Sunday, February 26, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 2-26-2012

 MAHAN WINS MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Hunter Mahan stopped Rory McIlroy’s march to No. 1 by winning the Match Play Championship on Sunday.

Mahan won four holes in a five-hole stretch starting with a 9-iron to 2 feet on the sixth hole, building a 4-up lead through 10 holes. Even as McIlroy threw his best stuff at him on the back nine, Mahan responded with two clutch birdies to stay in control.

Mahan won, 2 and 1, to capture his second World Golf Championship title.
McIlroy defeated Lee Westwood in the semifinals Sunday morning, a high-stakes match because if either of them won the Match Play Championship, they would replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking.

Mahan made sure that didn’t happen this week.

He played 96 holes in his six matches and had 35 birdies on his scorecards. Mahan defeated Mark Wilson in his semifinal match—Wilson was his only opponent all week who had not played in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup.

McIlroy, who made seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch Sunday morning to beat Westwood, couldn’t muster any magic in the afternoon. He missed a 4-foot par putt that would have won the opening hole, then fell behind with a series of mistakes.

On the seventh hole, with Mahan already in trouble in a deep collection area left of the green, McIlroy pulled his short iron and joined him there. But it took McIlroy two chips to get on the green, and he lost the hole with a double bogey.

Then McIlroy’s sand wedge hopped over the green on the par-5 eighth and he lost that hole with a bogey.

Mahan’s big lead was enough to withstand the McIlroy charge. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland played the opening six holes on the back nine in 5-under par, but still picked up only one hole on Mahan.

Mahan became the first American to win the Match Play Championship since Tiger Woods in 2008. He became only the sixth player to win multiple WGC titles, joining Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke.

In the consolation match, Wilson played the 18th hole for the first time all week and defeated Westwood, 1 up.

 

 HUH TAKES MAYAKOBA CLASSIC
Robert Allenby had the lead going into the final hole but he doubled bogeyed the 72nd hole to force a playoff with John Huh.  Huh parred the eighth hole of a playoff to beat Robert Allenby and win the Mayakoba Golf Classic on Sunday.

Making his fifth PGA Tour start, Huh parred all eight holes in the playoff that matched the second-longest in PGA Tour history.

The 21-year-old Huh closed with an 8-under 65 to match Allenby at 13-under 271 on the seaside El Camaleon course. Allenby had a two-stroke lead with a hole to play in regulation, but the 40-year-old Australian closed with a double bogey.

The playoff fell three holes short of the PGA Tour record of 11 set in the 1949 Motor City Open when Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum were declared co-winners. The playoff was the fifth to go eight holes and first since the 1983 Phoenix Open.

Matt Every and Colt Knost shot 66 to tie for third, two strokes back.

Chris Stroud was a stroke behind entering the final hole, but also made a double bogey for a 71 to drop into a tie for fifth at 10 under with third-round leader Daniel Summerhays, Dicky Pride and Alejandro Canizares. Summerhays closed with a 73, and Pride and Canizares shot 66.

Huh eagled the par-5 fifth and had six birdies in his bogey-free final round. He finished in the top 12 in two of his first four PGA Tour starts, tying for sixth at Torrey Pines and tying for 12th the following week in the Phoenix Open.

Allenby was trying to win for the first time on the PGA Tour since the 2001 Pennsylvania Classic, his fourth victory in a two-year span. He also won the Nedbank Challenge and Australian PGA in consecutive weeks late in 2009.


STANFORD WINS HER FIRST SINCE 2009
 Angela Stanford of the United States captured her fifth career victory on the third playoff hole at the $1.4 million HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday.

Stanford shot even par on the last playoff hole, beating South Korea’s Jenny Shin into joint second with China’s Shanshan Feng and Na Yeon Choi of South Korea. Feng was eliminated at the first playoff hole, Choi at the second at Tanah Merah Country Club.

Stanford, a 34-year-old Texan who hadn’t won since 2009, said it was an emotional victory.

Stanford, who earned $210,000 for the win, trailed Shin by a shot after the 17th when play was suspended for about 90 minutes because of lightning. When play resumed, Shin hit her tee shot out of bounds, leading to a double bogey. Stanford shot a bogey on 18 to fall into the four-way joint lead at 10-under 278.

The 19-year-old Shin, who turned professional in 2010 and has competed in 18 LPGA tournaments, said her inexperience may have led to jitters at the 18th.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng began the third round at 1-under but a 5-under 67 on Saturday and a 4-under 32 on the first nine holes Sunday put her in a brief tie for the lead with Shin. A disastrous double bogey on 10 and another bogey on 14 pushed her back down the leaderboard and she finished fifth, one shot behind the leaders after 72 holes.

Stanford started the day tied for the lead with Shin and Katie Futcher, who faltered Sunday with five bogeys for a 4-over 76 and finished tied for 11th.

Karrie Webb, who won last year in Singapore, shot a 2-under 70 to finish 9 shots off the lead to tie for 25th place.

American Michelle Wie had another disappointing round with a 75 and was 32 shots behind the leaders. Wie finished the tournament second to last, ahead of only Singapore amateur Sock Hwee Koh.

The tournament featured a field of 63 golfers including 18 of the 20 top-ranked players when play started Thursday.



 IN OTHER NEWS
 The PGA Tour is keeping the FedEx Cup for at least five more years with a significant sponsorship renewal.

Commissioner Tim Finchem announced Wednesday that FedEx has extended its umbrella sponsorship through 2017. That’s the final piece of sponsorship renewal that the tour navigated through a troubling economic climate.

Finchem already has kept the PGA Tour fully sponsored—only Tampa, Fla., is missing a title sponsor—along with extending the television agreement through 2021. Now it can keep its FedEx Cup, which culminates with four big events and a $10 million bonus for the winner.

Finchem did not get into financial details, though he says there will be “some growth” during the next five years. The FedEx Cup offers a total bonus pool of $35 million.


Paula Creamer, the No. 5-ranked player, withdrew after the second round for family reasons.  Apparently, Paula is fine and will not miss any future tournaments.


Mike Weir entered this season on a “non-exemption medical extension” giving him three starts to earn $644,854 US to retain his Tour card.

Weir made his first start at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks ago, where he missed the cut, and made his second start at the Mayakoba Golf Classic where he also missed the cut.  Weir's third start will be at The Honda Classic, March 1-4 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

There are other options for Weir to utilize in order to play on TOUR right away, specifically his ability to exercise a two-year exemption due to his ranking 15th on the career winnings list. According to his agent Danny Fritz, however, Weir is a bit hesitant to use that option at this point in his career.
 


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