Monday, January 31, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 1-30-2011

 WATSON TAKES FARMERS
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.



CASEY WINS INAUGURAL EVENT
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.



NICKLAUS & WATSON DEFEND CHAMPIONS SKINS TITLE
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.



 IN OTHER NEWS
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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