Sunday, July 31, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 7-31-2011

STALLINGS CAPTURES FIRST TOUR WIN
 PGA Tour rookie Scott Stallings won the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday, sinking a birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Bob Estes and Bill Haas.

After watching Estes and Haas miss their birdie attempts on the 168-yard 18th hole, Stallings curled in a 7-footer for his first tour victory. He flipped his putter, then hugged and high-fived his caddie.

Stallings made six birdies on the back nine to make the playoff, where he earned a winner’s check of $1.08 million and a spot in the Bridgestone Invitational.

It marked the second straight week that a tournament was won in sudden death. Sean O’Hair beat Kris Blanks on the first playoff hole a week ago at the Canadian Open.



  TSENG WINS BRITISH OPEN
Yani Tseng won the Women’s British Open for the second straight year, beating Brittany Lang by four strokes Sunday and becoming the youngest woman to capture a fifth major title.

The 22-year-old top-ranked Taiwanese shot a 3-under 69 to finish at 16-under 272. She trailed third-round leader Caroline Masson of Germany by two strokes entering the final round. Masson closed with a 78 to finish tied for fifth.

Lang shot a 67 to finish at 276, one ahead of Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson, who had a final round 68. South Korea’s Amy Yang had a 67 and was fourth.

Lang was tied for sixth entering the final day, eight behind Masson. She picked up just one stroke by the turn but the American bagged four birdies at Nos. 11, 12, 14 and 17.

Tseng dropped a shot at the first hole with three putts, missing a 3-footer for par. She birdied the third with a pitching wedge to 2 feet and the long sixth with a chip to 5 feet to be out in 35.

Playing alongside Masson, who was out in 39, Tseng had taken a firm grip by the turn. She was just short of the green off the tee at the par-4 11th and took two putts for a birdie, but then dropped a shot at two straight holes. She hit an 8-iron over the back of the green at 12 and then hit the pin off the tee on the short 13th but her ball stopped at the edge of a bunker. She stood in the sand to play her second shot.

Tseng birdied the long 14th and finished with two birdies, holing from 20 feet on the 17th and hitting a majestic 9-iron to 3 feet at the last.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist tied for seventh at 280 with South Koreans Sun Young Yoo, Na Yeon Choi and Inbee Pak.

American Stacy Lewis moved up the leaderboard with a 4-under 68, going from a share of 22nd overnight to a share of 11th at 281.

Sweden’s Maria Hjorth was at 282 after a 68 and Americans Katie Futcher and Cristie Kerr were in a group a stroke further back. Futcher equaled the best round of the week with a 64, including an eagle at the long 14th, followed by three birdies. Kerr had four birdies for a 68 to finish at 5 under.

Paula Creamer dropped five strokes in the first five holes to be out in 40, then dropped three more on the back nine for a 79. Brittany Lincicome shot 73 to finish at 287 as did first-round leader Meena Lee, who closed with a 74 after opening with a 65 Thursday.



 BROWNE IS U.S. SENIOR OPEN CHAMP
Olin Browne showed little emotion until rolling in a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to clinch a three-shot victory over Mark O’Meara in the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday.
It was the biggest triumph of the journeyman’s 27 years as a professional.
Browne’s closing even-par 71 followed rounds of 64, 69 and 65 and left him at 15-under 269.
Making few mistakes, he parred the first seven holes. After a bogey dropped him into a tie with O’Meara (72), he played the last 10 holes in 1 under, while O’Meara made two costly bogeys.

Mark Calcavecchia shot a 69 and was alone in third at 273. Ageless Hale Irwin had a 68 was another shot back along with Joey Sindelar (70).



DYSON TAKES IRISH OPEN
Simon Dyson of England won the Irish Open by a stroke Sunday, capitalizing on a poor approach shot by Richard Green of Australia on the final hole.

Dyson was trailing by a shot when he birdied the 17th to draw even. His round of 4-under 67 left him 15-under 269 for the tournament. Dyson finished ninth at the British Open two weeks ago and called his play in the Irish Open “probably the best golf I’ve ever played.”

Green all but handed Dyson the victory when his approach on the 18th led to a three-putt bogey, only his second of the day. He finished at 68 for a 14 under total.

Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher was third after a 68 left him at 12 under.

