Sunday, May 29, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 5-29-2010

BRADLEY GETS FIRST PGA VICTORY
Keegan Bradley won the Byron Nelson Championship, parring the first hole of a playoff with Ryan Palmer on Sunday. Bradley sank a 2-foot par putt at the 419-yard 18th hole in the playoff, while Palmer’s approach went into the water before a 13-foot bogey putt.

Bradley, a PGA Tour rookie who never won on the Nationwide Tour, got his first professional victory nine days before his 25th birthday.

About an hour before the playoff, Bradley finished his closing round of 2-under 68 with a par at No. 18, dropping into a squat and hopping a few times in frustration when his 10-foot birdie chance slid by the hole.

Palmer and Bradley finished at 3-under 277, the highest winning score on the PGA Tour this year and the highest in relation to par in a non-major since 1999. It was the fifth playoff in six weeks and 10th overall.

Palmer forced the extra hole with a 6-foot putt at No. 18 for only the second birdie there all day. When that putt dropped, Palmer punched his right fist in the air and then raised both arms over his head.

Bradley and Palmer then played No. 18 again, both going way right with their tee shots to start the playoff.

Tournament volunteers quickly dismantled and moved a temporary lemonade stand to give Bradley, a Vermont native who played at St. John’s, a line of sight to the green and avoid the necessity for a drop.

Bradley’s approach was dangerously close to sliding off the side of the green into the water, but stayed up. Palmer went in the same direction but his ball didn’t stay dry.

On the 172-yard 17th hole, Bradley sank a 12-foot par-saving putt and responded with an emphatic fist pump. After Bradley tapped in his par putt at No. 18, third-round leader Palmer was in one of the five groups still playing.

Bradley then sat for a few minutes before going to the practice range to prepare for a playoff that almost wasn’t necessary for him to become the PGA Tour’s sixth first-time winner this season.

Ryuji Imada and Joe Ogilvie finished a stroke back at 2 under. Imada bogeyed three of his last four holes after getting to 5 under.

Defending Nelson champion Jason Day  was fifth at 1 under, the last player under par this week at TPC Four Seasons. There were brutal scoring conditions, particularly for both weekend rounds when the wind was sustained at 25 mph with gusts howling near 40.

Sergio Garcia, the 2004 Nelson champion who hasn’t won since 2008 and hasn’t locked up spots this year in the U.S. Open and British Open, began the day one stroke off the lead and in the final group.

Garcia missed a 4-foot par putt on the opening hole, then slammed his putter down on his bag walking off after his bogey putt. Things only got worse from there on way to a closing 77. He had a double bogey at the par-4 fourth hole after needing four shots to go the final 12 feet—his first chip rolled back to his feet and he ended with a double bogey.

Day, the runner-up at this year’s Masters, had his fourth top-10 finish in his last five tournaments.

Bradley’s playing partner was local teenage amateur Jordan Spieth, who had a rough finish. The 17-year-old player closed with two double bogeys and two bogeys for a 7-over 77 to finish at 6 over and tie for 32nd. That was 10 strokes higher than he shot last year at TPC Four Seasons, when he tied for 16th.



 
DONALD TAKES BMW AND #1 RANKING
Luke Donald won a duel for No. 1 with a playoff victory over fellow-Englishman Lee Westwood.

Westwood entered the BMW PGA Championship at No. 1, but it was Donald’s approach shot on No. 18—the first playoff hole—that will send him to the top when the new golf rankings are released Monday.

While Donald’s approach landed a few feet from the hole Sunday, Westwood sent his shot into a water hazard in the tournament at Wentworth. And just like that, Donald was a winner and No. 1 in the world

The win was only the second in stroke play for Donald in the past five years. He won the Madrid Masters on the European Tour last year. In February, he beat a top field in winning the Match Play Championships in Marana, Ariz.

Having trailed co-leaders Matteo Manassero and Donald by two strokes entering the final round, Westwood shot a 3-under 68. Donald shot 70 and both finished at 6-under 278.

Simon Dyson of England finished third at 280, with Marcus Fraser of Australia, Raphael Jacquelin of France and Shane Lowry of Ireland another shot back .

Donald missed two previous chances to become No. 1, losing  in the World Match Play final last week in Spain and falling to in a playoff at The Heritage in April.

But his consistency in finishing in the top 10 for the past nine tournaments ensured his first playoff victory on either the European or PGA Tour will give him the No. 1 ranking.




AGELESS WONDER WATSON WINS MAJOR
Tom Watson had stood over putts like this pressure-packed 3-footer at the Senior PGA Championship for most of his adult life.

Watson summoned up some of his old major magic, holing the short birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat David Eger on Sunday.

The 61-year-old Watson, down a shot with four holes left in regulation, became the oldest player to win a major since the senior tour was created in 1980. He also became the second-oldest winner of the Senior PGA, behind only Jock Hutchison who was 62 in 1947.

Watson became the third-oldest winner of a Champions Tour event. The victory came 10 years, 2 days after he won his other Senior PGA Championship at Ridgewood Country Club in 2001.

Watson closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 10-under 278 and capture his 14th career major, six since turning 50 to go with five British Opens, two Masters and a U.S. Open.

Both Eger and Watson missed short birdie putts on the 72nd green that would have won for either in regulation, Eger pulling a 6-footer and Watson pushing one from 4 feet.

Watson went for the green with his rescue-club second shot on the playoff hole, the 18th, but it came up short and in the deep and gaping bunker that fronts the green.

Eger caught a bad break when his drive came to rest in a grassy finger on the edge of a large bunker along the left side of the fairway. He hit a layup and then a wedge to 10 feet, but missed the birdie attempt.

