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.


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