Sunday, February 19, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 2-19-2012

 HAAS DEFEATS LEFTY AND BRADLEY IN PLAYOFF
Bill Haas knows anything is possible from even the most dire positions. Remember, this is the guy only five months ago saved par with his ball partially submerged in a lake and won the FedEx Cup.

And here he was at Riviera doing it again.

In thick rough behind the 10th green, the second hole of a three-man playoff with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, Haas smartly played away from the flag with hopes of making par and going on to the next hole.

He wound up holing a 45-foot birdie putt across the green to win the Northern Trust Open.

Mickelson and Bradley worked their own heroics just to get into the playoff.

Haas, who closed with a 2-under 69, was on the practice range at 7-under 277 as he warmed up for a playoff only he thought might happen. He was trying to convince himself that Mickelson or Bradley—maybe both—would make birdie on the 18th hole, even though it had yielded only six birdies all day.

Mickelson rammed in a birdie putt from just outside 25 feet, pointing his putter and slamming his fist as the gallery packed into the hill below the  clubhouse let out a cheer that could be heard all over LA.

 Bradley’s birdie putt from just outside 12 feet took one last, slow turn at the cup and disappeared, setting off another enormous cheer. No one had to tell Haas what was happening.

They started the playoff on the 18th, and Bradley had the best look at birdie with a 15-footer from just off the back of the green that touched the right side of the cup.

It was decided on the 312-yard 10th hole, regarded as the best short par 4 in America, certainly among the most interesting holes in all of golf. It can be reached with a drive, but it’s all about position—and none were in a particularly good spot.

Haas went long into thick rough, with enough of the back bunker in his way that he smartly played out to the right and left himself a long birdie putt that at least would assure him par.
Mickelson and Bradley each came up short, a horrible angle. Mickelson’s flop shot landed near the hole and rolled into the back bunker. Bradley was in the bunker, and did well to blast out to 15 feet, just through the green.

Haas ended the suspense with his putt.

Bradley, who closed with a 71, missed his birdie putt after Mickelson, who also had a 71, failed to hole his bunker shot.Mickelson, who rallied from six shots behind with a 64 to win last week at Pebble Beach, was trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in August 2009 to win back-to-back on the PGA Tour.



 PERRY IS VICTORIOUS IN CHAMPIONS TOUR EVENT
Kenny Perry shot a 2-under 70 Sunday to win his second Champions Tour title, cruising to a five-shot victory in the ACE Group Classic.

Perry birdied three of his first eight holes, and no one ever got closer than four shots after that. Perry totaled 24 birdies, two short of the tour record for a 54-hole event,and tied Allen Doyle for the largest margin of victory in the 25-year-old tournament.

Last year’s Champions Tour rookie of the year set the tour’s 36-hole scoring record in relation to par at 18 under following a 62 in Saturday’s second round.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer eagled No. 17 for the third straight day and finished in second place after a 70. A bogey on the final hole dropped Perry into a tie with Langer for the tournament scoring record Langer set last year.

Tom Lehman, the 2011 player of the year, was in second for most of the day but bogeyed No. 12 and the par-5 17th after hitting in the water. He finished at even par to tie Bill Glasson  and Mike Goodes  for third.

First-round leader Larry Mize was tied for second on the last hole, but put two balls in the water and dropped to seventh with a 75.

After two calm days resulted in low scores, wind gusts topped 30 mph during the final round.
Perry, also won the SAS Championship in October a day after his sister died of breast cancer—and two years to the day since Perry’s mother also succumbed to cancer.

Perry had previously won twice in Naples, teaming with John Huston in 2005 and Scott Hoch in 2008 at the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an unofficial PGA Tour event.



YANI DEFENDS TITLE
 Yani Tseng watched Ai Miyazato’s approach on the 18th hole of the LPGA Thailand and knew she had to come up with an equally impressive shot to avoid a possible playoff.

Tseng met the challenge with a shot fitting her No. 1 ranking, controlling the spin perfectly to set up a tap-in putt.

The 23-year-old Taiwanese star successfully defended her title for her 13th LPGA Tour victory, matching Miyazato with birdies on the final two holes to hold off her Japanese friend by a stroke.Tseng closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 19-under 269

She opened with a 73, then shot consecutive 65s to enter the final round a shot behind Miyazato.Last year, Tseng won the event for the first of her seven 2011 LPGA Tour victories, including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open.

The five-time major champion finished the year with 12 worldwide victories. She has 33 career worldwide professional
victories

Miyazato finished with a 67.

South Korea’s Jiyai Shin, tied for the lead with Tseng after a birdie of her own on the par-4 17th, had a 67 to finish two strokes back.

South Korea’s Amy Yang shot a 69 to finish fourth at 14 under.

Sixteen-year-old Thai amateur Ariya Jutanugarn followed her third-round 65 with a 74 to tie for 12th to 7 under. She played the final five holes in 4 over, making a double-bogey 7 on No. 18. Last year, Jutanugarn won the U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship and was the Rolex Junior Player of the Year.



 KRUGER GETS HIS FIRST IN INDIA
Jbe Kruger of South Africa won his first European Tour title Sunday, protecting his overnight lead by shooting a 3-under 69 for a two-shot victory at the Avantha Masters.

The 25-year-old Kruger made four birdies and overcame a bogey on the 17th to finish 14-under 274.

Jorge Campillo of Spain and Marcel Siem of Germany were two shots back in a tie for second.