Taking little time after blasting out of the sand to 3 feet, Watson calmly stroked in the winner while the large gallery at Valhalla Golf Club cheered and applauded.

Kiyoshi Murota, who had at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds, closed with a 72 and was alone in third, a shot out of the playoff.

Eduardo Romero, the benefactor of a lucky bounce off the rocks that turned a bogey into a birdie at the 13th hole, and Peter Senior were at 7 under. Nick Price shot a 72 and to finish another stroke back.

The leader changed every few minutes in the final round.

Eger grabbed the top spot by rolling in a short birdie putt at the 15th. But he turned right around and gave it back on the next hole when his approach came up short of the green and he made bogey.

An instant later, Watson stroked in an 18-footer for birdie from the first cut behind the 15th green go up by a shot.

Eger responded with a 7-foot birdie putt at the uphill 16th to even things up once again.

After first Eger and then Watson missed easy birdie putts that would have given them a win, they headed for the extra hole.

“Wow. Winning again at 61,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t think it’s an age thing but, God, I’ve been out here a long time.



IN OTHER NEWS

Keenan Bradley has a golfing great in his family. Bradley's aunt is former LPGA star Pat Bradley. Pat had six major championships and 31 tour wins in her career and now her nephew has his first.



Mariajo Uribe entered Sunday's final round at Itanhanga Golf Club two-strokes behind first round leader, Heather Bowie-Young. Uribe quickly gained the lead with a birdie on the par-four fifth and held on to claim the $108,000 first-place check and take home her first-ever unofficial money win on the LPGA Tour. The Colombian recorded rounds of 69-66 to finish one-stroke ahead of Lindsey Wright.

In just her second year on the LPGA Tour, Uribe finished runner-up at last year's HSBC Brasil Cup after coming up short in a six-hole playoff with Meaghan Francella. She becomes the third champion of the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup following Meaghan Francella's win in 2010 and Catriona Matthew in 2009.




John Daly was the fourth player to quit the BMW PGA Championship when he departed after 14 holes of Friday’s second round.
Daly cited a hip injury as his reason for retiring. Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Waring, and Robert-Jan Derksen each left the premises during the first round because of back, hand, and rib woes, respectively.



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Sunday, May 22, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 5-22-2011

TOMS GETS HIS ELUSIVE VICTORY
After a week after losing in a playoff and a day after blowing a seven-stroke lead at Colonial to go into the final round trailing, the David Toms shot a 3-under 67 on Sunday to win at Colonial.

Toms regained the lead for good from Charlie Wi with an eagle with a wedge shot from 83 yards at the par-5 11th hole, and finished 15 under a stroke ahead of Wi.

Toms’ long-elusive 13th career victory came a week after a playoff loss to K.J. Choi at The Players Championship, when he missed a short par putt on the extra hole for his sixth runner-up finish since last winning in January 2006 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Wi started the final round with a one-shot lead that he quickly expanded with birdies on the first two holes. He finished with a 69 for his fourth career runner-up finish without a win.

After that playoff loss at TPC Sawgrass, Toms had an opening 62 at Colonial for his best score in 429 rounds since a career-best 61 during in his Hawaii victory. Toms followed with another bogey-free 62 to match the PGA Tour scoring record for the first 36 holes of a tournament , and opened the third round with another birdie.

At 17 under through 37 holes and seemingly in control, Toms instead had three bogeys in the next five holes. There was later a three-putt from 7 1/2 feet for double bogey and Wi took the lead with a 32-foot birdie at the par-3 16th Saturday.

Wi, the 39-year-old South Korean who made his 100th cut on the PGA Tour this weekend, had the two opening birdies Sunday while playing partner Toms missed both greens but managed pars.

Toms finally caught up at 13 under after Wi missed the green with his approach at the par-4 10th and two-putted from 13 feet for a bogey.

The clincher for Toms came on Colonial’s longest hole, the 635-yard 11th.

After laying up to a perfect spot short of the green, and Wi’s ball sitting in a frontside bunker, Toms’ wedge shot from 83 yards bounced once, landed just behind the pin and then rolled back into the cup.

Toms pumped his arms over his head with a wide smile on his face before Wi blasted to 4 1/2 feet for a birdie putt that still had him a stroke behind.

Wi then hit out of the same fairway bunker twice at the par-4 12th hole after his errant drive. He managed a bogey after finally hitting out of the fairway to 7 feet, but Toms’ 5-foot par stretched his lead to two strokes.

Toms became the first player on the PGA Tour to rebound from a playoff loss one week to winning the next since 2000, when Phil Mickelson won at Colonial after losing in a playoff at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Bo Van Pelt (65) finished third at 10 under. Defending Colonial champion Zach Johnson also shot a closing 65 to finish at 9 under in fourth place, while Robert Karlsson (67) and Chez Reavie (68) were 8 under.

After a bogey at No. 4 when his tee shot at the difficult 247-yard par 3 missed the green left, Wi quickly rebounded by draining a 35-foot birdie putt at the 481-yard 5th hole. He pumped his right fist and smiled, still with a three-stroke with Toms still even on the day.
But things soon started to change.

At No. 6, Toms putted off the fringe with an 18-foot birdie chance that slid just past the hole. He still gained a stroke when Wi missed a 4-foot par putt. The margin was down to one after Toms’ birdie at the 440-yard No. 7 hole, when he hit his approach to 10 feet.

Wi made another birdie on the 192-yard 16th hole Sunday, an 8-footer. But Toms sank a 4 1/2 -foot par to maintain his two-stroke edge, and give him a needed margin since he bogeyed the 17th hole after his approach into a greenside bunker.

    


PETTERSEN WINS SYBASE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Suzann Pettersen beat Cristie Kerr 1-up to win the Sybase Match Play Championship on Sunday, ending a 20-month victory drought.

