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.


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