Sunday, December 18, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 12-18-2011

 LEXI MAKES HISTORY AGAIN
 American teenager Lexi Thompson has made history as the youngest winner on both the LPGA and Ladies European Tours.

The 16-year-old Thompson shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to win the Dubai Ladies Masters, becoming the youngest professional winner on that side of the Atlantic.


Thompson pulled away from Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa to win by four strokes for her second professional victory. In September, she became the youngest winner of an LPGA tournament at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.


Thompson chipped in for a birdie on No. 9 to take a one-shot lead over Pace and extended her lead with four birdies on the back nine for a 15-under 273 total.


Pace (69) started strong with two birdies and an eagle on her first six holes, but shaky putting on the back nine ended her chances.


The 2010 European Tour money winner, Pace hit her approach shot on No. 12 over the green for her second bogey in five holes.


Sophie Gustafson of Sweden (71) was a shot behind Pace in third place followed by four players another shot back.


Michelle Wie (72) came into the final round five shots behind leader Thompson. She fell out of contention with two bogeys and a double-bogey on the front nine, finishing tied for 12th.



POULTER STORMS BACK GETS AUSSIE MASTERS WIN
 Ian Poulter won the Australian Masters on Sunday, spoiling Geoff Ogilvy’s bid for a victory on his boyhood course.


Poulter, two strokes behind Ogilvy entering the round, closed with a 4-under 67 in windy conditions to finish at 15-under 269 at Victoria Golf Club.


Australian Marcus Fraser had a 64 to finish second, three strokes back. Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion who matched the course record with a 63 on Saturday, shot a 73 to end up third at 11 under.


Poulter erased Ogilvy’s overnight lead with a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-4 first hole. He then hit a birdie on the seventh to take the outright lead and added another on the ninth to make the turn with a two-shot advantage.


World No. 1 Luke Donald had four birdies on the front nine to move up to fifth place, but followed with four bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 1-over 72 and a share of 12th.


Greg Chalmers failed in his bid to become the second player to complete the Australian Triple Crown, shooting a 74 to join Donald in the group at 4 under. Robert Allenby remains the only player to sweep the Australian Open, PGA and Masters. He accomplished the feat in 2005.




WESTWOOD GETS FOURTH WIN OF THE YEAR
Lee Westwood brushed aside a challenge from Masters champion Charl Schwartzel to win the $1 million Thailand Golf Championship by seven strokes.

 Westwood's fourth victory of the season, moved him up to world number two, replacing Rory McIlroy.


The Englishman had played fine golf all week including a stunning 12-under-par 60 in the first round.


He shot 69 in his final round to finish the tournament on 266, an impressive 22 under par, for his third win in Asia this season.


Schwartzel fought hard and briefly threatened the leader, but the South African had to settle for the runner-up spot after shooting an even-par 72.


Little-known American Michael Thompson  finished  in third place, one shot back, while tied for  fourth place two strokes further back were Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol and Simon Dyson of England.


There was drama at the par-five 11th when Schwartzel sunk an eagle while Westwood missed a birdie putt, resulting in a two-shot swing to the South African and cutting the lead to three.


Both players birdied the 12th but Westwood also picked up a stroke at the 13th to restore his four-shot lead.


Schwartzel's challenge effectively ended at the next hole when a poor chip saw him make a bogey, leaving Westwood five shots clear with just four to play. He went on to stretch the lead by a further two strokes.


John Daly finished tied for 16th after shooting 75 in the final round while Sergio Garcia recorded a 71 for a tie for 24th place.


Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa finished what was a miserable tournament for him with a 73, well down the field on a total of 297, nine over par.




 IN OTHER NEWS
 Two-time major champion Sandy Lyle and British commentator Peter Alliss will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next year after being selected Thursday for the Class of 2012.

Lyle was elected through the international ballot after winning 29 tournaments worldwide, including the 1985 British Open and the 1988 Masters, where he became the first British winner at Augusta.

Alliss commentated on both of Lyle’s major victories after beginning his career behind the microphone for the BBC in 1961. He had previously won 23 tournaments as a player and was selected for all but one of Britain and Ireland’s Ryder Cup teams from 1953-69.