Leading 1-up and with Kerr facing a 10-foot birdie attempt on the par-5 18th, Pettersen curled in a left to-right 15-footer for birdie to seal the victory on the cold, damp overcast day that probably made the 30-year-old Norwegian star fell as if she was back home.

Pettersen, who beat top-seeded Na Yeon Choi of South Korea 4 and 2 in the semifinals Sunday morning, never trailed in the match in winning for the first time since the Canadian Women’s Open in September 2009, and for the seventh time in her LPGA Tour career.

The No. 3 ranked woman finished second six times last year and 12 times since 2007, a year she won five times, including the LPGA Championship.

The No. 4 Kerr, who won the final two holes in beating Angela Stanford 1-up in the semis, had her putter to blame for failing to win for the 15th time on tour. The American missed four putts of less than 10 feet—all for hole victories.

However, she also made a 3-foot par save on No. 16 to keep the match alive and a 10-footer for birdie on the next hole to cut Pettersen’s lead to 1-up.

Pettersen ended the run and the match with her dramatic putt at the magical 18th hole. She played it four times and birdied it every time to win matches. She dispatched Natalie Gulbis in the first round, Stacy Lewis in the round of 16, Yani Tseng in the quarterfinals and Kerr in the championship.

  


POULTER TAKES WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Ian Poulter denied Luke Donald the top spot in the world golf rankings Sunday, beating his fellow Englishman 2 and 1 in the final of the World Match Play Championship to claim his first title of 2011.

The second-ranked Donald could have risen to No. 1 for the first time, supplanting compatriot Lee Westwood if he’d won the tournament in Andalusia, but he failed to find the consistent form that swept him to the final.

Poulter, who ousted Westwood in the last 16, was 1 down to his Ryder Cup teammate on three occasions in an error-strewn match, but a 45-foot putt won the 12th hole and birdies on the 14th and 16th sealed Donald’s fate

Poulter picked up a winner’s check for $1.14 million and became the first player to win both match play titles, having won the Accenture tournament last year.

Donald won the 2011 edition of that event in Arizona in February and came into the final on a 14-match winning streak in match play, which included victories in singles and doubles at last year’s Ryder Cup.

But just like he did last month—when he lost a playoff to Brandt Snedeker at The Heritage in South Carolina—Donald missed an opportunity to climb to No. 1, acknowledging fatigue had caught up with him in southern Spain.

Poulter, who beat Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts on the first playoff hole in the second semifinal earlier Sunday, had been taken to at least 18 holes in his five previous matches on the Finca Cortesin course this week.

Donald, on the other hand, had marched relentlessly to the final despite struggling with a throat infection, looking imperious in overwhelming third-ranked Martin Kaymer in the semifinal.



MICHAEL HOEY WINS MADEIRA ISLANDS OPEN
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey won the Madeira Islands Open for his second European Tour title, closing with a 1-under 71 for a two-stroke victory.

Hoey, also the 2009 Estoril Open winner, had a 10-under 278 total at Porto Santo Golf, the Seve Ballesteros-designed course that features 500-foot seaside cliffs

Englishmen Chris Gane and Jamie Elson tied for second in the event also sanctioned by the developmental European Challenge Tour.





MULROY WINS NATIONWIDE EVENT
South Africa’s Garth Mulroy won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on Sunday for his second career Nationwide Tour title, beating Sunghoon Kang on the first hole of a playoff when the South Korean missed a 3-foot par putt.

The 32-year-old former North Carolina State player closed with a 4-under 67 on the Thornblade Club course to match Kang (69) at 18 under in the three-course tournament.

Kang, a conditional PGA Tour member, was making his first Nationwide Tour start.
Mulroy earned $108,000.

New Zealand’s Danny Lee  was a stroke back, and Roberto Castro , B.J. Staten , Andrew Buckle , Will MacKenzie , Brent Delahoussaye and Travis Hampshire  tied for fourth at 16 under.




 NOMURA WINS JLPGA TOURNEY
Harukyo Nomura fired a bogey-free 68 in the final round of the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open to secure her 1st career JLPGA victory in her 1st start on tour as a professional.

 Ahn  cut Nomura's lead to 1 with a birdie on the 158-yard par-3 2nd hole. But when Nomura birdied the 528-yard par-5 6th and Ahn took a quad on it, the building pressure completely dissipated. Nomura proceeded to put even more distance between herself and the field as she followed that birdie up with 3 more, on 8, 11, and 13.

Although Sakura Yokomine made 4 birdies between the 5th and 10th holes, she remained 6 down until she birdied the 18th. Even though Kaori Aoyama birdied 4 of her last 5 holes, she still ended up 3 shots off the pace. And despite getting to -8 on the last 9, Ji-Woo Lee finished with 2 bogeys in her last 5 holes to drop into a tie for 7th with Ahn  and Momoko Ueda . So in the end, nobody else in the field made up any ground on Nomura, who was the only player to break 70 all 3 rounds.




IN OTHER NEWS
K.J. Choi is giving $200,000 from his win at The Players Championship to help victims of the tornados that ravaged the southeastern United States.

Choi says that while winning The Players was a defining point in his career, those affected by the tornados are going through a low point. He wants the victims to know that their troubles are not being ignored.

The South Korean won The Players in a sudden-death playoff over David Toms for his eighth career victory on the PGA Tour. He earned $1.71 million.

Choi often will give a percentage of his earnings from a PGA Tour event to a local church in the area. This time, he is giving his money to tornado victims through his K.J. Choi Foundation, which he started four years ago to help unprivileged children around the world.



