Sunday, June 5, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 6-5-2011

STRICKER 'S  WIN IS MEMORIAL
Steve Stricker won the Memorial Tournament by one stroke over Bradt Jobe and Matt Kuchar after a lengthy weather delay.

Stricker, who had never finished in the top 10 in his 11 previous trips to Muirfield Village, built a big lead on the front nine and then relied on his silky putting stroke for two clutch pars to hang on for a one-shot victory.

He closed with a 4-under 68, lagging from 20 feet for a two-putt bogey on the 18th hole. By then, the hard work was over. Stricker twice saved par from bunkers on the 16th and 17th holes, making putts of 15 feet and 7 feet to go to the last hole with a two-shot lead.

Stricker moves to No. 4 in the world and becomes the highest-ranked American for the first time in his career. 

Dustin Johnson closed with a 65 to finish fourth, followed by Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who had a 68. The biggest consolation prize went to Gary Woodland, who had a 68 to finish alone in sixth. Woodland likely will move to about No. 40 in the world ranking, making him virtually a lock to get into the U.S. Open. He had faced a 36-hole qualifier Monday morning.

Stricker, who led by four shots at the turn, made it more interesting than it needed to be, especially after a 2½-hour storm delay that slowed his momentum following a spectacular bunker save behind the 12th green.

He had a three-shot lead with five holes to play when he missed a short birdie on the 14th, then pulled his tee shot into the woods on the par-5 15th to make a bogey. His lead was down to two, and he faced a tough finish.

Stricker found the back bunker on the par-3 16th and blasted out to 15 feet, lightly pumping his fist when it dropped in the center of the cup for par to keep the two-shot cushion. From the middle of the 17th fairway, he badly pushed his 6-iron off a mound and into a deep bunker right of the green. He splashed it out to 7 feet, and the par putt again was never in doubt.
 
Needing only a bogey to win, Stricker hit into a fairway bunker on the 18th, missed the green to the left and was happy to chip onto the top tier to 20 feet that locked up his first win of the year.



LINCICOME WINS  SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC
Brittany Lincicome made a 4-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic for her first victory in two years.

Lincicome’s birdie capped a bogey-free 5-under 66 that gave her a one-shot victory over third-ranked Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Cristie Kerr. It was the long-hitting Lincicome’s first win since the 2009 Kraft Nabisco and her fourth on the LPGA Tour.

It also came on a day when the players endured delays that caused the twosomes to play 4 1/2-hour rounds.

The 25-year-old Lincicome finished the 54-hole tournament on the Bay Course at Seaview with an 11-under 202 total, and the difference definitely was par 5s.

Lincicome played nine par 5s in the tournament and had seven birdies, an eagle and a par, with the last birdie coming on the par-5, 501-yard 18th.

Shin, who was tied with Lincicome heading to the final hole, left a 15-foot birdie putt on the edge of the hole. Lincicome then hit out of greenside fescue to 4 feet before making her winning birdie.

Kerr, who led Catriona Matthew by a shot heading into the final round, left an eagle putt from off the green about 4 feet short and settled for a birdie and a 69 that tied her for second with Shin (66).

Matthew also shot a 69 and was two shots behind the winner and one ahead of Anna Nordqvist and I.K. Kim., who both closed with 66s. Top-ranked Yani Tseng was seventh after a 65, the same final round that put Karrie Webb in a group at 207.



GILDER WINS CHAMPIONS TOUR EVENT
NOREN CAPTURES WALES OPEN
Alexander Noren captured his second European Tour title by winning the Wales Open on Sunday, shooting a 1-under 70 for a two-stroke victory.

The 127th-ranked Noren finished at 9-under 275 at Celtic Manor, where he’d led since the second round. The victory added to his win at the 2009 European Master

Noren won’t be able to celebrate for long. He is scheduled to tee off at Sunningdale on Monday in a qualifying tournament for the British Open at Royal St. George’s next month.

Gregory Bourdy of France had a bogey-free 67 to finish joint runner-up with Anders Hansen of Denmark, who had a 71.

Johan Edfors (69) and Peter Hanson (72) of Sweden, Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina (67) and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain (67) were another stroke back.

Noren acknowledged feeling some tension after entering the third round with a one-stroke lead, then said he expected a tougher task Sunday.

Helped by Hanson and Hansen failing to mount a challenge, and Bourdy starting his surge too late, Noren never looked like he would be caught.

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champion who was aiming to become the first player to retain the title, shot a 71 to improve by 10 strokes on his catastrophic third round. Having trailed by one, he fell 11 shots off the pace heading into his last competitive round before defending his U.S. Open title.
McDowell struck the ball well in making three straight birdies from No. 9, but four bogeys showed his game still needs work.

Elliot Saltman, who returned to the tour last month after serving a three-month ban for incorrectly marking his ball, will leave with happier memories after hitting his second hole-in-one of the tournament in a 69 Sunday.