Jose Manuel Lara of Spain and Australian Marcus Fraser finished joint fourth at 11 under.
Kruger finished second on the Asian Tour three times in 2010, while his best previous result on the European Tour was third at the Africa Open the same year.

His best on this year’s European Tour has been ninth at the Joburg Open in South Africa.






KENDALL TAKES NATIONWIDE TOUR OPENER
Skip Kendall rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, the first tournament on the 2012 Nationwide Tour schedule. Kendall needed only an even-par 71 at the Country Club of Bogota to claim his third career title.

Kendall finished at 10-under 274 but had to wait to see if fellow third-round co-leader, and playing partner, Andrew Svoboda would make his 20-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff. Svoboda's putt came up inches short putting Kendall back in the winner's circle for the first time since the 2007 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

At 47 years, 5 months and 10 days Kendall also becomes the fourth-oldest to win in Tour history.

Svoboda held the lead during much of the final round after a birdie at No. 5 but couldn't muster any more and played the final nine holes 2 over. His 1-over 72 left him at 9-under 275 and tied with Andres Gonzales, who shot a 3-under 68 and was done at 9-under and hoping for a playoff.

James Hahn  and 49-year old Kirk Triplett tied for fourth, two shots back of Kendall.
Svoboda and Kendall began the final in a share of the lead with Triplett only one back. Kendall was forced to chase the lead after starting his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Kendall, a veteran of 591 combined starts on the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour, hung tough and canned a couple of birdies to take sole possession of the lead midway through the back nine.

Kendall stumbled with a bogey at No. 16 to drop into a tie. He and Svoboda came to the 570-yard, 18th still tied for the lead.



 WRIGHT WINS IN AUSTRALIA
Australia’s Lindsey Wright made a 13-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke victory Sunday in the New Zealand Women’s Open.

Wright finished at 10-under 206 at Pegasus Golf Club in the event sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf.

The 32-year-old former Pepperdine player is a regular on the LPGA Tour.
American Alison Walshe and Australia’s Jessica Speechley tied for second. Walshe closed with a 69, and Speechley had a 65.

Canada’s Lorie Kane and Australia’s Stephanie Na shot 69 to tie for fourth at 8 under.
Fourteen-year-old Lydia Ko, part of a six-way tie for the second-round lead, shot a 74 to tie for 17th at 4 under. The South Korean-born New Zealander, the world’s top-ranked amateur, became the youngest winner of a professional tour event last month in the Women’s New South Wales Open.


 IN OTHER NEWS
Tiger Woods is returning to the Honda Classic for the first time since he was an amateur.

Woods announced on his website  that he would play the Match Play Championship next week in Arizona, followed by the Honda Classic and the Cadillac Championship at Doral.

The Honda Classic is March 1-4 at PGA National.

It’s the second time this year Woods has added a tournament not typically on his schedule. He played the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last week for the first time in 10 years, closing with a 75 to plummet from contention.

Woods played the Honda Classic in 1993 as a 17-year-old, when it was held at Weston Hills. He had rounds of 72-78 and missed the cut.

"I've heard great things about the Honda Classic, and now that I live here, I want to play whenever possible," Woods said. "Jack's [Nicklaus] involvement in the tournament and the benefits to the local community are also important."

With the tournament being in Woods' backyard , the decision seems to make a lot of sense from a logistical standpoint.  But the fact that he decided to add the Honda means Woods is making good on his promise last year to play at least one new event this season.


Hall of Fame golfer Lee Trevino has some advice for Tiger Woods: Become a student of Butch Harmon again.

Harmon is currently Phil Mickelson's teacher and a former instructor for Woods. Harmon worked with Woods from 1996, when he won his third U.S. Amateur Championship, until August 2002. Woods won eight majors and played some of his most dominating golf under Harmon's watchful eye, including his 15-stroke victory at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000.

Trevino, who won six majors on the PGA Tour in his career, said he believes both Woods and Harmon should "bury the hatchet" and work with each other. Woods has worked with teacher Hank Haney after his departure with Harmon and is now with Sean Foley.

Trevino said Woods "doesn't trust what he's doing yet."

"He can't drive the ball," Trevino said. "That's the problem. He doesn't stay down long enough on the ball. Augusta would be the only one he has a shot at winning if he drives it poorly. He's not going to win the U.S. Open or PGA because there's too much rough."


 Adam Scott was on the range at Riviera last week  and had every reason to feel like a stranger. He is the only player from the top 10 in the world who had yet to play a tournament this year.

Waiting until the Northern Trust Open to begin his 2012 season was only partially by design. Scott had planned to be at Kapalua for the PGA Tour opener, but he had his tonsils taken out in December. He said the recovery time for an adult is about three weeks.

Scott said he had tonsillitis at least five times a year for the last couple of seasons, and when it happened at the Deutsche Bank Championships he was tied for the lead through 36 holes—that was the last straw.

The three-month break was the longest of his career, and it was the first time in 10 years Scott has spent so much time at home in Australia. It allowed him to get his mind off golf, and it made him eager to return. So how did he do


Natalie Gulbis is in the 2012  Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Gulbis is not actually wearing a swimsuit in any of the photos in the magazine. It's body painting.

 Gulbis is one of three athletes included in the bodypainting section of the 2012 SI swimsuit issue.

Pics of Gulbis' body painting can be found at si.com/swimsuit.


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