Ryo Ishikawa is among eight players who no longer have to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Ishikawa closed with a 64 on Sunday, and while he lost in a playoff at the Totoumi Hamamatsu Open in Japan, his runner-up finish moved him up four spots to No. 49 in the world and earned him a spot at Congressional on June 16-19 for the U.S. Open.

The top 50 in the next world ranking are exempt from U.S. Open qualifying. Italian Matteo Manassero, Ryan Moore and Peter Hanson also got in through the ranking.

Colonial winner David Toms made it into the U.S. Open by being in the top 10 on the latest PGA Tour money list, along with Australian Aaron Baddeley and Rory Sabbatini of Spain. Anders Hansen of Denmark earned a spot from among the top five on the European Tour money list.



France will host The Ryder Cup for the first time in 2018. The historic announcement, which will see golf's greatest team event return to the Continent of Europe for the first time in 21 years, was made by Ryder Cup Europe at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.

Le Golf National on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris, the well-established home of the Alstom Open de France, will become only the second Continental venue - following Club de Golf, Valderrama, in Spain in 1997 - when the 42nd edition of The Ryder Cup between Europe and the United States is contested in the autumn of 2018.

Five nations - France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Spain - had participated in an exhaustive and comprehensive Bid Process - the first conducted by Ryder Cup Europe - to identify the country best qualified to follow Medinah Country Club, Illinois, USA, next year; Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2014 and Hazeltine, Minnesota, USA, in 2016 as host of the biennial contest.



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Sunday, May 15, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 5-15-2011

CHOI TAKES PLAYERS
K.J. Choi made par on the island-green 17th in a playoff Sunday to win The Players Championship for his first tour win in three years.

Moments after David Toms hit his best shot of the week from a divot in the 18th fairway and made an 18-foot birdie putt to force a playoff, he missed a 3 1/2-foot par putt in the playoff that cost him a chance at his first win in five years.

South Korea’s Choi closed with a 2-under 70 to become the fourth straight international player to win the PGA Tour’s biggest event. He had to make a par putt just inside 5 feet to get to the playoff, then watched Toms hand him the victory.

Toms had a one shot lead, but hit his second shot on 16 into the water. That turned the whole day around.

So many other players felt they also squandered chances, none more than U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney.

McDowell, who had a one-shot lead when the third round concluded Sunday morning because of rain delays, lost his way after an errant tee shot into the trees on the sixth hole. He hit four shots into the water the rest of the way and closed with a 79.

Watney was in control late in the third round until playing a three-hole stretch in 4-over par, then fell behind with consecutive bogeys at the turn in the final round and could never catch up.
Paul Goydos, who lost a playoff to Sergio Garcia in 2008 when the tour decided to make the 17th the first playoff hole, closed with a 69 to finish alone in third.

Luke Donald never got on track, but still managed a 71 for his seventh consecutive top 10. He tied for fourth with Watney  and moved to No. 2 in the world, giving England the top two spots in the world ranking.

Donald and McDowell wore an all-navy blue outfit in honor of Seve Ballesteros—his famous Sunday colors—who died last week.
 


 CLARKE RALLIES TO WIN EURO EVENT
Darren Clarke rallied from four shots down to win the Iberdrola Open by three strokes Sunday after overnight leader Chris Wood stumbled on the back nine.

Clarke shot a 1-under 69 to finish at 6-under 274.

Wood held a comfortable margin over Clarke and Shane Lowry going into Sunday’s final round at the Pula golf course, but a terrible back nine cost the English player his first European Tour victory.
Wood’s 6-over 76 left him tied with runner-up David Lynn  of England.

The 42-year-old Clarke takes home a $235,000 paycheck with his 13th career European win and first since 2008.

The 23-year-old Wood three-putted at the 12th and 13th before powering his drive out of bounds at No. 15, where Clarke’s birdie put him in the lead for good.

Alastair Forsyth finished four shots back in third, one better than Paul Lawrie  of Scotland, Ireland’s Lowry , Graeme Storm  of England and Spanish golfer Jose Maria Olazabal, who helped redesign the course where he won in 2005.




IN OTHER NEWS 

 Tim Clark’s right elbow was starting to swell. The pain was growing with every shot, too.
So Clark, the defending champion, felt as if he had no choice but to withdraw from The Players Championship in the second round Friday.

Clark shot 2-over 74 in the opening round and played 10 holes Friday before stopping.

“It’s just been getting a little worse as the day went on,” Clark said. “I hit a shot out of the rough on 9 and I could feel it getting worse. There’s just no point in staying. I tried as good as I can for two days. Yeah, at the moment it’s starting to get a little worse. I can see it’s swollen right now and there’s no point.”

Clark developed tendinitis in his elbow following a second-place finish at the Sony Open in January. He played in the Masters, but missed the cut and only showed up at TPC Sawgrass to defend his lone PGA Tour victory. Now, he’s not sure when he will play again.

He plans to withdraw from next week’s event in Texas.




Tiger Woods return to  The Players Championship from what he had described as a “minor injury” lasted only nine holes Thursday. Woods withdrew because of pain in his left knee and Achilles, but not before taking 42 shots for his worst nine-hole score on the TPC Sawgrass course.

“I’m having a hard time walking,” he said.

Woods flexed his left knee after hitting tee shots. He took baby steps to climb out of a bunker. He walked with a golf club for support, lagging a football field behind his playing partners with a noticeable limp. His quickest steps were to catch up to Martin Kaymer on the way to the 10th tee to tell him he was done.

Before driving off in a white Mercedes, Woods ducked into a fitness trailer with a sign painted on the side that said, “Is knee pain holding you back?”

Woods already has gone through four surgeries on his left knee. Now he has an Achilles problem, too. He has gone 18 months since his last win, three years without adding to his 14 majors, and he has no idea when he will be fit enough to compete again.