They will be inducted along with American writer Dan Jenkins and American players Phil Mickelson and Hollis Stacy at a ceremony at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, in May.

Lyle, who currently plays on the European Senior Tour, was elected ahead of Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, Ian Woosnam of Wales and Retief Goosen of South Africa in the international voting.

Also, legendary journalist Dan Jenkins, 82, becomes the first living golf writer selected for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame



Tom Lehman now has won player of the year at every stage of his career.

Lehman has been voted the Champions Tour player of the year after a season in which he won three times and won the Charles Schwab Cup. Lehman also won the money list, the only Champions Tour player to surpass $2 million.

Two decades ago, Lehman was player of the year on what then was called the Hogan Tour. He was voted player of the year on the PGA Tour in 1996 when he won the money list and two tournaments, including the British Open for his lone major.

Lehman said Wednesday this award means as much as the other two because he set a goal to become the first player to win all three.



Luke Donald added yet another prize to his glittering list of honors for 2011, picking up the European Tour’s Golfer of the Year award on Thursday.

Shedding his “underachiever” tag, the 34-year-old Englishman won three titles on the European Tour and finished in the top 10 in 20 of his 26 tournaments worldwide, helping him become the first player to officially win money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Two days after becoming the first Englishman to be voted the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year since the inaugural award in 1990, Donald picked up the European equivalent for the first time.



The U.S. PGA Tour has agreed to loan the Canadian Tour money and assist next year in tournament development and sponsorship.

The amount of the loan wasn’t disclosed Wednesday.

“Understanding its current financial issues, the PGA Tour has agreed to lend support to the Canadian Tour in 2012,” said Ed Moorhouse, the PGA Tour’s co-chief operating officer. “Our goal is to help lend stability to the Canadian Tour, which we believe plays an important role in professional golf and has proven to be a valuable system for developing players over the years.

The Canadian Tour has been a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours since 2009.



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Sunday, December 11, 2011

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 12-11-2011

QUIROS WINS BUT DONALD MAKES HISTORY
Alvaro Quiros holed a 40-foot eagle putt on the 18th to clinch a two-shot win over 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie at the Dubai World Championship on Sunday as No. 1-ranked Luke Donald became the first golfer to win both the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles.

The 34-year-old Donald, who won the PGA title earlier this year, had to finish better than ninth or hope Rory McIlroy didn’t win the tournament. He finished third while McIIroy, who has struggled with a lingering virus all week, finished in a tie for 11th at 9-under 279. That left McIlroy more than $1.34 million behind Donald in the money race.

Quiros had a final-round 5-under 67 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish at 269. Donald was three shots behind Quiros after he ran off three birdies in a row for a 6-under 66. Peter Hanson of Sweden was fourth, another two shots back, and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was in fifth another shot behind.

The big-hitting Quiros came into the final day with a two-shot lead but squandered it after he had three bogeys on the front nine to go with five birdies. Lawrie, who led after the first day, took the lead after he notched five birdies in his first eight holes.



BRADLEY AND STEELE WIN SHOOTOUT
PGA Champion Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele shot a 13-under 59 in scramble play Sunday to become the first PGA Tour rookies to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout.

Bradley and Steele took control with an eagle by Steele on No. 14 and a birdie on No. 15, finishing at 32-under 184 for a three-stroke victory over two teams.

Bradley and Steele had been talking about playing in Greg Norman’s event since the spring, and said they weren’t at the three-format event to “goof off.”

After sharing the lead with Champions Tour golfers Mark Calcavecchia and Nick Price following the first round of modified alternate shot, they were one ahead of them after Saturday’s better-ball.

Calcavecchia birdied No. 18 to give him and Price a 61, moving them into a tie for second at 187 with Rory Sabbatini and Jhonattan Vegas, who shot 60. Charles Howell III and Justin Leonard, and 2009 champions Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker tied for fourth another shot back.

