Sunday, March 25, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-25-2012

BREAKING REPORT
Arnold Palmer was absent from the 18th-hole ceremony at his Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday evening because he was rushed to a local hospital with what a tournament official said was high blood pressure.

"I just talked to his daughter Amy (Saunders) who's with him, and I think the blood-pressure situation is starting to ameliorate and improving," Alastair Johnston, the chief operating officer of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said in a hastily arranged news conference minutes after Tiger Woods' dramatic five-shot victory. "Nobody is overly concerned about the prognosis, although he is going to remain in the hospital overnight for observation."

Palmer, 82, reportedly had been under observation all week because of his blood pressure and did not play in the pro-am portion of the tournament. Palmer's blood pressure improved after he received treatment at Dr. Phillips Hospital, Johnston said.

The golf legend left his Arnold Palmer Invitational about 15 minutes before Tiger Woods put the finishing touches on his seventh victory at Bay Hill and thus was not able to attend the awards ceremony as usual.


TIGER IS BACK WITH WIN AT PALMER
Tiger Woods turned a precarious one-stroke lead entering Sunday’s final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a five-stroke whooping for his first PGA Tour win since the BMW Championship in September of 2009. That victory came two months before a minor car accident, at his home only miles from this Bay Hill course, which turned into one of the biggest sports scandals in history.

There was a clear turning point in the final round – a moment of concern. And it came early. On the second green, Woods mishit a 28-foot lag putt and left himself a tricky 5-footer. These were the putts he always used to make in final rounds. Especially on Sunday. Especially on this course on Sunday, where he has won three times on the 72nd green.
He missed. Bogey.

But on the very next hole, faced with a difficult iron shot over water with a strong wind crossing through the fairway, Woods dropped the ball within five feet of the hole. He made birdie to get that lost shot right back. On his walk to the next tee, he let a huge breath of air out.

He then birdied Nos. 4, 6, and 8 to finish the front nine with a four-shot lead. On the back, the key moment came on the 15th green, when playing partner Graeme McDowell had a birdie putt and Woods has 20 feet just to save par. The four-shot lead could have dropped to two with three holes to play.

But this was the Tiger of old. He watched McDowell leave his putt an inch high and then drained his own, throwing that iconic fist pump as the ball fell.on Sunday, he was laser-focused, unwilling to let anyone topple him.

And now it's on to Augusta in two weeks.


HOEY TAKES EURO EVENT
Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland won the Hassan II Trophy by three strokes Sunday, ending Matteo Manassero’s bid to qualify for next month’s Masters.

Hoey closed with a 7-under 65 to finish at 17-under 271. Damien McGrane of Ireland, who either led or shared the lead for three rounds, shot a 70 and was runner-up.

Manassero needed to win to enter the top 50 in the world rankings to make the Masters, which starts April 5. He entered the final round tied for the lead but shot a 72 for 276. He bogeyed No. 1 and double-bogeyed No. 8.

The 18-year-old Italian competed in the 2009 Masters as the British amateur champion.

Jamie Donaldson of Wales set a course record of 61, holing his approach shot on the last hole for an eagle. He finished at 275 with Robert Coles of England (67) and Phillip Price of Wales (69).

This was Hoey’s fourth European Tour victory and his third in less than a year. He earned almost $160,000, lifting him from No. 65 to No. 14 on the money list.

McGrane, unlike Hoey, was unable to complete his third round Saturday. He returned early Sunday to play the final eight holes before starting his final round.
Defending champion David Horsey of England had a 66 for 279.

 
COUPLES WINS AT FALLEN OAKS
Fred Couples made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, capping an impressive showing at the Champions Tour event just two weeks before his annual trip to Augusta.

He easily navigated through the first 14 holes on Sunday with four birdies, no bogeys and no major trouble. But he surprisingly bogeyed the par-5 15th after a poor approach and chip shot, and carded another bogey on the par-3 17th before a flawless final hole salvaged the victory.

The 18th at Fallen Oak is the toughest-rated on the course, but Couples crushed his drive right down the middle of the fairway and used his sand wedge to clear a water hazard and stick the approach close to the hole.

His final putt was slightly downhill and he hit it perfectly. Couples admitted to getting “a little jumpy” down the stretch, but said he played well enough earlier in the round to give him a cushion.

Couples started the day tied for the lead with Jeff Sluman, but moved ahead with a birdie on the first hole. He led the rest of the day until the 17th, when his bogey dropped him into a tie with Michael Allen.