Geoff Ogilvy withdrew because of a sore left shoulder.

Ogilvy shot a 3-over 75 in the first round Thursday and played nine holes Friday before bowing out. He was 2 over when he walked away.

Ogilvy said last week his shoulder started bothering him toward the end of the Masters and at the Texas Open. He thought it would be fine when he got to Quail Hollow in Charlotte, but then decided another week of rest would make sure it doesn’t become a bigger problem.

It’s unclear whether he will be able to play next week in Fort Worth, Texas, his wife’s home state.



 With his ball nestled near a tree on the par-4 fifth at TPC Sawgrass, Mark Wilson decided to turn around and hit a left-handed chip shot.

It ended up being a costly mistake.

Wilson seemingly struck the ball twice and called a two-shot penalty on himself. The extra strokes caused him to miss the cut at The Players Championship on Friday.

“I think I hit it twice,” Wilson said. “Not for certain, but I heard two clicks. I asked my caddie what he thought and he was, ‘Yeah, I think I heard two clicks, too.”’

Wilson asked PGA Tour officials for help. They checked video replays, but decided those were inconclusive. So they left the call up to Wilson.

“You never know for sure,” Wilson said. “If I was 1 percent (sure) that I thought I hit it, then I have to call the penalty on myself. It’s not like (if it’s) 50-50, it goes in the player’s favor. If 1 percent of me thinks I double-hit it, then I have to take the penalty.”

Wilson, a two-time winner this year, shot a 3-over 75 and finished at 1-over 145, one stroke off the cut.
It wasn’t the first notable penalty Wilson has called on himself.

In the 2007 Honda Classic, Wilson called a two-shot penalty on himself because his caddie told another player in the group what club he hit on a hole. Without that penalty, Wilson might have won the event in regulation. Instead, he needed to win a four-man playoff the following day.



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Sunday, May 8, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 5-8-2011


 BALLESTEROS DEAD AT 54
Seve Ballesteros was a genius with a golf club in his hands, an inspiration to everyone who saw him create shots that didn’t seem possible. The Spaniard’s passion and pride revived European golf and made the Ryder Cup one of the game’s most compelling events.

Ballesteros, a five-time major champion whose incomparable imagination and fiery personality made him one of the most significant figures in modern golf, died Saturday from complications of a cancerous brain tumor. He was 54.

A statement on Ballesteros’ website early Saturday said he died peacefully at 2:10 a.m. local time, surrounded by his family at his home in Pedrena. It was in this small Spanish town where Ballesteros first wrapped his hands around a crude 3-iron and began inventing shots that he would display on some of golf’s grandest stages.

Ballesteros won the Masters at 23, leading by 10 shots at one point in the final round. He was a three-time winner of the British Open, no moment greater than his 1984 victory at St. Andrews. He was as inspirational in Europe as Arnold Palmer was in America, a handsome figure who feared no shot and often played from where no golfer had ever been.


 GLOVER WINS WELLS FARGO
Clinging to a one-shot lead, Lucas Glover closed with three gutsy pars of the brutal finishing stretch at Quail Hollow, slamming his fist when he made the last one from 7 feet for a 3-under 69 and what looked to be a sure win. Then came Jonathan Byrd, with two great pars of his own, followed by a shot into 15 feet that he made for birdie on the 18th for a 72 to force a playoff with  Glover who wound up a winner with a par on the first extra hole, ending a drought of 41 tournaments that stretched nearly two years back to his U.S. Open win at Bethpage Black in 2009.

It was the eighth playoff this year on the PGA Tour, and the third in a row.
Glover, in his first PGA Tour playoff, felt a sense of calmness playing against Byrd, who had won his last two tournaments in extra holes. And it showed.

In regulation, Glover hooked his tee shot so far left that it settled under a spectator. He was given a drop, then watched the ball roll down the bank toward the stream as he got ready to hit it. Because he never grounded his club  that was his plan, given the lie on a side of a steep hill—he played the next shot without penalty.

He managed a 6-iron just over the green, hit the most difficult chip he had all day to 7 feet and escaped with another par. In the playoff, however, Glover striped his tee shot down the middle and two-putted from 25 feet.

Byrd, who went from a fairway bunker to the hazard left the green—just short of the stream—hit a difficult chip 25 by the hole and wound up with a bogey.

Glover, who finished on 15-under 273, became the first player in the nine-year history of the tournament to post all four rounds in the 60s. He never would have seen this coming.

He has been going through a divorce the past several months and had only one top 10 over the last year. He missed the cut in his last three events and didn’t have much confidence when he showed up at Quail Hollow.

But he figured out Tuesday on the range that the club wasn’t square, it felt better Wednesday in the pro-am and off he went. This wasn’t the U.S. Open, although the way he was tested over the final hour of a wild day, it felt just as difficult.

Rory Sabbatini, who closed with a 65 and was 13-under 131 on the weekend, wound up alone in third and will move into the top 50 of the world. Now he has to stay there for two more weeks to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Bill Haas had a 70 to finish alone in fourth. Pat Perez, who set a tournament record with 26 birdies, had an outside chance at winning until closing with three straight bogeys to tie for sixth.
Glover was four shots behind when he made his move by chipping in for birdie on the eighth and holing a 30-foot eagle on the 10th that gave him the outright lead that he never lost the rest of the way.

Then came a wild ride—bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie—that brought him to the treacherous finish. He saved par from well behind the 16th green. He two-putted from just under 100 feet on the 17th, making a 6-footer for par, then escaped No. 18 with the biggest par of all.
Byrd was back on the tee when he heard the roar of Glover’s par, knowing he needed birdie.