The Scot aced No. 17 and then finished with an eagle in Thursday’s opening round. He repeated the feat at the same hole Sunday, but his ensuing eagle putt at the last hole just missed the cup.

Eamonn Darcy at the 1991 Mediterranean Open was the last player to hit a hole-in-one twice in the same event.



WHEATCROFT WINS BY 12
Steve Wheatcroft ran away with the Melwood Prince George’s County Open, finishing a staggering 29 under Sunday for a Nationwide Tour-record 12-stroke victory.

The 33-year-old former Indiana University player eagled the final hole for a 7-under 64 after opening with rounds of 66, 60 and 65 on the University of Maryland Golf Course.

Wheatcroft had the lowest 72-hole total in tour history at 255, fell a stroke short of tying the mark for relation to par, and broke the record for largest margin.

Wheatcroft earned $108,000 to jump from 32nd to second on the money list.

Ryan Armour (62) and Jon Mills (65) tied for second.

Nicholas Thompson (69) followed at 16 under. He played alongside Wheatcroft on Sunday.

On Monday, Wheatcroft will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open.

He had 96 putts in the event, one off the tour record.



BI-O TAKES CHINA OPEN

Kim Bi-o's gamble to play in the more lucrative China Open rather than a low-key event on home turf, for which he was fined by the Korean Golf Tour (KGT), paid off on Sunday as he won the OneAsia Tour event.

KGT fined the 20-year-old South Korean and compatriot Kim Dae-hyun $4,600 each for skipping a $460,000 home event to play in the $1 million China Masters instead.

Kim Bi-o had reasons to feel vindicated as he prevailed in a sudden-death play-off against New Zealand's Michael Long to win the title at the Nanshan International Golf Club in Shandong province that made him richer by $180,000.
Leveled at 10-under with three others, he holed an eight-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to seal the title.



IN OTHER NEWS
Tom Watson has been selected as the next honoree at the Memorial Tournament.

Watson is a longtime rival and friend of tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He won 39 times on the PGA Tour along with eight majors, none as memorable as the two times he beat Nicklaus. First came the famous “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977 for the British Open, then Watson’s chip-in behind the 17th green to beat Nicklaus at Pebble Beach in the 1982 U.S. Open.

One of his last PGA Tour wins was at the 1996 Memorial, which Watson won at age 46 by two shots over David Duval.

Watson will be honored at next year’s tournament, and get a bronze plaque on a wall that includes all the game’s greats.



Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III was among eight players who qualified for the British Open on Monday, giving him a spot in all four majors for the first time since 2007.

Brian Davis of England was the medalist at Gleneagles Country Club with a 6-under 64, while Chad Campbell finished one shot behind. The 36-hole qualifier was reduced to 18 holes because of heavy rain that caused a six-hour delay.

The British Open will be played July 15-17 at Royal St. George’s.

Love, who tied for fourth when the British Open was held at Royal St. George’s in 2003, was in the group of qualifiers at 66 that included Nathan Green, Spencer Levin, Chris Tidland and Bob Estes.

Jerry Kelly, who had a 67, earned the last spot in a six-for-one playoff, beating out Justin Hicks. It at least will give Kelly a shot at redemption at Royal St. George’s, where in 2003 he made an 11 on the opening hole with four shots that traveled about 15 feet in the thick rough. Kelly wound up with an 86 and had to withdraw with a wrist injury.



Patrick Reed closed out Augusta State’s second straight NCAA golf title Sunday, beating Georgia’s Harris English, 2 and 1, in the featured matchup between each team’s top player.

Reed needed only a double bogey to halve the 17th hole and win the championship after English hit his second shot into a lake left of the green.



One of golf’s more puzzling, and occasionally vilified, rules has been changed by the United States Golf Association and will soon be officially off the books.

A rules official said Rule 18-2b, which governs the movement of a ball after it has been addressed by a player during competition, was being modified to eliminate a player’s stance as one of two banned factors for causing a ball to move. The other factor, the grounding of the player’s club behind or in front of the ball, will remain in place, the official said.

“The ball will be addressed when the player places the club in front of or behind the ball. It won’t have anything to do with the stance; it won’t say anything about a stance. They’re taking the stance part out.”

A rules spokesman for the U.S.G.A. declined to comment on the specifics of what had been discussed in the rules meetings. Jeff Hall, the U.S.G.A.’s managing director for the rules of golf and amateur status, said in a telephone interview that no formal announcement of any rule changes would be made until the fall, probably in October, and that they would not be implemented until Jan. 1.



Sakura Yokomine won the JLPGA"S Resort Trust Ladies Tourney winning a seesaw battle between Satsuki Oshiro.

Oshiro, who finished the tournament tied for 2nd with Rui Kitada and Ah-Reum Hwang.



U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret pulled out of the Wales Open following the death of his father.

The Frenchman was at 2-over 144 after two rounds when he withdrew at Celtic Manor on Saturday. He was 10 strokes behind leader Alexander Noren of Sweden.

Ranked No. 117, Havret has won three times on the European Tour since turning professional in 1999.






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