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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