Sunday, February 20, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 2-20-2011

 "BADDS" WINS FIRST TIME IN 4 YEARS
Aaron Baddeley has won the Northern Trust Open for his first PGA Tour victory in four years.

In a battle of two generations, the 29-year-old Baddeley didn’t make a mistake over the last six holes at Riviera to hold off Vijay Singh and 51-year-old Fred Couples, who was trying to become the oldest PGA Tour winner in more than 35 years.

Baddeley closed with a 2-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Singh, who turns 48 on Tuesday.

Couples birdied the opening three holes for a one-shot lead that revved up Riviera, but it all changed on the seventh hole—a birdie by Baddeley from the fringe, a double bogey for Couples.

It was the third career PGA Tour win for Baddeley, who had fallen to No. 224 in the world. This gets him back to the Masters.



LANGER IS ACES
Bernhard Langer shot a 6-under-par 66 Sunday to set a tournament record with a 20-under 196 total and win the ACE Group Classic by four shots.

The 53-year-old Langer held a four-stroke lead going into the final round. Fred Funk got within two after Langer bogeyed No. 11, but Langer came right back with birdies on Nos. 12 and 14. He finished with a 5-footer for birdie on No. 18.

Funk had a chance to make the final hole a little interesting, but missed a short birdie putt on No. 17 and finished with a 66 for a 16-under total.

Nick Price  and Russ Cochran tied for third, another shot back. Mark Calcavecchia  was fifth at 14 under.

Langer, a three-time Champions Tour Player of the Year, won after what had been a slow start to the year. He finished tied for 16th and 17th in the season’s first two full-field events.

Unhappy with those two finishes, Langer practiced hard this week. He came in with a new driver, even longer putter and three sets of irons to try. And it paid off for him.

It marked the 10th time in 11 tournaments Langer has won when he either held or shared the lead after two rounds. The German had played well in his previous two appearances in Naples, tying for fourth last year and for third in 2009.

Langer earned 240 Charles Schwab Cup points. Tom Lehman, who didn’t play this week, leads the points race with 454, followed by John Cook, Cochran and Jeff Sluman.



CHOWRASIA IS A MASTER
Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia of India got his second professional win at the Avantha Masters on Sunday, shooting a 5-under 67 for a one stroke victory over Robert Coles of England.

Chowrasia set the clubhouse target of 15-under 273 at the joint Euro-Asian tour event and then had to wait an hour while Coles finished his round at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

The Englishman had several chances to win over the closing holes but couldn't sink the putts to pull it off. U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret of France claimed third another shot back after a 68.

First-round leader Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands was fourth after shooting a 69 to finish at 12 under. Overnight leader Pablo Larrazabal of Spain shot 72 and ended in a tie for fifth with India's Sujjan Singh at 11 under.



TSENG IS UNBEATABLE
Top-ranked Yani Tseng earned her third tournament win in three weeks Sunday, shooting a 6-under 66 to pull away for a comfortable five-shot victory over Michelle Wie in the LPGA Thailand.

Tseng led by one stroke over Wie and I.K. Kim going into the final round of the season-opening LPGA event and had the lowest score of the day with seven birdies and one bogey to finish at 15-under 273.
Wie settled for a 70 to finish second in the season-opening LPGA event, while Kim had a 71 was another stroke back in a tie for third with Karrie Webb, who shot a 69. Paula Creamer was fifth at 8 under after a 71.

Tseng took over the No. 1 ranking after winning back-to-back Ladies European Tour events, the Australian Open and then the Australian Ladies Masters last weekend.

Kim birdied three of her first six holes to sit tied for the lead with Tseng, and was at 13 under after a birdie on the 13th. However, she made a quintuple bogey on the 17th to fall out of contention, before finishing with a birdie to secure a tie for third.

Wie also put pressure on Tseng by chipping in for a birdie on the first hole and picking up two more shots on the sixth and seventh. But she didn’t make another birdie the rest of the way and was four shots behind Tseng when she bogeyed the 17th.

