Sunday, March 6, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-6-2011

 SABBATINI WINS HONDA
 Rory Sabbatini began the day with a big lead, turned back a challenge on the back nine and shot an even-par 70 Sunday for a one-stroke victory in the Honda Classic.

Sabbatini sank a 2-foot par putt on No. 18 to finish at 9-under 271. He earned his first PGA Tour title since the 2009 Byron Nelson Championship and sixth overall.

Y.E. Yang birdied the final hole for a closing 66 to finish 8 under. Jerry Kelly, who played with Sabbatini and Yang in the final threesome, shot a 67 and took third at 7 under.

Sabbatini started the final round ahead by five shots, and was still in front by five when he finished No. 8. But Yang was within one stroke seven holes later, thanks to birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 and two bogeys by Sabbatini.

Then came treacherous Nos. 15-17, the water-laden stretch known as the Bear Trap. But there would be no collapse by the leader.

A change in putters before the tournament gave Sabbatini’s game a lift, and the new club came through again on No. 16 when he sank a 16-foot birdie putt to go back up by two.

Then he put his tee shot on the dangerous par-three 17th in the middle of the green.

Moments later, the horn sounded to signal a stoppage in play because of lightning in the area. The leaders found refuge in a van as heavy rain fell during a 28-minute delay.

But the threat to Sabbatini’s lead had passed, and when play resumed he easily closed out the win.

Lee Westwood, who fell to No. 2 in the rankings behind Martin Kaymer on Feb. 28, shot 70 and tied for 29th. He needed a top-three finish to regain the top ranking.

Graeme McDowell shot a 64, matching the lowest score in the event since it moved to PGA National in 2007, and was 2 under for the tournament.

The average round was 2 1/2 strokes above par. Since the beginning of 2010, only last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach has had a higher average—4 over par.



 PAPPAS WINS IN BOGOTA
Brenden Pappas won the Bogota Open on Sunday when lightning wiped out the third round, reducing the Nationwide Tour event to 36 holes.


The 40-year-old South African had rounds of 67 and 66 to finish at 9 under at Bogota Country Club. He earned $108,000 in official money, but is credited with an unofficial victory because the players failed to complete 54 holes in the scheduled 72-hole tournament.

“This was a hollow victory because it’s unofficial,” Pappas said. “We didn’t get to play 72 holes, but it’s a victory nonetheless.”

Pappas’ group played three holes before the players were pulled off the course for the last time just before 2 p.m. Matt Every shot two 67s to finish second. Pappas’ birdie on his 36th hole Saturday was the margin of victory over Every.




IN OTHER NEWS
Frank Chirkinian, the longtime golf producer for CBS who helped turn the Masters into one of the most watched events in sports television, has died. He was 84.

Chirkinian died Friday at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., after a long bout with lung cancer, his son told The Associated Press. He was surrounded by friends and family.

The television pioneer was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame just last month, during an emergency vote after it became widely known he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He will be inducted posthumously on May 9 in St. Augustine, Fla., in the lifetime achievement category.



Jack Nicklaus doubts his lead in Grand Slam titles will last, because he anticipates that Tiger Woods’ slump will end.

Woods hasn’t won a tournament since he became immersed in a sex scandal in November 2009, and he’s stalled at 14 major titles, four shy of Nicklaus’ record.

“I still think he’ll break my record,” Nicklaus said Wednesday

Before playing a round Wednesday in the Honda Classic pro-am, Nicklaus said he still thinks his record will be broken by Woods.

Woods isn’t playing Honda. Last week, he was eliminated in the first round of the Match Play Championship, and he has failed to crack the top 20 in his three tournaments this year.



Lee Trevino also has chimed in on the Tiger mess, speaking in Dallas to promote the upcoming HP Byron Nelson Championship, he noted that Woods needs to burn it all, burn it to the ground.

"My suggestion to Tiger Woods, which I don't know will ever happen," he said, "is he's got to look at the film from when he started winning all those tournaments and go right back to what he was doing and get rid of all these people." He was speaking of swing instructors and the like, but you could probably add all of Woods' entourage and hangers-on and not be too far off the mark.

Trevino echoed the thoughts of many that the younger generation has, at the very least, caught up to Woods, and that getting from 14 to 18 is going to be a lot harder than getting from zero to 14.



Phil Mickelson played a practice round at Pebble Beach on the Saturday before the U.S. Open and was walking back to his car when he felt pain in his ankle, hip and even his finger. It was uncomfortable, but no great cause for alarm.

“I thought it might just be wear and tear of the joints over the years,” he said.

The scare came a week after the U.S. Open during a family holiday in Hawaii when the pain returned.

Mickelson was lucky to detect it early.
He immediately saw a rheumatologist in San Diego, then went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. Both agreed that he had psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes pain, stiffness and swelling around the joints.

Mickelson was able to get on a treatment plan, and he felt good enough to resume his full workouts by November.

But it left a lasting impression, and Mickelson wants to do his part to help educate others about the disease.

Mickelson has created a partnership with Amgen biotech company and Pfizer, Inc. and will launch a public awareness campaign on Wednesday called “On Course with Phil.” The idea is for people with psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or plaque psoriasis to have it diagnosed early and get on a treatment program that’s best for them.

The three-time Masters champion has not signed any endorsement deal, and he said it will not be visible on his bag or other attire. There were will be advertising, along with a website (oncoursewithphil.com) in which people can read his story and get information on the disease, from its symptoms to finding the right treatment.

Mickelson said he lost about 20 percent of his strength, along with some swing speed. He said most of the speed has returned, and he hoped to have the rest of it back during the road to the Masters.

It cost him part of last summer, no doubt. He was never in contention at the British Open, and made his move too late to seriously contend at the U.S. PGA Championship, where he first revealed he had psoriatic arthritis. He had a chance in the second half of the season to go to No. 1 in the world, but he had only one top-10 finish.



Mike Davis is taking over as executive director of the U.S. Golf Association without having to give up part of his old job that he loved the most - setting up golf courses for the U.S. Open.

The USGA said Wednesday it has selected Davis to be its seventh executive director. He replaces David Fay, who retired in December after 21 years in charge.

Davis, a 21-year veteran of the USGA and its senior director of rules and competition since 2005, has become popular with the players over the last five years for his sense of fairness in setting up U.S. Open courses. He introduced the concept of graduated rough, and twice in the last four years has declined to change a par 4 into a par 5 because he felt it made those holes fair and exciting.



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