With the victory, Dyson qualified for next week’s World Golf Championship in Akron, Ohio. He received the Waterford Crystal winner’s trophy from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and $360,000.





 

 IN OTHER NEWS
Tiger Woods already has missed two major championships this year. He doesn’t plan on missing the last one.

Woods has formally entered the PGA Championship, to be played Aug. 11-14 at Atlanta Athletic Club. He has been out of golf for nearly three months so that injuries to his left leg can properly heal. He will make his return next week in the World Golf Championship event at Firestone.

PGA spokesman Julius Mason said Friday that Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, told him that as long as everything goes well at Firestone and there are no complications to his left leg, that Woods intends to play the PGA.

Woods has failed to win the last nine majors he has played, one short of matching his longest drought.

 

Hale Irwin, a winner of four majors on the PGA Tour and seven more on the Champions Tour, matched his age, shooting a 66 in the third round of the U.S. Senior Open. It marked the he second time he had done it in a competitive round on the Champions Tour, including a 65 at the AT&T.



 A slight tear in the tendon in Mike Weir’s right elbow has forced him out of at least one more PGA Tour event.

Doctors have advised Weir to take a couple weeks off, forcing him to pull out of next week’s Reno-Tahoe Open.

Weir has battled injuries for the better part of a year and was forced to withdraw from last week’s Canadian Open after suffering the latest setback.

The 41-year-old Canadian will rehab the injury with ice and therapy. It’s not nearly as serious as when he tore a ligament last summer, but Weir doesn’t want to rush back and risk further injury.

The 2003 Masters champion has made just two cuts and $23,312 while watching his world ranking fall to 501st.



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Sunday, July 24, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 7-24-2011

O'HAIR WINS CANADIAN OPEN
Sean O'Hair defeated Kris Blanks on the first playoff hole to win the RBC Canadian Open today.
O'Hair made bogey on No. 18, but picked up his first win since 2009 when Blanks carded double bogey. The Texan shot 68 in the final round to reach the playoff at 4-under. Blanks had 69.

It was the fourth PGA Tour win for O’Hair, but his first time in the top 15 during a season that had seen him miss 10 of 17 cuts coming into this event.

The 29-year-old O’Hair started the day three shots behind leader Bo Van Pelt before shooting 68 to get into the playoff with Blanks (70) at 4-under 276.

It was the second-highest winning total on the PGA Tour this season, and the first non-major without a bogey-free round since 2008. Only eight players finished under par on the tree-lined Shaugnessy Golf and Country Club, so it was perhaps fitting that the $5.2-million tournament was won with a bogey.

O’Hair’s $936,000 winning share was almost triple his season earnings coming into the week, and vaulted him up 104 places in the FedEx Cup playoff standings to 43rd with five weeks left in the race.

Argentina’s Andres Romero, 4-over through nine holes, made five birdies in his next seven, including a 15-foot putt for his third in a row on No. 16 to tie for the lead. But he missed a 22-foot par putt on No. 18 that would have put him in the playoffs after leaving his bunker shot well short, finishing with an even-par 70 in the final round and alone in third place at 277.

The victory earns O'Hair a trip to the Masters Tournament.

Adam Hadwin, who was just one shot off the pace after three rounds, carded a 2-over 72 Sunday to finish the tournament at 2-under 278.



COCHRAN WINS SR. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
 Russ Cochran upstaged some of his more illustrious counterparts to become only the second left-hander after Sir Bob Charles to win The Senior Open Championship.

The American finished with a superb final round of 67 on a day of low scoring and high temperatures at Walton Heath Golf Club, in Surrey, to finish on 12 under par and prevail by two strokes over  Mark Calcavecchia. 

The American duo of Corey Pavin and  Tom Watson finished a further stroke behind courtesy of respective rounds of 69 and 67, with England’s Barry Lane the highest European finisher on eight under par.

Cochran, who began the day as co-leader with South African David Frost and Calcavecchia, birdied the opening two holes and picked up further shots on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes to reach the turn in 31.

Calcavecchia had been keeping pace with after birdies on the second, third and sixth holes, but a double bogey five on the par three ninth hole, where he four-putted, and cost him dearly.

That left Cochran in charge of the tournament, and he came home in level par to take the title.

The former US PGA Tour champion, who was tied third in last year’s Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie and was Rookie of the Year on the US Champions Tour in 2009, earned US$315,600 for his victory. 



