Sunday, January 29, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 1-29-2012

SNEDEKER WINS FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN IN SHOCKER
Brandt Snedeker won the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff no one imagined possible until Kyle Stanley hit a wedge into the water and made triple bogey on the last hole.

Snedeker had a tap-in birdie on the 18th and was so certain he would be the runner-up that he drove up to the media center for an interview, just in time to see Stanley run into trouble.


Both players made birdie on the 18th in the playoff, then Snedeker won on the second extra hole with a 5-foot par putt. Stanley’s putt from about the same length caught the right side of the lip.


It was a devastating loss for Stanley, who led by seven shots in the round, and was four shots ahead as he stood on the 17th green.

Kyle Stanley led by seven shots early in the final round Sunday, and he still had a four-shot lead as he stood on the 18th tee at Torrey Pines. Just like that, he went from being anointed a rising star to a meltdown that ranks among the most shocking in golf.
Two playoff holes later, both were in shock.


Snedeker’s tee shot hopped over the green and would have gone into a canyon except that it bounced off a television tower. He chipped to about 5 feet and made the par. Stanley three-putted again from just outside 45 feet, his 5-foot par putt catching the right lip.


Stanley, whose power, poise and polish was on display all week, was reduced to tears. His eyes were glassy and his lip quivered as he tried to answer questions, a sad ending to an otherwise spectacular week along the Pacific bluffs.

Snedeker is making a habit of these comebacks. In all three of his PGA Tour wins, he trailed by at least five shots going into the last round. At Hilton Head last year, he came from six shots back and wound up beating Luke Donald in a playoff.
This one was handed to him.



 ROCK STEADY AS TIGER FALTERS
Robert Rock held on Sunday to hold off U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship for the biggest win of  his career.

The 117th-ranked Rock shot a 2-under 70 for an overall 13-under 275 to beat the 22-year Northern Irishman by a shot and the 14-time major winner by two. Woods finished in a tie for third with Thomas Bjorn and Graeme McDowell.

  Matteo Manassero , the 18-year-old Italian, and George Coetzee of South Africa were a further shot back.

Woods started strong and it looked as though he might pull away from Rock, sinking a 40-footer on No. 2 for birdie and chipping to within a foot of the cup for a second birdie on the 3rd. But Rock who said he was a bit overwhelmed to face his idol didn’t blink. He also birdied two of the first three holes to keep pace.

Then Tiger began spraying his drives into the thick rough and fairway bunkers, resulting in the first of three bogeys. When Woods wasn’t missing the fairways, he was scrambling to save par as he did on the 11th when overshooting the green. As he approached his shot in deep rough just off the 11th green, he sighed heavily and let out a stream of obscenities under his breath.

Woods managed to save par on 11 by sinking a 12-footer and Rock just missed a birdie putt. Woods pumped his fist and appeared to be regaining momentum as he pulled within one shot of Rock on No. 13 when the Englishman had one of his three bogeys. But the 34-year-old Rock birdied two of the next three holes to seize control.

Rock wobbled on the 18th when his drive landed in a pile of rocks near the water—forcing him to take a drop. But he recovered beautifully, reaching the green in four and then two-putting for the win.



14 YEAR OLD WINS PROFESSIONAL TOURNEY
Fourteen-year-old New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko has become the youngest winner of a professional golf tour event, taking the women’s New South Wales Open by four strokes Sunday.

Ko, the world’s top amateur, broke Japananse star Ryo Ishikawa’s mark of 15 years, 8 months, and Australian Amy Yang’s women’s record of 16 years, 192 days in the Australian Ladies Masters.

The South Korean-born New Zealander shot a 3-under par final round of 69 to finish 14-under for the tournament, four strokes clear of Becky Morgan of Wales in the 54-hole tournament at Oatlands Golf Club.

Britain’s Laura Davies closed with a 71 and a 54-hole total of 216, 14 strokes behind.

Ko, a Grade 11 student at North Harbour near Auckland, plans to play about 30 tournaments this year, including professional events over the next two weeks at the Australian Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast and the LPGA’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.

“I’ll play in mostly amateur tournaments after that, and my schedule looks pretty busy for the next several months,” Ko said.

Ko, who says her role models are American golfers Michelle Wie and Alexis Thompson, moved to New Zealand with her family from Seoul in 2003.



IN OTHER NEWS
Meg Mallon is the next U.S. captain for the Solheim Cup.

