partnership with the tour.

The European Tour is stronger than ever, and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says he’s glad to see it.

The new golf season begins Thursday with the balance of power shifting toward Europe, which has the new world No. 1 in Lee Westwood and seven players among the top 11 in the world.

Westwood, PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy have decided not to take up membership in America, and the European Tour over the last two years has increased to 13 the number of events required of its players.

All three were eligible for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, but chose not to attend. British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, meanwhile, has chosen to play at home in the Africa Open.

The PGA Tour remains the strongest in the golf—36 of the top 50 in the world ranking are members. Beyond Europe, it attracts the top players from South Africa, Australia and South America.

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