Sunday, August 21, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 8-21-2011

 SIMPSON WINS WYNDHAM 
Webb Simpson claimed his first PGA Tour title Sunday, shooting a 3-under 67 to win by three strokes.

The 26-year-old Raleigh native finished at 18-under 262 and collected $936,000 in the tournament about a 30-mile drive from the Wake Forest campus where he was a college star

George McNeill (64) was at 15 under, with Tommy Gainey (69) another stroke back in the final event before the PGA Tour playoffs.

Carl Pettersson (69), Vijay Singh (65), Jerry Kelly (65), Kyung-tae Kim (66) and Charles Howell III (67) finished at 13 under at Sedgefield Country Club.

Simpson said his first visit to the Greensboro-based tournament came when he was 16. His father brought him to the event’s former home across town at Forest Oaks Country Club to caddie for Lancaster during the Wednesday pro-am.

His final 18 of this tournament were marked by steady, bogey-free play and a strong finish marked by consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.

After taking the lead during Round 3 with a late five-hole stretch of four birdies and an eagle, Simpson opened his final round with eight straight pars before moving to 16 under with a birdie on the par-4 ninth.

He stayed there until late in the day. Birdies on the par-5 15th and the par-3 16th gave him a three-shot lead with two holes to go.

McNeill made a late charge, with the former Florida State player moving to 15 under with a birdie on No. 17, his sixth birdie of the round. But all he could do after that was hope for a few late bogeys from Simpson.

Pettersson turned in perhaps the most remarkable birdie of the tournament on the par-4 first hole. After sending his drive well wide of the fairway and into a flower pot, he wound up chipping in from about 55 feet.

Gainey, a South Carolina native known as “Tommy Two Gloves” because he wears them on both hands, led or shared the lead after each of the first two rounds. After falling off the pace with two bogeys and a double bogey midway through the round, he reeled off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-15 to climb back in it.

The focus this week wasn’t solely on the leaders, but on the names moving up and down the FedEx Cup points list.

The Wyndham annually marks the last chance for players to claim spots in the playoffs, and some big names came to Greensboro hoping to play their way in.

Padraig Harrington, who called off a family vacation so he could try to escape the playoff bubble, finished at 6 under and jumped from No. 130 to No. 124. The top 125 qualify for The Barclays later this week in New Jersey.

Ernie Els, who entered at No. 126, made it into the playoff field despite shooting a final-round 72. His 8 under finish pushed him to 118th.

Among those who didn’t make it: Justin Leonard missed a 13-foot putt on the 18th, and that left him at No. 126.



COUPLES TAKES FIRST SENIOR MAJOR
Fred Couples finished off John Cook with a nifty wedge shot to 3 feet on the third hole of a playoff Sunday in the Seniors Players Championship.

Couples won his first senior major title, closing with an even-par 71 to match Cook (70) at 11-under on Westchester Country Club’s West Course—a longtime PGA Tour venue where Couples estimated he has played about 100 rounds in 30 years. Peter Senior (71) was third at 10 under.

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, won for the first time this season after winning four times last year in his first season on the 50-and-over tour.

He won after having a non-traditional back procedure six weeks ago in Germany, and had to battle the stiff wind and a sore left hip that began giving him trouble during a nearly two-hour rain delay.

Couples joined Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd as the only players to win the Players Championship on the regular and senior tours. He also earned a spot in The Players Championship, an event he won in 1984 and 1996.

Cook held a share of the lead for nine holes but bogeyed No. 16 and missed birdie putts on the final two holes, forcing the second straight playoff and fourth overall in the event.

Tom Lehman (68) was fourth at 9 under, a stroke ahead of 2010 winner Mark O’Meara (69). First-round leader Jeff Sluman (70) slipped into a five-way tie for sixth.

Cook missed a chance for his first major victory, and dropped to 0-5 in Champions Tour playoffs.

 

PETTERSEN TAKES SAFEWAY CLASSIC
Suzann Pettersen overcame a nine-stroke deficit with a 7-under 64 and beat Na Yeon Choi with a par on the first hole of a playoff to win the LPGA Safeway Classic on Sunday

In the playoff, Choi’s second shot on the par-4 18th went into the water to the right of the green, and she missed a putt for bogey before Pettersen sank her winning putt at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Pettersen, coming off a victory Aug. 7 in the European tour’s Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle, won her second LPGA Tour title of the year and eighth overall. The Norwegian star jumped to No. 2 in the world rankings behind Yani Tseng.

Choi, from South Korea, finished with a 73 to match Pettersen at 6 under on the Ghost Creek Course.

Choi birdied the par-4 17th to take a one-stroke lead, but dropped a shot after leaving a chip well short on the final hole to force the playoff.

