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.


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