Bradley, the reigning PGA Championship winner, and Steele made seven straight birdies from Nos. 6 to 13, then Steele made an eagle putt from off the green, and followed that up with a 4-footer on No. 15 for birdie.

Bradley and Steele had a chance at the tournament record of 34 under, but parred No. 16 and 18 coming in. Bradley, the nephew of former LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, and Steele shared $750,000 from the $3-million purse.


 
IN OTHER NEWS
The European Tour says it has agreed to keep the final event of the Race To Dubai in the city for three years and increase the prize money by $500,000 to $8 million.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady said Sunday the next three editions of the Dubai World Championship will be rebranded as the DP World Championship, Dubai starting in 2012 will also return to Jumeirah Golf Estates, the host course since its inception in 2009.

The Race To Dubai includes 52 tournaments in 29 countries and concludes in Dubai.




The LPGA tournament in Springfield has been canceled after organizers failed to find a new sponsor.
Tournament executive director Kate Peters said Friday that the board decided late Thursday to end the event after 36 years. State Farm withdrew as the event title sponsor in February.

Peters said the board had tried to land a new sponsor and had been working with the LPGA. Top-ranked Yani Tseng won the tournament in June.

State Farm considered backing out of the tournament in 2009 but the LPGA and tournament organizers convinced the Bloomington-based insurer to stay on.



Rory McIlroy says he is pulling out of next week’s Thailand Golf Championship as he continues to recover from the lingering effects of dengue fever.

McIlroy showed signs of fatigue during his 11th place finish at this week’s Dubai World Championship. He said Saturday he felt exhausted and that blood tests have shown his white blood cell count remains low.

The U.S. Open champion believes he picked up a “mild case of dengue fever” when he was playing tournaments in South Korea and China.

McIlroy said he won’t play again until next month’s European Tour event in Abu Dhabi, and will remain in Dubai for the next few days to rest.



 Lorena Ochoa has given birth to a baby boy.

Ochoa’s brother Alejandro said the baby was born Thursday at 8:58 p.m. in Mexico City and named Pedro Conesa Ochoa. Her husband is Mexican businessman Andres Conesa.

Ochoa won two majors and 27 titles on the LPGA Tour in her eight-year career. She was the No. 1 golfer for three years before she retired in 2010.

The 30-year-old Ochoa has discounted returning to play full-time on the LPGA tour, but has said she’d like to play one or two tournaments a year.

She hosts the Lorena Ochoa Invitation in Guadalajara.



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Sunday, December 4, 2011

 TIGER WINS!!
 One shot behind with two holes to play, Tiger Woods finally looked like the player who dominated golf for so much of his career. He birdied his last two holes Sunday, making a 6-foot putt on the 18th, to win the Chevron World Challenge by one shot over former Masters champion Zach Johnson.
 
Woods closed with a 3-under 69, sweeping his arm when the final putt dropped, then slamming down his first in a celebration that was a long time coming. It had been 749 days and 26 official tournaments since he last won on Nov. 15, 2009 at the Australian Masters, back when he looked as though he would rule golf as long as he played.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting his year in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

He had a worthy adversary in Johnson, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round and trailed for only three holes. Johnson tied Woods with a birdie on the par-5 13th, made an unlikely par on the 14th by chipping from the bottom of the green, and appeared to seize control by holing a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.

Johnson thought his birdie putt on the 17th was good all the way until it burned the edge of the cup. Woods, running out of time, drained his birdie putt to force a tie and send the tournament to the 18th.

Woods also was tied on the 18th at Sherwood a year ago and stuffed his approach into 3 feet. Graeme McDowell holed a 20-foot putt to force a playoff, and beat Woods on the first extra hole.

Johnson, however, missed his birdie putt from 15 feet, leaving the stage to Woods. He hasn’t been in these situations much over the last two years, but this one, finally, had a familiar ending.

Johnson closed with a 71 and still took home $650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.



 MCILROY WINS IN HONG KONG 
Rory McIlroy rallied to win the Hong Kong Open, holing out from a greenside bunker on the final hole Sunday for a 5-under 65 and a two-stroke victory.