NOREN WINS IN SWEDEN
 Alexander Noren of Sweden relied on his huge overnight lead to clinch the Nordea Masters title on Sunday, finishing seven shots clear despite a 5-over 77 in the final round.

Noren entered the day with an 11-shot lead after a course-record 63 on Saturday, and was never threatened despite a number of mishaps on a windy day in the Swedish capital. The Swede started and finished his round with a birdie but had five bogeys and a double-bogey in between for a 15-under total of 273.

His dropped shots meant little, however, with most of the other players also struggling in the tough conditions at the Bro Hof Slott course. Richard Finch finished second after becoming the only player to break par in the final round with a 3-under 69.

Niklas Lemke of Sweden had a 73 and was another three shots behind in third.
It was Noren’s third career victory on the European Tour and second of the season after taking the Wales Open title in June. With such a massive lead, the 29-year-old Swede said his only concern was getting past the 17th hole, a par-3 with an island green surrounded by water.

Finch’s round would have been even more impressive had he not found the water on that 17th hole. He settled for a triple-bogey, which took some of the shine off his 70-foot putt for birdie on the 16th.



 MIYAZATO TAKES EVIAN MASTERS
 Ai Miyazato clinched her first title of the year at the Evian Masters on Sunday and pledged to share her prize money with the people still suffering in the aftermath of the disasters back home in Japan.
Miyazato shot a 2-under 70 to protect her two-shot lead and hold off a surge from Stacy Lewis of the United States, the Kraft Nabisco winner who missed a golden chance to even the scores on the 16th hole.

Miyazato played with consistency throughout the tournament, dropping shots on just five of the 72 holes overall and finishing with a 15-under total of 273. Lewis also shot a 70 to finish two shots back in second, with a trio of players another stroke behind.Miyazato joins two-time winners Laura Davies of England and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, and needs one more Evian win to tie Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson, the inaugural tournament champion and record-holder with three.

Lewis, the Kraft Nabisco winner, kept the pressure on and moved one shot behind Miyazato with a birdie on the 15th.But, with a birdie chance to level the match on the next hole, Lewis three-putted for a bogey to be two adrift of Miyazato again, her chances slipping away.



AMATEUR WINS NATIONWIDE EVENT
Amateur Harris English won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational by one stroke over Kyle Reifers and fellow amateur John Peterson.

In the final round, Peterson was 1-under-par before dropping strokes on the 10th and 14th holes to fall a stroke behind  Harris English at 13-under. A two-stroke swing on the par-4 15th gave Peterson a lead over the No. 6-ranked amateur in the world.

However, English turned the tables on Peterson with birdie and another two-stroke swing on the closing hole to claim the title. English's victory was the second in 2011 by an amateur and the third all-time on the Nationwide Tour.



 IN OTHER NEWS
Jordan Spieth of Dallas closed out his junior golf career in dominating fashion Saturday, winning the 64th annual U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in a 6-and-5 runaway at Gold Mountain Golf Club.
After beating Chelso Barrett, 16, of Keene, N.H., Spieth enters the USGA record book as only the second player to win this title multiple times.

Tiger Woods won it three times, from 1991 to 1993.

Spieth, who turns 18 Wednesday and graduates out of the junior ranks, was beaten in the second round last year.Spieth, who will attend Texas in the fall, is set to play in the Western Amateur in two weeks, and then at the U.S. Amateur next month, an event Woods also won three times in a row.




A case of vandalism on one of the greens didn’t affect play Saturday at the RBC Canadian Open.
Grounds crews discovered bleach had been poured on the grass on the eighth green, a par-3 hole at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country.

“When they found it, they did all they could to wash it out,” said Bill Paul, the tournament director. “We are investigating it right now with Vancouver police. That’s all there really is.”

The damage was discovered at around 6 a.m. when superintendent Rob Barr was inspecting the course. Some brown streaks could be seen on the green, but it didn’t affect play in the $5.2 million tournament.


 
Tiger Woods fired caddie Steve Williams on Wednesday, leaving his good friend stunned and ending a 12-year relationship in which he won 72 times worldwide and 13 majors.

"I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it's time for a change," Woods said on his website. "Stevie is an outstanding caddie and a friend and has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments. I wish him great success in the future."

Woods did not say who would replace Williams -- one of only two caddies he has employed on a regular basis -- or when he might return to golf.