Glover all but predicted he would.

They had joked before the third round that they would be paired together on Sunday late in the afternoon. They probably didn’t have this late in mind.
Sabbatini was among five players atop the leaderboard in a wacky final round, and the action was relentless.

It started with  Sabbatini who posted at 14-under 274, and it looked as though it might be enough for a playoff as  Glover, Byrd, Haas and Perez kept finding trouble along the last five holes.

Byrd looked to be in control until closing out the front nine with back-to-back bogeys, then making another one on the 14th when his shot from the right rough also found the water. But he followed with a birdie on the 15th, then punched out of the trees on the 16th and hit his shot from 167 yards to 2 feet for an unlikely par, and closed with a dramatic birdie.


In the end, Glover held true and took home the trophy.


AIKEN GET HIS 1ST TITLE
Thomas Aiken earned his first European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the Spanish Open on Sunday, and promptly dedicated the victory to golf great Seve Ballesteros.

The South African player shot a 2-under 70 on the El Prat course for a 10-under total of 278 to edge Anders Hansen  of Denmark

Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Spanish player Pablo Larrazabal were another shot back in third.
Aiken went into the final round enjoying a two-shot advantage and carded birdies at holes 2, 6 and 11 to extend his lead.

He wobbled a bit with two bogeys and one birdie from there, but closed out the round with three straight pars to take home more than $450,000.

Hansen started with eight straight pars to fall four shots behind, and his three birdies were offset by a lone bogey on the 13th.

Aiken is the fifth South African to win an event this season, including Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Jose Maria Olazabal’s emotional weekend ended with a 77 to finish 18 shots back in 56th. Olazabal and Ballesteros were the Ryder Cup’s most successful pairing, and the Spanish player wept openly on Saturday after his friend’s death.



LEHMAN WINS CHAMPIONS TOUR EVEN
Steady and patient, Tom Lehman won the Regions Tradition for his third victory in seven Champions Tour events this year, beating Peter Senior with a par on the second hole of a playoff Sunday.
Senior, from Australia, missed a 5-foot par putt when it lipped out on No. 18. Lehman two-putted from about 20 feet, polishing off his second bogey-free day at the first Champions Tour major of the season. They quickly walked over to shake each other’s hands without much reaction after the relatively anticlimactic ending.

Both parred the first playoff hole, also No. 18 at Shoal Creek.

Lehman and Senior finished at 13-under 275. Lehman had a 3-under 69, and Senior shot a 68.
Senior also missed a potential winning putt on the first playoff hole by a couple of inches to the right, then had an even closer one from the other side.

Lehman won his second Champions Tour major and fifth overall title on the 50-and-over circuit. He has more than doubled up No. 2 Nick Price in the points standings.

Lehman won the Senior PGA Championship last year, beating Fred Couples and David Frost in a playoff after the Minnesotan parred and they both double bogeyed.

Loren Roberts  was third at 11 under after a closing birdie, and Michael Allen  was 10 under. Third-round leader Mark Calcavecchia shot a 75 to fall into a tie for fifth at 9 under.



AMATEUR WINS NATIONWIDE EVENT
University of Georgia senior Russell Henley became the second amateur winner in Nationwide Tour history Sunday, shooting a 3-under 68 for a two-stroke victory in the Stadion Classic on the Bulldogs’ home course.

The three-time All-America selection finished at 12-under 272 on the University of Georgia Golf Course.

Daniel Summerhays is the only other amateur winner since the tour began in 1990, taking the 2007 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in between his junior and senior seasons at BYU.

Henley will remain an amateur through the Walker Cup in September.

Troy Kelly shot a 70 to finish second—and take the $99,000 top prize.

Monday qualifier Will Wilcox and Matt Hendrix tied for third at 9 under.

 IN OTHER NEWS
Geoff Ogilvy  withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship because of a sore left shoulder.

Ogilvy says his shoulder was bothering him slightly toward the end of the Masters and at the Texas Open. He figured it would be fine when he got to Quail Hollow in Charlotte, but says he wants another week of rest to make sure it doesn’t become a problem.

Geoff Ogilvy of Australia hits a shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

He is expected to play next week at The Players Championship and in Texas, the home state of his wife.

Ogilvy says it wouldn’t be sensible to try to play at Wells Fargo with so many big tournaments coming up, from The Players Championship to three majors this summer.



Sean O’Hair not only is looking for his game, he’s now looking for a new swing coach.

O’Hair, who has missed his past five cuts and has not finished among the top 20 all year, has decided to split with Sean Foley after a relationship that began nearly three years ago in the Canadian Open.

During their time together, O’Hair won the Quail Hollow Championship and played in the Presidents Cup. But whatever had been going right started going very wrong this year, and it was time for a change.

O’Hair fired caddie Paul Tesori at the end of last year, and recently split up with caddie Brennan Little. Foley was next to go.



Rory Sabbatini could face suspension from the PGA Tour for what was described as a profanity-laced argument with Sean O’Hair during last week’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans.

According to multiple players and officials, it was the second time this year that Sabbatini has run into trouble because of his behavior on the golf course. The first incident was at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open, where Sabbatini was said to have spoken harshly to a teenage volunteer who was trying to help him find a lost ball.

The players and officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the tour keeps all disciplinary matters private.

O’Hair also was in Sabbatini’s group at Riviera. Two people familiar with the incident said the volunteer wrote a five-page letter to the PGA Tour, but Sabbatini escaped punishment by offering to apologize to anyone he offended.

Sabbatini won two weeks later at the Honda Classic.



Webb Simpson called it a “bad rule.” He was penalized a stroke because the ball moved as he was addressing it on the green, costing him one stroke and perhaps his first PGA Tour victory.

