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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