"Needless to say, this came as a shock," Williams said in a statement posted on his own website.



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Sunday, July 17, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 7-17-2011

 CLARKE WINS CLARET JUG
Darren Clarke held on for a three stroke victory in the 140th Open Champiomship.

A cigarette curled under his fingers as he walked  the fairways, Clarke held off brief challenges from Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and held up under the pressure until no one could catch him.

Mickelson, who needed only seven holes to made up a five-shot deficit, stepped aside by missing too many short putts. Johnson, in the final group of a major for the third time in the last six, made another blunder with a major at stake. This time, he was two shots behind on the par-5 14th, tried to lay up with a 2-iron and hit it out-of-bounds to make double bogey.

They shared second place, stretching the American drought to six straight majors without winning.
Despite meaningless bogeys on the last two holes, Clarke closed with an even-par 70.

The weather was so wild that heavy rain switched over to sunshine, back and forth all afternoon, in a relentless wind. Clarke was steady through it all, never allowing himself to think about what it mean to hold the claret jug until he stepped onto the 18th green.

With a one-shot lead over Johnson going into the final round, there was a sense that Clarke wouldn’t be able to hold up. But he holed a 12-foot par putt on the first, a downhill 8-footer for par on the third. A 20-foot eagle putt on the seventh, not long after Mickelson made eagle to tie him, gave Clarke the lead for good.

No one had ever gone more than 15 starts in the British Open until winning, and this was the 20th try for Clarke.  He delivered on the demanding links of Royal St. George’s to hold off the two Americans.

Puffing away at cigarettes as he walked  down the fairways, he never looked to be in any trouble. And the few times he did, the golfing gods came to the rescue. He twice hit shots that were headed for pot bunkers well short of the green, only to hop over them or around them, keeping him in control.

He posed with the claret jug that was empty, but not for long. He promised some “nice, Irish black stuff” by evening. And when asked about the celebration, Clarke promised only that it would be “long.”

He finished at 5-under 275 and became the first player in his 40s to win a major since Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA Championship. Only two other players were older than Clarke when they won their first major Roberto De Vicenzo in the 1967 British Open, and Jerry Barber in the 1961 PGA Championship.

Mickelson’s problems started on the par-3 11th, when he missed a par putt from just inside 3 feet.
He wound up with a 68, which felt more like a 78, and had his seventh runner-up finish in a major.

It might have been more devastating for Johnson, who never lost his composure even as he fell four shots behind on the front nine. Johnson made a 6-foot birdie on the 10th and a 15-foot birdie on the 12th to get within two shots.

Johnson had an 8-foot birdie attempt at No. 13 as Clarke went over the green. Instead of a potential two-shot swing, however, Clarke saved yet another par, and Johnson missed his putt. From the middle of the 14th fairway, Johnson tried to lay up with a 2-iron, playing a draw back toward the flag. The wind caught it and took it beyond the white stakes, and Johnson hung his head and dropped another ball in the fairway.

It was another wasted opportunity—the 82 in the final round of the U.S. Open with a three-shot lead, then taking a two-shot penalty on the last hole of the PGA Championship when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker.

Thomas Bjorn, who threw away the British Open in a bunker on the 16th hole eight years ago, acquitted himself nicely. He never got closer than three shots all day, but his 71 put him in fourth place and at least earned him a trip back to the Masters next year.





KIRK TAKES VIKING CLASSIC
Chris Kirk birdied the 17th to break a three way tie for first and won his first PGA Tour event with a one-stroke victory in the Viking Classic, shooting a 4-under 68 to beat Tom Pernice Jr. and George McNeill.

The 26-year-old rookie tied the tournament record with a 22-under performance over four rounds, taking advantage of Annandale Golf Club’s soft greens and fairway. He broke a tie with McNeill on No. 17, hitting a 140-yard approach over water to within five feet of the hole for an easy birdie putt.
The 51-year-old Pernice fell just short in his attempt to become the second-oldest winner in tour history, missing a birdie putt on No. 18.

Kirk is the fifth rookie to win this season—only the second time that’s happened since 1970.



 JACK WAGNER WINS CELEBRITY EVENT
Actor Jack Wagner birdied the par-3 17th hole and survived a bogey on the final hole for a 3-point win over Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo at the American Century Championship. Wagner outscored Romo, 80-77, to become the fourth multiple winner in the event’s 22-year history. The event used a Stableford scoring system where points were awarded for pars or better.