Tseng will go for a fourth straight victory next week in Singapore.



SMITH WINS NZ EVENT
Australia’s Kristie Smith shot a 4-under 68 to overtake Italy’s Giulia Sergas and win the New Zealand Women’s Open on Sunday. Smith finished with a 72-hole total of 12-under-par 276 to claim her first title on the Ladies European Tour.

Smith, a former Australian amateur champion, turned professional in 2009 and won her first title last year on the Australian LPGA Tour.



IN OTHER NEWS
Jim Gray got in a heated argument with Dustin Johnson's caddie, to the point that The Golf Channel has removed Gray from its coverage this week from the Northern Trust Open.

According to USA Today's Michael McCarthy, Johnson's caddie went into a profanity-laced screaming match with Gray after he reported on The Golf Channel earlier that day that Johnson had landed a two-shot penalty for being late to the tee.

Johnson's caddie, Bobby Brown, took most of the heat for the late tee-time arrival, with Dustin even commenting after the round that he doesn't look at the time, leaving that up to the caddie.



The Barclays wants to take its FedEx Cup playoff event to Bethpage Black in 2012.

A person informed of the plans told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Barclays and the PGA Tour are negotiating to bring the tournament to the Long Island public course that has hosted two U.S. Opens.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said such a deal would need approval by the New York state parks and recreation department and the tour’s policy board.

The Barclays, the opening playoff event for the FedEx Cup, has rotated around New York and northern New Jersey since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. It has gone from Westchester to Liberty National to Ridgewood Country Club, and is set for this year at Plainfield Country Club.

Westchester, the original home to The Barclays, has been given the Senior Players Championship this year.
Dave Catalano, director of Bethpage State Park, was not in the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the tour would have no comment on any discussions.

Bethpage Black is such a popular attraction that golfers are known to sleep overnight in their cars with hopes of getting a tee time. The U.S. Open was an instant hit when it first went there in 2002, attracting some 50,000 fans, many of whom watched the world’s best players compete on what local duffers regard as their public golf course.



Phil Mickelson was planning a Spanish menu for the Champions Dinner at the Masters to honor two-time champion Seve Ballesteros until realizing the Spaniard was not healthy enough to travel.

Mickelson said Tuesday on a conference call that he had been in contact with Ballesteros, hopeful that he would be able to return to Augusta National this year despite his ongoing battle with brain cancer.

“I just sent him an e-mail saying that if he were able to come, and feeling healthy enough to be able to make this tournament, I would love to have the dinner be something that he would like—a Spanish dish of paella or whatever he thought would be appropriate,” Mickelson said. “I wanted to kind of honor him.”

Mickelson said some e-mails he received recently indicate that Ballesteros will not be able to make it.

“Our thoughts and prayers are going to be with him that evening,” Mickelson said.

Ballesteros was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2008, a year after he announced his retirement from golf at an emotional press conference at Carnoustie during the British Open.


PGA champion Martin Kaymer and 17-year-old Matteo Manassero have accepted exemptions to play in the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.

The tournament also offered an exemption to Dubai winner Alvaro Quiros, one of golf’s longest hitters.

The Transitions Championship will be played March 17-20. Jim Furyk is the defending champion of a tournament that quietly has attracted one of the stronger fields leading to the Masters.

Kaymer is ranked No. 2 and will be playing Innisbrook for the first time.



Former President George W. Bush is following after his father again, this time as the honorary chair of The First Tee program.

His father, former President George H.W. Bush, had been the honorary chair since the creation of The First Tee in 1997. He will now move to an emeritus role.

As honorary chair, Bush is to provide leadership and support to The First Tee’s mission of reaching children through educational programs that build character and teach values through golf.

The announcement came Friday at The First Tee’s biennial meeting of more than 600 people involved in various chapters around the country. The First Tee says it has reached more than 4.7 million through its programs since 1997.


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