Mallon is a four-time major champion, including two U.S. Women’s Open titles, and she played in the Solheim Cup eight times. Her overall record was 13-9-7, including 5-2-1 in singles. She is second only to Juli Inkster in most Solheim Cup points earned by an American.

The Americans are coming off a loss to Europe last year in Ireland.

The 2013 Solheim Cup will be played at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. Mallon was an assistant to captain Beth Daniel in 2009 when the Americans won outside Chicago.



Hunter Mahan is playing five straight tournaments to start the season,  including a 17,000-mile detour to the Middle East.

Mahan is playing the Qatar Masters next week, situated right between Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach on the golf calendar. It will be his first tournament overseas during the PGA Tour season since he was a rookie and played in France.

He said he was offered the invitation over the holidays and had two days to reply. It was a tough decision for Mahan, who is playing every week through the Match Play Championship in Arizona. Not only does he face a round-trip flight halfway around the world to a course he has never seen, Qatar is opposite the Phoenix Open, which he won two years ago.

Qatar is in the middle of the European Tour’s “Desert Swing,” which starts with Abu Dhabi and concludes with Dubai. PGA Tour players, along with the top European Tour players, are offered appearance money in these events. Tiger Woods, K.J. Choi and Jason Day are among the regular PGA Tour members in Abu Dhabi this week.

All three of those tournaments had more or at least equal ranking points than the PGA Tour events last year.




The PGA Tour is one step closer to eliminating Q-school as a path to earning a tour card, a significant overhaul that would include starting the official season in the fall instead of waiting for the next calendar year.

At the heart of the proposal is making the Nationwide Tour the primary means of getting to the big leagues.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem presented the basics of the plan Tuesday night during a mandatory players meeting at Torrey Pines ahead of the Farmers Insurance Open.

The biggest change involves Q-school. The plan is for the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and the top 75 players who failed to keep their PGA Tour cards to play a three-tournament series. Players would be ranked based on how they fared on their respective money lists, and the top 50 after that series would earn cards.

The rest would have the option of going to Q-school, where only Nationwide Tour status would be available.

The 16-member Player Advisory Council plans to meet in three weeks at the Northern Trust Open. The earliest the overhaul could be approved by the policy board is in March, though it likely will be later.


Listen to my podcast weekly at TGWG.podomatic.com 
As well as on itunes 
And the show is now available on STITCHER SMART RADIO www.stitcher.com 
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary 
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 1-22-2012


WILSON WINS HUMANA CHALLENGE
 Mark Wilson made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Humana Challenge on Sunday, beating Robert Garrigus, John Mallinger and Johnson Wagner by two strokes in a dramatic dusk finish to the wind-delayed tournament.

Moments after Garrigus barely missed a 35-foot eagle putt that would have given him the lead, Wilson coolly made his birdie try in the disappearing light, calmly celebrating his fifth career PGA Tour victory.

Wilson led by three strokes Sunday morning after finishing his third round, which was delayed by ferocious wind Saturday. Wilson quickly gave away the lead on the low-scoring Palmer Private course, but played bogey-free over the final 15 holes while every other competitor dropped back.

Wilson closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 24 under.

Eight players were within two strokes of the lead when the final group neared the turn, but Wilson weathered every challenge with solid shot-making that added to his reputation as a fast starter. 

Wilson won twice in the first few weeks of last season, and each of his five career victories have come before mid-March.

The exciting finish in the gathering darkness capped a revitalizing week for the erstwhile Bob Hope Classic, which signed its first title sponsor in four years and partnered with the foundation of former President Bill Clinton, who serves as the tournament’s new host.



 GRACE DOES IT AGAIN
South African Branden Grace beat his more experienced countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a playoff to win the Volvo Golf Champions on Sunday.

Grace birdied the first playoff hole at The Links at Fancourt—the par-five 18th—to earn his second consecutive victory on the European Tour, having won last week’s Joburg Open. Both Els and Goosen parred the hole.

The three players had finished the final round in a tie on 12-under 280.



FORSMAN KICKS OFF CHAMPIONS TOUR SEASON
Dan Forsman won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship on Sunday for his third Champions Tour title, closing with a 3-under 69 in windy conditions for a two-stroke victory over Jay Don Blake.

The 53-year-old Forsman, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, finished with a 15-under 201 total at Hualalai Resort and earned $307,000 in the 41-man event. He opened with rounds of 67 and 65 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round.