The U.S. Golf Association appears to agree. Vice President Thomas O’Toole said Monday there will be talks to modify the rule, with any change taking place at the start of 2012.

“If some other agency—wind or gravity—is known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied,” O’Toole said at the U.S. Open media day at Congressional Country Club.

Simpson, leading by one shot, was less than a foot from the cup at the 15th hole on Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans when the ball moved. Simpson said it was probably caused by wind, combined with relatively dry and hard greens.

Regardless, the rule as currently written offers no leeway, and the one-stroke penalty proved vital when he finished tied with Bubba Watson after 72 holes. Watson then won in a playoff.

The potential change will now be discussed in earnest over the next several months with the R&A. O’Toole sounded confident it would pass, but he stressed that “it’s not a done deal.”

O’Toole said the change—much like the one regarding scorecards announced at this year’s Masters—is in part a result of the impeccable quality of video that is available. Television viewers can now see every little movement of the ball.

O’Toole said the change would modify Rule 18-2b and would declare that “if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause that ball to move, then the (penalty) does not apply.”

“Now we’ve got some latitude,” O’Toole said. “Deeming the player to cause it to move applies in 90 percent of the situations, but it doesn’t apply sometimes. And, in that case, the exception applies and no penalty



This year the U.S. Open
will be played at the Blue course at Congressional Country Club.  The layout will be the second longest in the championship’s history when the event returns to the suburbs of the nation’s capital on June 16-19. If all the back tees are used, it will be some 350 yards longer than when Ernie Els won in 1997 and more than 500 yards longer than when Ken Venturi overcame the stifling heat for his legendary 1964 victory.

“We want the U.S. Open to be a rigorous test,” U.S. Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis said at Monday’s media day.

There are eight new tee boxes, set way back to increase the yardage. The par-5 ninth can now play up to 636 yards—and will have worst rough on the course in a gully right in front of the green. Such a layout poses a problem for the shorter hitters.

There is one concession in favor of the field. The 555-yard sixth hole will play as a par 5 instead of a par 4. Par for the course was 70 in ’64 and ’97, but this time it’s 71.

Overall, though, the course had to be altered to bring its hazards back into play to match the longer game of today. Davis said his goal was to make it so the golfers would be using the same clubs the architect had in mind when the holes were designed nearly a century ago.



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Sunday, May 1, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 5-1-2011

 BUBBA WINS IN PLAYOFF
Bubba Watson maintained ice-cool composure to clinch his third PGA Tour title in a gripping playoff with fellow American Webb Simpson at the New Orleans Classic on Sunday.

After both players birdied the first extra hole, Watson sealed victory with a four-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole where Simpson missed his attempt from 12 feet.

Left-hander Watson pumped his fist in celebration after his winning putt dropped into the cup before shaking hands with Simpson and then being embraced by his wife.

The pair had finished the 72 regulation holes on 15-under-par 273 after closing with matching three-under 69s when Watson narrowly missed a birdie putt from nine feet at the par-five 18th.
Jason Dufner birdied the last for a best-of-the-day 66 to tie for third at 13 under, level with fellow American Tommy Gainey (69) and South Korea’s K.J. Choi (69).





WESTWOOD HOLDS #1 WITH VICTORY AT BALLANTINES
 Top-ranked Lee Westwood rallied to win the Ballantine’s Championship for his second straight victory, shooting a 5-under 67 on Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Westwood, the English star who won the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters last week to regain the No. 1 spot in the world, finished at 12-under 276 at Blackstone Resort in the event sanctioned by the European and Asian tour and Korea PGA.

The 47-year-old Jimenez, Westwood’s European Ryder Cup teammate and dining companion Saturday night, parred the final nine holes for a 71.

Westwood shot a 69 in the completion of the rain-delayed third round to begin the finale three strokes behind Jimenez, Alexander Noren and Rhys Davies. Westwood birdied Nos. 14 and 15 to tie Jimenez, then pulled ahead with a birdie on the par-5 18th.

Westwood won for the first time on the European Tour since the 2009 Dubai World Championship and matched Sam Torrance for ninth place on the tour’s victory list with 21. The 38-year-old Westwood has 35 worldwide victories.

South Korea’s Park Sang-hyun eagled the final hole for a 69 to finish third at 10 under. American Dustin Johnson was fourth at 9 under after a 69.



HJORTH COMES FROM BEHIND TO WIN AVNET
Maria Hjorth rallied to win the Avnet LPGA Classic for her fifth tour title, while Alexis Thompson's bid to become the youngest winner crumbled amid errant, water-logged shots.

Hjorth shot her second straight 5-under 67 to finish at 10-under 278, two strokes ahead of Song-Hee Kim on The Crossings course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail's Magnolia Grove complex.

The 16-year-old Thompson, tied for the lead with Kim entering the round, had a 78 to drop into a tie for 19th at 1 under. Thompson opened and closed with bogeys and had double bogeys after her ball went into the water on Nos. 14 and 15.

Na Yeon Choi  and Suzann Pettersen  finished three strokes back.

Thompson waved in acknowledgment of the gallery's loud applause heading to the final hole, but walked off with an anguished expression on her face. Her bid for history had taken a sour turn, but she said nerves weren't to blame.

The veteran Hjorth's husband, Shaun McBride who normally caddies on the PGA Tour — handled her bag. She had four birdies of her six birdies on holes Nos. 3-7 to quickly move into the lead. Hjorth also won the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship in 2010, and on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail event a few hours north in Prattville in 2007.



POTTER TAKES SOUTH GEORGIA CLASSIC
Ted Potter, Jr. posted a four-under-par 68 in Sunday's final round to earn his first Nationwide Tour victory at the South Georgia Classic.