The 22-year-old U.S. Open winner from Northern Ireland, three strokes behind Alvaro Quiros entering the final round at Hong Kong Country Club, finished at 12-under 268 on the Fanling Course. He had five birdies in his bogey-free round.

France’s Gregory Havret also closed with a 65 to finish second.

Sweden’s Peter Hanson had a 70 to finish third at 9 under. England’s Ian Poulter, the 2010 winner, shot a 66 to tie for fourth at 8 under with Scotland’s Richie Ramsay (66) and Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul (70).

Quiros, from Spain, had a 73 to tie for seventh at 7 under.

John Daly closed with a 69 to tie for 21st at 2 under in the tournament sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.



WESTWOOD TAKES SUN CITY EVENT

Lee Westwood finished with two bogeys and a 1-over 73 but it was still enough to retain his title by two strokes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday.

The No. 3-ranked Westwood ended with a 15-under 273 total to stay clear of Robert Karlsson in second, despite a final-round charge from the Swedish player that cut Westwood’s commanding seven-shot overnight lead in South Africa.

Westwood made just two birdies on the final day and dropped three strokes over the back nine, but his dominant performance on Saturday—when he shot a course-record 62—set up victory and only the second back-to-back win at Sun City over the last decade.

A smiling Westwood threw his ball into the galleries on No. 18 after beating out Karlsson (68), who made seven birdies but dropped shots at Nos. 1, 8 and 16 at the Gary Player Country Club and ultimately couldn’t overcome Westwood’s hefty advantage.

American Jason Dufner (69) tied for third with Graeme McDowell (70) on 11-under, while top-ranked Luke Donald was 10 shots off the pace in seventh, closing with a level-par 72 on his return from a five-week layoff after winning the U.S. PGA Tour money list.

South Korea’s Kyung-tae Kim was alone in fifth on 8 under, with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel two shots behind him in sixth.

Westwood was the only player in the top seven of the 12-man field to be over par on Sunday after bogeys at Nos. 12, 17 and 18, but none could take advantage of the Englishman’s subdued finish, where he was in control throughout.



KENNEDY WINS NEW ZEALAND OPEN

Brad Kennedy won the New Zealand Open on Sunday, holing a 30-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff with Australian compatriot Craig Parry to complete a wire-to-wire victory.

Kennedy closed with a 2-over 74 to match Parry at 7-under 281 at Clearwater Golf Club. Parry took a two-stroke lead to the final hole, but drove into the water and finished with a double bogey for a 69.

On the 18th in regulation, Parry hit his tee shot into the water to the left of the fairway, then hit into long rough before making a good recovery to reach the green. He missed a bogey putt that would have left him with a one-stroke lead.

Parry again found trouble off the tee on the 18th hole in the playoff, hitting into a bunker. He was facing a 5-foot par putt when Kennedy holed his birdie try.

New Zealand’s Josh Geary was 7 under going to the final hole, but dropped a stroke for a 72 to finish a shot out of the playoff.



 IN OTHER NEWS
 Luke Donald could have played the last round at Sun City as a history maker. Only Rory McIlroy didn’t let that happen.
Shortly before the top-ranked Donald teed off at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, No. 2-ranked McIlroy holed a birdie from the bunker on No. 18 to seal a come-from-behind win at the Hong Kong Open and keep the race for Europe’s money title alive. Just barely.
With Donald still around  $1 million ahead, McIlroy has to win at next weekend’s season-ending Dubai World Championship and hope the world’s best player is outside the top nine to prevent Donald topping both lists either side of the Atlantic.




Thailand’s Junthima Gulyanamitta won the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament on Sunday, closing with 4-under 68 in windy and rainy conditions on LPGA International’s Champions Course for a two-stroke victory over Christine Song.

The 23-year-old Gulyanamitta, a member of Purdue’s 2010 NCAA championship team, had a 10-under 350 total in the five-round event.

Stephanie Kono and Argentina’s Victoria Tanco gave up their amateur status after earning top-20 LPGA membership. Kono is a senior All-American at UCLA and a 2010 member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team.

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