Blake birdied the final hole for a 67. He finished last season with a victory in the Charles Schwab Championship.

John Cook, the 2011 winner, shot a 68 to tie for third with Michael Allen at 12 under.

Forsman protected his lead with three birdies in the first 11 holes. His first bogey since Friday and only his second of the week still left him with a two-shot edge after 12 holes, and he held off Blake with a birdie and five pars on the closing holes.

Forsman struggled with a painful left hip last year, and had just one top-10 finish. He dropped to 45th on the money list after finishing in the top 10 in his first two seasons on the 50-and-over tour.

Cook eagled the 10th and added three birdies.
Gary Hallberg and Jeff Sluman tied for fifth, four shots behind Forsman.

Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas, Brad Bryant and 62-year-old Tom Watson tied for seventh at 10 under. It was Watson’s ninth top-10 finish in 12 starts at Hualalai.




 IN OTHER NEWS
Dustin Johnson withdrew  from the Humana Challenge midway through his second round, citing back pain.

Johnson withdrew Friday after playing the first nine holes at La Quinta Country Club.
The world’s No. 8 player was the highest-ranked competitor in Palm Springs this week. He shot an even-par 72 on the Palmer Course on Thursday.

Johnson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in November, and he hadn’t walked 18 holes until Thursday. He said his lower back in extremely stiff and painful.

Johnson also skipped the PGA Tour’s first two events of the season in Hawaii, but he says he’ll play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines. He’s a two-time winner at Pebble Beach.



 A former PGA golfer is among 40 suspects arrested in central Florida as part of an underage sex sting operation.

Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives said Tuesday that pro golfer Steve Thomas was charged with traveling to seduce an underage girl and using a computer to entice a legal guardian or parent to commit sex acts on an underage girl.

There was no telephone listing for Thomas at the Meridian, Miss., address he gave detectives and he couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Thomas played one season on the PGA Tour, had one top-10 finish and won $25,781. He last played on the Champions Tour, the PGA’s senior circuit, in 2010.

Also arrested during the weeklong sex sting operation were a Gainesville swim instructor, an eighth-grade teacher and eight college students.


Listen to my podcast weekly at TGWG.podomatic.com 
As well as on itunes
And the show is now available on STITCHER SMART RADIO www.stitcher.com 
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Sunday, January 15, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 1-16-2012

 WAGNER TAKES SONY OPEN
 Johnson Wagner played bogey-free over the last 12 holes,on a tough day at Waialae, and closed with a 3-under 67 to pull away from a half-dozen contenders and win the Sony Open on Sunday.

Wagner was among six players who had a share of the lead at some point in the final round. He was the only guy to stay there, and wound up with a two-shot win over Carl Pettersson, Sean O’Hair, Harrison Frazar and Charles Howell III.

Coming into the year, Wagner only had seven top 10s in 139 starts on tour, including two wins. He opened the year at Kapalua with a tie for ninth, and then rallied from a two-shot deficit to win the Sony Open.

Frazar had the best chance. He had the outright lead briefly after a birdie at No. 10, then made pars the rest of the way for a 67. Pettersson overcame a double bogey on the second hole and finished with four birdies on the last six holes, also for a 67.

O’Hair had a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole that burned the edge. He had to settle for a 67, while Howell birdied his last hole for 69 to join the group tied for second.

Jeff Maggert and Matt Every, tied for the lead going into the last day, both collapsed early. Every was 4 over through six holes and rallied for a 72. Maggert missed a slew of short putts and shot 74.

PGA champion Keegan Bradley hit 8-iron into about 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 ninth, creating a five-way tie for the lead along with Maggert, Every, Frazar and Wagner.

Bradley fell back when his long bunker shot sailed 20 yards over the 10th green, turning a birdie chance into a bogey. Frazar hit his easier bunker shot on the 10th to a foot to take the outright lead, only to be joined a short time later by Wagner, who birdied the ninth. Michael Thompson joined them briefly in the lead until a bogey on the 17th.

Wagner was the only player who kept it going.

He started the back nine by driving safely into the front left bunker and holing a 10-footer for birdie to take the outright lead, and he never gave it back. No one else made enough birdies, and Wagner didn’t make any mistakes. He seized control for good on the 15th when his approach settled just on the fringe about 15 feet away for birdie and a two-shot lead.