Potter finished at 16-under 272 and won by three strokes at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club.
Mathew Goggin had a three-under 69 on Sunday and took second at minus-13. Brent Long  and Charles Warren  tied for third place at 10-under-par 278.

The fact this tournament finished on time was a minor miracle. There were almost nine hours of delays on Thursday, so all play got pushed back. The third round was completed on Sunday morning and the players went right back out for the final round.

Potter finished the third round tied for the lead with Jon Mills at 12-under par, but Potter's consistent play got him sole possession of first.

He birdied the par-five second hole and Mills did as well, but that was the last time the two would be tied. Mills bogeyed three and four and never recovered. Potter kept playing solid golf.

He birdied seven and eight, then after the turn, birdied the par-five 11th. Potter dropped a shot at the par-four 12th, but no one really threatened his lead on the back nine.

Potter parred three in a row after the bogey at 12. He birdied the 16th hole and was still comfortably ahead despite a late run from Goggin, who was too far behind to mount a serious charge.

Potter parred the last two to get that elusive first trophy on the Nationwide Tour.
Mark Anderson, Rob Oppenheim and Major Manning  tied for fifth at nine-under 279.
Martin Flores  and Jonas Blixt  shared eighth at minus-eight.




 JONES WINS JAPAN TITLE
 Australia’s Brendan Jones won The Crowns on Sunday for his 10th Japan Tour title, beating South Korea’s I.J. Jang with a 6-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff.

Jones closed with an even-par 70 to match Jang (68) at 9-under 271 on the Nagoya Golf Club course. Jones earned $295,000 for the milestone victory.

Shingo Katayama (66), Koichiro Kawano (66) and Park Sung-Joon (67) tied for third at 8 under. Ryo Ishikawa, the Japanese star who shot a record-setting 12-under 58 to win the event last year, had a 70 to tie for 12th at 3 under.



IN OTHER NEWS
Former Braves pitcher John Smoltz  struggled in his Nationwide Tour debut, shooting a 15-over 87 on Saturday in the rain-delayed South Georgia Classic to miss the cut by 27 strokes.


The 43-year-old Smoltz opened with an 84 after two long weather delays forced him to play 18 holes over two days. He was even worse in the second round at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, with his 27-over 171 total nine strokes worse that any of the other 147 players who completed both rounds.

Smoltz spent nearly his entire career with Atlanta, becoming the only pitcher in major league history to post 200 wins and 150 saves. He pitched for Boston and St. Louis in 2009 before moving into broadcasting.

He played in the South Georgia Classic on a sponsor exemption.



Tiger Woods has a minor injury to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon that will keep him out of the Wells Fargo Championship next week, raising more questions that his health might be the biggest obstacle in his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ record.

Woods said on his website Tuesday that he hurt himself hitting a shot during the third round of the Masters. It’s the fourth time he has missed a tournament because of his left knee. Woods did not say when he might return, but he hopes to be back in a few weeks.

“This is precautionary. We’re not at all concerned,” said Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG. “He’s just listening to his doctors, which is kind of nice. He certainly didn’t listen to them before the U.S. Open in 2008.”Steinberg said Woods has been in a protective boot when he’s moving around and has not hit a shot since the Masters. He said Woods considered playing the Wells Fargo until Tuesday.

Woods described this injury as minor—a mild sprain of his medial collateral ligament in the left knee, along with a mild strain to his left Achilles. Woods said the injury occurred when he had to squat to play a shot from under the Eisenhower tree left of the 17th fairway.

His left foot got caught in the pine straw as the momentum of the swing carried him backward. Woods hit into a front bunker and saved par on his way to a 74, then shot 31 on the front nine Sunday to tie for the lead. He wound up tied for fourth, and he appeared to be limping coming to the 18th green.

Woods, who held a series of clinics in Asia the week after the Masters, said he later sought a medical evaluation. He said doctors have advised rest and cold-water therapy, along with soft tissue treatment that is to begin this week.

 

Sergio Garcia, coming off his worst season as a pro that required a 10-week break to become rejuvenated about golf, is not exempt for the U.S. Open at Congressional.

As of Monday, he had not signed up sectional qualifying—the deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday—although his agent said he was going to enter. The 31-year-old Spaniard still has time to avoid having to go through qualifying for the first time.


Garcia is No. 76 in the world, and has until May 23 to try to crack the top 50. If that fails, new criteria for the U.S. Open gives him until the week before the U.S. Open to get into the top 50.

He has played only six times this year—three times in Europe, three times on the PGA Tour with his best result a tie for eighth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.



PGA Tour stars Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler will tee it up alongside NFL quarterbacks Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys and Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams in the Notah Begay Challenge.

The fourth annual NB3 Challenge will be staged at Turning Stone Resort and Casino’s Atunyote (ah-DUNE’-yote) Golf Club on July 5. The format this year is a two-person team, best-ball shootout over 18 holes.

Begay, who also will play, said the rest of the field of eight will be announced before June 1.

The Challenge is the chief fundraiser for Begay’s charity, the NB3 Foundation, which has a goal of fighting obesity and diabetes among Native American youth. The event is a collaboration between the resort’s owner, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.



Retired golf star Lorena Ochoa is expecting her first child.

The 29-year-old from Mexico and former No. 1 player, announced the news Thursday on Twitter in English and Spanish: “I am very happy to share with everybody that we are expecting a baby!”

Ochoa married Aeromexico executive Andres Conesa in December 2009. He has three children from a previous marriage. Ochoa suddenly retired last year after compiling 27 wins and two majors in seven seasons on tour.

Her brother and agent, Alejandro Ochoa, said in an email she is due to give birth around November.



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