The 51-year-old Wagner, who also won in 2006, led after each of the three rounds. He made 18 birdies over the 54 holes at the 6,865-yard Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Wagner shot 69 with seven birdies (worth 3 points apiece) and four bogeys Sunday. Romo shot a bogey-free 66, and his 31 points were a single-round best for the week.

Chris Chandler and Jeremy Roenick finished tied for third, with 66 points. Eight-time champion Rick Rhoden was fifth with 61 points.







 IN OTHER NEWS
Eighteen holes with Phil Mickelson were enough to convince Tom Lewis that he wasn’t ready to turn professional just yet.

Lewis announced himself to the world with a stunning 65 in the first round of the British Open, earning the 20-year-old English amateur a shock share of lead and turning him into an overnight sensation.

His family and girlfriend were suddenly in the British press. Agencies were reportedly lining up for him. The sky was the limit for the kid named after Tom Watson, with whom he played his first two rounds.

Then one round with Mickelson on Saturday, when Lewis shot a 76 in heavy rain and wind, brought him back to reality.

“Playing with Phil made me feel terrible, really terrible around the greens. If you’re going to play with the best players in the world, you have to chip and putt like they do,” Lewis said.

“I’m pretty glad I played with him.”

Still, Lewis hasn’t done too bad this week.
A closing round of 4-over 74 on Sunday helped win him the silver medal for the leading amateur finisher at the British Open. He was three shots ahead of 21-year-old American Peter Uihlein, the only other amateur left in the field.

There was speculation that Lewis was planning to drop his amateur status and immediately become professional. He will delay turning pro until probably after the Walker Cup in Scotland in September.



Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge was originally scheduled for July 5, but was postponed once it was clear Tiger Woods couldn't play at that time.

On Thursday, Begay's foundation issued a press release saying that Woods is among the eight players taking part in the rescheduled event on Aug. 31.

As for the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge, it takes place at Turning Stone Resort in New York and raises money and awareness for healthcare issues among Native American youth. Other players there will be Begay, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen and Natalie Gulbis.




 Former NHL All-Star Joe Sakic picked a good spot for his first career hole-in-one - a $1 million two-hopper into the cup on the waterfront par-3 17th at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

"That's a shot you never imagine hitting," said Sakic, who won two Stanley Cups and an MVP trophy with the Colorado Avalanche. "I've never even been close before."

For the last three years, any player hitting an ace on the signature hole at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course earned a $1 million bonus from tourney sponsor American Century, with the Kansas City-based investment company stipulating that half of the prize go to its primary charity benefactor.
So Sakic will split the $1 million with Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation for cancer research.

Sakic said he used an 8-iron for the ace on the 167-yard hole along Lake Tahoe's  waters where dozens of yachts and boats annually set down anchor to catch a glimpse of the action on the course.


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Sunday, July 10, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 7-10-2011

RYU TAKES US WOMENS OPEN IN PLAYOFF
So Yeon Ryu fought her way into a tie at the end of 72 holes and then shutting the door on her rival, Ryu won the U.S. Women’s Open on Monday, defeating Hee Kyung Seo by three shots in a three-hole playoff.

Ryu became the fifth South Korean to win the Open and the fourth in the last seven years. Yes, they take their golf seriously there and Se Ri Pak—the queen of the sport in that country—was out on the course watching the 21-year-old Ryu make history.

Ryu played the three-hole playoff in 2-under par, all but sealing it when she hit three perfect shots to the green on the par-5 17th for a birdie while Seo drove into a bunker and had to scramble for bogey.

For good measure, Ryu hit her approach on 18 to four feet for another birdie.

But really, it was the birdie she made on that hole about an hour earlier that set her up for the win.

Trailing by one to an opponent who had closed out her round before darkness stopped play the previous night, Ryu hit a 6-iron uphill, over the lake on No. 18 to six feet. She slammed the putt home to pull into a tie and ended up with two birdies in an hour on a hole that yielded only 28 over five days.

Nobody will ever say Ryu backed into this victory, won on a 7,000-yard Broadmoor course that got hit by storms every day, turning it into a marathon for some players and a sporadic series of starts and stops for others.

