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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