 GRACE WINS FIRST IN SOUTH AFRICA
 South Africa’s Branden Grace won his first European Tour title Sunday with a par 72 for a one-shot victory at the Joburg Open.

Grace had a bogey and birdie on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to edge Englishman Jamie Elson, finishing at 17-under 270.

The 23-year-old Grace had his three-shot, third-round lead cut to one when Elson made a 30-foot putt for eagle on No. 18 to finish with a 63. Elson had seven birdies along with his eagle, including six in his first eight holes.

But Grace, one of 27 players to complete his third round in the morning because of rain delays, held on with nine straight pars coming home for his second professional win after a 2010 victory on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour.

Two Scots, David Drysdale and Marc Warren were part of a six-way tie for third. Retief Goosen had a 73 and finished 16th, seven shots behind the leader.


 IN OTHER NEWS
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem received a four-year contract extension Wednesday, keeping him in charge of golf’s biggest tour through 2016.


He suggested last year that he might be willing to stay on the job after his contract expired in June 2012, and Finchem said he made up his mind after talking to his wife. Their youngest daughter starts college next year.

The 64-year-old Finchem also wanted to get through the most recent television contract, an unprecedented nine-year deal with NBC Sports and CBS Sports.Finchem was appointed commissioner in 1994. By staying on through 2016, he would be the longest-serving commissioner of the three that have served since the PGA Tour broke away from the PGA of America in 1969.



 Lucas Glover is leaving Hawaii without hitting a single shot in competition.
Glover limped from the practice range back to his hotel room Wednesday after withdrawing from the Sony Open with a sprained right knee that still is not strong enough for him to play golf.

The former U.S. Open champion sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee on Dec. 31 during a freak paddle boarding accident upon arriving on Maui for the PGA Tour’s season opener. His foot caught the side of the board as he fell into the water, sending his body one direction and his knee the other.

Glover withdrew from the Tournament of Champions, but thought he might be able to play the Sony Open because Waialae Country Club is relatively flat and easier to walk.

He hit three wedges and a 9-iron on the range before his pro-am before deciding to withdraw.



Listen to my podcast weekly at TGWG.podomatic.com 
As well as on itunes
And the show is now available on STITCHER SMART RADIO www.stitcher.com 
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 1-9-2012

 STRICKER STRIKES FIRST
 Steve Stricker began the new PGA Tour season with a victory in the Tournament of Champions, though he didn’t make it easy on himself in Monday’s final round.

His five-shot lead was reduced to one shot after only six holes before Stricker pulled himself together with back-to-back birdies and closed with a 4-under 69 to win by three.

Martin Laird, Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson each got within one shot of Stricker in the final round, but they couldn’t catch him. Stricker rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth, pitched to tap-in range at the par-5 ninth and was on his way.

Laird closed with a 67, and his birdie on the last hole put him alone in second place. Byrd kept most of the pressure on Stricker along the back nine of the Plantation Course, but he bogeyed the 17th. He had a 68 and tied for third with Simpson, who had a 68.

It was the 12th career win for Stricker, and ninth since he turned 40. He moved back to No. 5 in the world.


 OOSTHUIZEN RETAINS TITLE
 Louis Oosthuizen holed a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to top fellow South African Tjaart van der Walt and retain his title at the Africa Open on Sunday.

The former British Open champion beat Van der Walt by two shots after closing with a 6-under 67 for a 27-under total of 265 at the season-opening European Tour event.
Van der Walt shot a 69 to finish one shot ahead of Retief Goosen, who also carded a 69 at East London Golf Club.

Oosthuizen and Van der Walt were tied with two holes to play but Oosthuizen’s birdie and Van der Walt’s bogey at the short par-3 No. 17 finally separated the pair.

It was the 29-year-old Oosthuizen’s fourth European Tour title and first since his win in East London in 2011, while Van der Walt again missed out on a first professional victory.

Oosthuizen had an up-and-down front nine at the par-73 course with an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys. But he birdied Nos. 11 and 17 and didn’t drop any shots coming home to claim the $201,000 winner’s check.

Van der Walt opened with three straight birdies and had five in all. His only bogey of the day was the crucial slip at No. 17, where he missed a birdie chance and a short putt for par.

Goosen, who won the Africa Open in 2009, managed an eagle and three birdies but dropped a shot at No. 10 and finished alone in third, one clear of Jaco van Zyl (66).

Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth was fifth to break up a run of South Africans at the top of the leaderboard. Another South African, Richard Sterne, closed with a 3-under 70 for 20 under and sixth in his first tournament in nearly a year after struggling with major back problems.


 IN OTHER NEWS
 The LPGA is returning to Hawaii.

The tour announced Thursday that the Lotte Championship Presented by J Golf will be played on Oahu starting in mid-April, ending a two-year absence for the LPGA in Michelle Wie’s home state.
The LPGA and Asia-based Lotte announced a three-year agreement to hold the $1.7 million, full-field event. LPGA says the host course will be announced in the coming weeks.

Hawaii, which hosts two PGA Tour events, hosted as many as three LPGA events in 2008 but that fell to none by 2010 because of the loss of corporate sponsorships amid the recession.

The Lotte Championship is one of three new tournaments on the schedule this year. It joins the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic and the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.


Bettye Danoff, one of the LPGA Tour’s 13 founding members, has died. She was 88.
The LPGA Tour said Danoff’s family confirmed she died in Texas.

At 5-foot-2 and barely 100 pounds, Danoff earned the nickname “Mighty Mite” and was the first grandmother to play the tour. Before the formation of the LPGA Tour, she beat Babe Zaharias 1-up as an amateur in the final of the 1947 Texas Women’s Open to end Zaharias’ 17-tournament winning streak.

Danoff won four straight Dallas Women’s Golf Association Championships from 1945-48, the women’s division of the Texas PGA in 1945 and 1946 and the Texas Women’s Amateur in 1947 and 1948. The Texan, winless on the LPGA Tour, also played exhibitions as an amateur with PGA Tour star Byron Nelson in the late 1940s.

Danoff often traveled the tour with daughters Kaye, Janie and Debbie.
Danoff and the others founders were honored in 2000 with the Commissioner’s Award. Last year, the tour started the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix.

Danoff’s husband, Dr. Clyde Walter Danoff, died in 1961.


 Turner Sports says longtime broadcaster Jim Huber has died. He was 67.
The cable network says Huber died Monday in Atlanta. A cause of death was not immediately released.

A statement from Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., said Huber was an Emmy Award-winning essayist who joined Turner Sports full-time in 2000 and was an announcer for professional golf matches and NBA games.

He previously served as an anchor and reporter for CNN/Sports Illustrated and hosted CNN’s Pro Golf Weekly and Sporting Life with Jim Huber.

David Levy, a Turner president of sales, distribution and sports, said in the statement that Huber served 27 years with the company.

Levy said: “The Turner Broadcasting family suffered a great loss and we are saddened by the passing of our colleague and friend.”



 After crunching numbers using different models, the PGA Tour has decided to leave the points structure alone for the FedEx Cup. The system was changed after each of the first three years in existence. This now is the third straight year with no tweaking.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said even though FedEx Cup points will start being awarded this week at the Tournament of Champions, changes could be made at the next policy board meeting in March, though “I would say that’s unlikely.”

The formula has been working well for the most part. The reward for a strong regular season is a high seeding going into the playoffs, which translates to better odds of reaching the Tour Championship. And there’s still plenty of volatility for a high finish in the playoff events, as Reavie showed last year and Laird did in 2010.

Points are worth five times as much in the playoffs. Votaw said tour officials looked at how the standings would be if points were only tripled, or quadrupled, and didn’t see anything worth changing.



Paul Casey dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding in Colorado, sidelining him for the first two months of the year and damaging his chances of qualifying for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

The 20th-ranked Englishman said he doesn’t need surgery and “should be back hitting balls in a few weeks.”

Casey will be unable to defend his Volvo Golf Champions title in South Africa this month and will also miss the European Tour’s entire Middle East swing. That includes the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which he has won twice in the past five years.

The 34-year-old Casey lost his PGA Tour card last year and will lose the chance to earn valuable Ryder Cup points ahead of the matches in Medinah, Ill., in September.

He failed to qualify for the team in 2010 after missing part of the season with a rib injury. He was then snubbed for a wild card by captain Colin Montgomerie despite being ranked in top 10. He was part of winning European teams in 2004 and ’06 and also played in the defeat at Valhalla in 2008.


Listen to my podcast weekly at TGWG.podomatic.com
As well as on itunes
And the show is now available on STITCHER SMART RADIO www.stitcher.com
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com