Seo was the best on Sunday, when she played 36 holes over 14 hours and finished both rounds at 3-under 68. But there was one hiccup: A short putt that rimmed out on No. 17 when she was rushing to finish—a ball hit while the wind was whipping, leaving her uneasy as she stood over it. It left her at 3 under instead of 4 under and gave Ryu a glimmer of hope.



 STRICKER'S TRIPLE PLAY
Steve Stricker’s third straight victory in the John Deere Classic certainly was the most challenging—and by far the most dramatic.

With nine holes to play, Stricker led by five strokes. With two holes left, he was two shots down.
Stricker sank a 25-foot putt from off the 18th green Sunday to beat rookie Kyle Stanley by one stroke.

Stricker’s clutch putt capped a roller coaster round on a steamy afternoon and gave him a 2-under par 69, good enough to make him the 10th golfer since World War II to win a tournament three straight times.

Despite a double-bogey on No. 5, when he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker, and bogeys on 15 and 16, Stricker finished at 22-under 262. Stanley, 23, whose best finish previously had been a tie for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March, closed with a 66.

Matt McQuillan, who had missed the cut in his previous 10 tournaments, shot a 64 to tie Zach Johnson (65) for third at 17 under. Charles Howell III (64) and Chez Reavie (72) were another stroke back.

Stanley zoomed in front with birdies on five of the first six holes on the back nine, and kept the lead by salvaging par on 17 after sending his tee shot into a grove of trees. But he missed a 9-foot par putt on 18 to open the door for Stricker, who took advantage.

Stricker had fallen two behind with those back-to-back bogeys, which seemingly ended his hopes of a threepeat.

But he regrouped quickly. Stricker knocked in a 15-foot putt for birdie on 17 to cut Stanley’s lead to one stroke, then made what turned out to be a tournament-saving shot from a bunker on the left side of the fairway on 18.

Standing with his left foot in the bunker and his right foot on the lip, Stricker hit the ball solidly and left it on the fringe of the green behind the pin, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.

The next roar was even louder. Using his putter, Stricker sent the ball toward the cup and watched it curl in from the left side. The 44-year-old from Madison, Wis., a crowd favorite at this tournament, backed away as the ball neared the hole, then raised his arms and pumped his fist to celebrate the moment.

With the victory, Stricker joined a small but noteworthy group of golfers who have won a tournament three years running. The list reads like a Who’s Who’s of the game and includes Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Johnny Miller.

Stanley claimed a nice consolation prize, earning the spot in the British Open that goes to the highest finisher in this tournament who’s not already qualified. But if it hadn’t been for Stricker’s late heroics, Stanley would have had his first victory on the tour.






DONALD WINS SCOTTISH OPEN
Luke Donald enjoyed the perfect warmup for next week’s British Open with a flawless 9-under 63 to win the rain-shortened Scottish Open by four strokes, his first victory since becoming the world’s top-ranked player in May.

The 33-year-old Englishman started the third and final round a shot behind a trio of joint leaders but rolled in nine birdies in a majestic bogey-free display at Castle Stuart.
With only a light wind leaving the links course defenseless, Donald romped home with a winning total of 19 under, ahead of Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed (62).
His eighth professional title—and third this year—didn’t just cement his top ranking, which he secured for the first time nearly two months ago by beating compatriot Lee Westwood in a playoff for the PGA Championship on his last appearance in Europe.

It also provided the ideal tonic ahead of the British Open at Royal St. George’s starting Thursday, where he’ll attempt to land his first major.

Colin Montgomerie had also been looking to qualify for his home major for the 22nd straight year but could only card a 70 to finish in a tie for 31st at 10 under.

The former Europe Ryder Cup captain briefly shared the lead in the final round after a birdie at the sixth, but dropped four shots at the start of the back nine to shatter his hopes.

No player has ever won the Scottish Open and gone on to win the British Open the following week, but Donald looks in good position to become the first.






 SLUMAN TAKES CHAMPIONS TOUR EVENT
Jeff Sluman shot a 2-under 70 and overcame a pair of bogeys on the back nine Sunday, holding on to win the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach for the third time.

On a day when most of the leaders struggled just to break even, Sluman had five birdies and closed with three straight pars to finish at 10-under 206 and seal his first victory since winning here in 2009. He also took the title at Pebble Beach in 2008, making Sluman the only three-time winner of this event.