Christina Kim shot a 78 to finish a dismal 11 over, but it was just enough to keep her in the 10th spot in the points standings for the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will take on their European counterparts in late in September at Killeen Castle.

Pettersen has already earned a spot on the European Solheim Cup team. She eagled the par-5 10th hole Sunday to help propel her into the lead.

Hee Young Park, still looking for her first tour win, shot a 67 to finish third at 5 under.

Paula Creamer had a 68 to finish another stroke back. The fan favorite had one of the largest galleries of the day, including a pink-clad admirer who carried a sign reading “Go Paula, Cream the Field.”

Choi tied for second last year, two strokes behind Ai Miyazato.

Miyazato had a final round 68 to finish this weekend at 1 under, while Michelle Wie shot a 75 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 9 over.

Kim went into the event trying to hold off Katie Futcher, Kristy McPherson and Vicky Hurst for the last of automatic spots on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Rosie Jones was set to add two captain’s picks late Sunday for the Sept. 23-25 matches.




FISHER EARNS FIRST EUROPEAN TOUR VICTORY
Oliver Fisher of England won the Czech Open on Sunday, shooting a 3-under 69 to finish two strokes ahead of Mikael Lundberg of Sweden to earn his first European Tour victory.

Fisher totaled 13-under 275 at Prosper Golf Resort to improve on his previous best result of two runner-up finishes.

Starting the round even with Steven O’Hara, Fisher had consecutive birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth holes. He had three bogeys on the back nine, but offset that with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th to keep the lead.

Lundberg, chasing his third victory, also shot a 69. Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay (66) was third at 279, a shot ahead of Gary Boyd of England (72).

O’Hara collapsed on the back nine with four bogeys, including the last three holes, in a 75. He finished equal fifth with fellow Scot David Drysdale, England’s Steve Webster and Lorenzo Gagli of Italy at 281.



NITTLES CAPTURES NATIONWIDE EVENT
Australia’s James Nitties won the Midwest Classic on Saturday for his first Nationwide Tour title, shooting with a 6-under 65 for a five-stroke victory.

Nitties opened with rounds of 65, 63 and 65 and finished at 26-under 258 at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate. He earned $99,000 to jump from 53rd to 12th on the money list with $150,537, putting him in position to earn a 2012 PGA Tour card as top-25 finisher on the final list.

Jonas Blixt (66) and Nick Flanagan (68) tied for second, and J.J. Killeen (70), Jason Kokrak (65) and Josh Geary (69) followed at 20 under. Killeen was trying to win for the third time in four weeks.



IN OTHER NEWS
U.S. captain Fred Couples wants Tiger Woods on the Presidents Cup team, provided Woods plays tournaments before he shows up at the Australian Open a week before the matches.

Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship—only his second tournament in four months—and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. That makes him ineligible for any PGA Tour event until the first week of October. Couples is to make his two captain’s picks on Sept. 26, the day after the Tour Championship.

Woods already has a contract to play in the Australian Open in Sydney. The Presidents Cup is the week after, on Nov. 17-20, at Royal Melbourne. Woods has played every Presidents Cup since he first became eligible for them in 1998.

Couples and Woods are longtime friends, and when Couples agreed to return as captain, he jokingly sent Woods a text message telling him to play well so the captain wouldn’t have to waste a pick on him.

Turns out it was no joke. Because of injuries to his left leg, Woods went from the Masters on April 10 to the Bridgestone Invitational on Aug. 7 without completing a tournament. Then came the final major, where he missed the cut by six shots and finished out of the top 100 for the first time in a major.

Couples said he has talked to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, about playing more events and “we’re going to figure out a way that we can get this done.”

Woods said upon leaving the PGA Championship that he has plenty of time to work on his game, but he did not rule out playing more.

Couples also said PGA champion Keegan Bradley was not guaranteed a captain’s pick if he needed one. Bradley is a 25-year-old rookie who has won twice this year, including the final major of the year.

Players have until the third playoff event—the BMW Championship in Chicago that ends Sept. 18 to finish among the top 10 and qualifying. Bradley is at No. 18.




Mike Weir’s season has ended because of elbow surgery.

The Canadian left-hander underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right elbow on Thursday. With a recover period of three to six months, he’s not expected back on the PGA Tour until 2012.

His 2010 season also was cut short by a torn ligament in his right elbow. He hasn’t played since withdrawing from last month’s RBC Canadian Open.

He made just two cuts in 15 PGA events this year and earned $23,312. He managed to break 70 in one of the 34 rounds he completed.

The former Masters champion has fallen to 539th in the world rankings.



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