Jay Haas entered the final round with a two-stroke lead, but struggled all afternoon and had a 75 to finish in a three-way tie for second. David Eger (72) and Brad Bryant (73) joined Haas at 208, while local favorite Bobby Clampett (74) ended in a five-way tie for fifth.

Defending champion Ted Schulz shot 75 and was tied for 27th at 215.



IN OTHER NEWS
One drive into thick grass ended John Daly’s hopes of making the cut for the first time at the John Deere Classic.

Daly needed seven shots, each advancing his ball only a few feet, and a drop to get out of the rough right of the No. 4 fairway and ended up with a 13 on the par-4 hole. He had stepped to the tee at 2-under for the tournament, which he played for the seventh time.

It wasn’t Daly’s worst hole on tour. He had an 18 on No. 6 at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational, when he hit into the water six times.

Daly, who finished his round at 10-over 81, said he hit a terrible shot into the worst spot on the TPC Deere Run course and deserved what he got.



Jason Faircloth is no stranger to big challenges. The 32-year-old Clinton, N.C. native will be taking on his next big challenge next month when he becomes the first American golfer to play in the Disabled British Open at East Sussex National Golf Resort and Spa.

Faircloth, who has cerebral palsy, began playing golf at 12 years old. Twenty years later, he will be teeing it up with golfers from all over the world, on a course designed for championship golf with the intent of winning.



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Monday, July 4, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 7-3-2011

 WATNEY WINS FOR SECOND TIME THIS YEAR
Nick Watney closed with a 4-under 66 for a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi (67) to win the AT&T National for his second win this year and moved him  to No. 10 in the world rankings.

Watney, whose other win this year was a World Golf Championship against an elite field at Doral, also put himself atop the FedEx Cup standings and the PGA Tour money list for the first time.
With only 27 holes left in the tournament, Watney was trying to keep from getting left behind. Ten birdies, an eagle and no bogeys later, he was posing with the silver trophy of a Liberty Bell and wondering how much better he could get.

Watney finished on 13-under 267, tying the tournament record by Tiger Woods in 2009 when it was played at Congressional. The tournament is scheduled to return to Congressional next year.
Charles Howell III earned quite a consolation prize. He played bogey-free in the final round for a 6-under 66 to tie for third with Adam Scott (68) and Jeff Overton (67). That made him eligible for the British Open in two weeks as the top finisher from the top five who wasn’t already exempt.
Fowler had another learning experience.

He fell out of the hunt early with a double bogey on the second hole when he hit three straight shots without losing his turn. From a tough spot in the bunker, he came up well short of the green, barely got his putt up the slope, then ran his bogey attempt a nervy 3 feet beyond the hole. That became a three-shot swing when Watney made birdie, and Fowler never caught up. He finished with a 74 to tie for 13th.

Watney didn’t give anyone much of a chance. He took the outright lead with a wedge into 10 feet for birdie on No. 2, and holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth. Despite leaving himself in a tough spot in the bunker on the par-5 ninth, he blasted out to 2 feet for another birdie.

Even so, his biggest putts were for par.

Watney saved par from bunkers on No. 4 with a 20-foot putt, and from No. 7 with a putt from about 12 feet. His biggest par save might have been the par-3 eighth, which yielded only two birdies in the final round.

Overton had reached 9 under and was making a move, and Choi had birdied the previous to also reach 9 under. Watney’s shot went over the green, and he putted up the slope to 18 feet. He made the par putt to keep his cushion.

The final challenge came from Choi, who trailed by four shots at one point. He slowly made up ground, then closed in on Watney after the turn with a bending, downhill birdie putt on the 11th and a pair of long birdie putts on the 12th and 14th holes, the last one tying for the lead.

Momentum was with Choi, only the South Korean knew better. The par-4 15th played at 503 yards into a slight breeze, following by the par-5 16th that was reachable in two.

Choi pulled his shot into the left rough, then tried to hit 5-wood toward the green. The thick grass shut his club and sent the shot into a bunker, some 60 yards from the pin, and so close to the side that his legs were pressed against the edge of the bunker. Choi hit a solid shot, but it took one more hop into the rough, he chipped out to 12 feet and missed the putt.

Watney was just short of the green and lagged his putt from 75 feet to 5 feet, converting yet another important par.

On the next hole, Watney used his power to smash a drive that left him only a 7-iron to the green, and he again hit a good lag for a two-putt birdie. His seventh and final par save came from just behind the 17th green, and his chip stopped 2 feet from the cup.

Watney earned $1.116 million and became the first player this year to top $4 million on tour.



 LEVET CAPTURES FRENCH OPEN TITLE
Thomas Levet shot a 1-under 70 in windy conditions to win the French Open, beating Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Mark Foster of England by a stroke.

Levet made four birdies and three bogeys Sunday for a 7-under total of 277 to capture his sixth career title.

Martin Kaymer was three strokes back in fourth after a closing 73. The PGA Championship winner will overtake U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy for No. 3 when the world rankings are published Monday.

Levet, the 2002 British Open runner-up, was tied with Olesen until the last hole. Levet hit an approach that landed 14 feet from the pin on the water-guarded green, while Olesen cleared the lake but failed to reach the green with his second shot.

Levet missed his birdie putt, giving the Dane the chance to force a playoff. Olesen’s chip landed about 3 feet from the cup, but he failed to convert a short par putt. Foster was also in position to force a playoff but his 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th was short.




COOK VICTORIOUS IN MONTREAL
 John Cook won the Montreal Championship for his third Champions Tour title of the year, closing with a 6-under 66 on Sunday for a tournament-record 21-under 195 total.

Cook, the runner-up last year at Fontainebleau Golf Club, beat Taiwan’s Lu Chien-soon (70) by three strokes. Joey Sindelar (68) was third at 17 under, and Bill Glasson (64), Corey Pavin (67) and Dan Forsman (68) were another stroke back. Canadian Rod Spittle broke the course record with a 62 to finish at 15 under.

Cook also won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii in January and topped Jay Don Blake in a playoff in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Florida in April. Cook has eight victories on the 50-and-over tour after winning 11 times on the PGA Tour.






 IN OTHER NEWS
The PGA Tour announced Wednesday that Barclays has signed a four-year extension as title sponsor through 2016, and that its tournament would be played at Bethpage Black in 2012 and 2016.

The Associated Press first reported in February that The Barclays was planning to go to Bethpage Black, a state-owned golf course on Long Island that hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open.
The Barclays is the first of four playoff events during the chase for the $10 million FedEx Cup prize, featuring a 125-man field.

The tour also said that Liberty National, panned by several players when it held the tournament in 2009, would be back in the rotation for 2013. The courses to be used are Ridgewood (2014) and Plainfield (2015), both in New Jersey.



Tiger Woods has signed a three-year deal to promote a Japanese pain reliever, his first endorsement since he was caught in a sex scandal toward the end of 2009.

The deal with Kowa Company Ltd. is geared only toward the market in Japan. Woods already has filmed commercials for “Vantelin Kowa,” a heat rub used to relieve muscle and joint pain. The commercial is to be shown in Japan starting next month.




Vijay Singh has pulled out of the AT&T National with a back injury.

Singh, a former world No. 1 whose last victory came in 2008 when he won two playoff events to capture the FedEx Cup, had opened with rounds of 68-70 at Aronimink. He was only five shots behind 36-hole leader K.J. Choi.

The severity of the injury was not disclosed Saturday.

The 48-year-old Fijian is not yet eligible for the British Open, and a good weekend at the AT&T National might have been enough for him to at least be one of the top alternates for Royal St. George’s.



Austria’s Markus Brier joined 11 British players in booking their places in next month’s British Open through final qualifying on Wednesday.

Brier, a two-time winner on the European Tour, came through a five-man playoff on the Littlestone course to qualify for the third major of the year, at Royal St. George’s from July 14-17.
Englishman Lee Corfield also qualified via the playoff to join Littlestone winner Andy Smith, whose 4-under total of 138 was achieved in adversity.

London-born Mark Laskey overcame Dutchman Inder Van Weerelt in a playoff at Rye, while English pair Andrew Johnston and Simon Lilly progressed after a four-man playoff at Royal Cinque Ports.

New Zealander Michael Campbell, who won the U.S. Open in 2005, and former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden missed out on Tuesday.



 Charles Howell III is off to Royal St. George’s and a spot in the British Open because of his third-place finish Sunday in the AT&T National.

Howell locked up a spot because he had the highest finish from among the top five of those golfers not already qualified for the British Open.




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