Allen admitted he was surprised to find himself that close to a playoff. He shot a 6 under 66 on Sunday.

Couples finished at 14 under for the tournament. Allen finished one stroke behind, and Sluman and Tom Pernice Jr. finished tied for third at 10 under.


TSENG CONTINUES HER RUN

Top-ranked Yani Tseng won the Kia Classic on Sunday for her second straight LPGA Tour title and third in five events this year, closing with a 2-under 70 for a six-stroke victory.

The 23-year-old Taiwanese star led wire-to-wire and finished at 14-under 274 on La Costa’s Legends Course. She became the second-youngest player to reach 15 LPGA Tour win.Nancy Lopez was 22 when she reached the mark.

Tseng won the LPGA Founders Cup last week in Phoenix and also won the LPGA Thailand in February. She led the tour last season with seven victories— including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open— and finished the year with 12 worldwide titles.

South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo had a 71 to finish second.Shanshan Feng shot a 67—the best round of the day—to tie for third with South Korea’s Jiyai Shin at 7 under.

Shin had a 74.The Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the year, is next week at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage. Last year, Tseng had the 54-hole lead, but closed with a 74 and lost to Stacy Lewis. It was the last time in seven events that Tseng has lost going into the final round with the lead.


WITTENBERG WINS IN LOUISIANA
Casey Wittenberg, the former golden boy of US amateur golf, has won his first event on either the Nationwide or PGA Tour with a six shot victory at the Chitimaca Louisiana Open in Broussard, Louisiana.

Wittenberg played the PGA Tour in 2009 and was unable to retain his privileges for the following season but the man who finished 13th at the Masters on debut in 2004 is clearly a player of much higher quality than his career to date would suggest.

Wittenberg defeated Fabian Gomez, Chris Riley and Paul Claxton, Claxton following up his third place finish in Chile with another good week.

Mathew Goggin, playing this event while awaiting a PGA Tour start, was the best of the Australasians when he finished 44th. Peter Lonard was 57th and Andre Stolz 62nd, the only others to make the cut.


IN OTHER NEWS
The Father-Son Challenge is returning to golf this year.

Arnold Palmer will serve as the ambassador and PNC Bank will be the title sponsor of the tournament that features major champions teaming up with their sons in a 36-hole tournament.

The tournament has not been played since 2008, when it lost sponsorship during the economic downturn. The Father-Son Challenge will be played Dec. 15-16 at The Ritz-Carlton Club at Grand Lakes Resort in Orlando. NBC Sports will televise the tournament.

Alastair Johnson, vice chairman at IMG who created the tournament in 1995, said no other event has a waiting list of major champions wanting to get in. The field is limited to 18 players.

Past champions include Jack Nicklaus. Larry Nelson and Raymond Floyd won multiple times with different sons.



PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, saying it was “time to get better,” announced Tuesday sweeping changes that will end nearly 50 years of Q-school as a way to get to golf’s biggest tour.

The policy board on Tuesday approved two significant components to the overhaul—the PGA Tour season will start in October, and the developmental Nationwide Tour will be the primary path to get a PGA Tour card.

Cards would be awarded at a three-tournament series blending Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour players.

The board approved the concept, which has been talked about for several month

What remains are the details.

By starting the official season in October—shortly after the FedEx Cup season ends—it allows the tour to give more value to the tournaments now part of the Fall Series. If they are not treated like other tournaments, odds are they would not renew their sponsorship, which would eliminate some $25 million in prize money.

Starting the season in October means that Q-school no longer can be an avenue to the PGA Tour. Instead, Q-school will award cards for only the Nationwide Tour.

After the FedEx Cup regular season ends in August 2013, the tour will take the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour money list, along with the players who finished No. 126 through 200 on the PGA Tour money list, and have them play three tournaments. The top 50 will receive PGA Tour cards for the following season.



TaylorMade announced it had reached an agreement to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Adams Golf for $10.80 per share in cash, or roughly $70 million. According to a statement from TaylorMade, it will maintain Adams' headquarters in Plano, Texas.

"This acquisition reflects our commitment to continued growth in the golf category," said Herbert Hainer, CEO of adidas Group, TaylorMade's parent company. "The proposed combination of Adams Golf and TaylorMade-adidas Golf brings together two highly complementary sets of brands, combining Adams' focus on game-improvement as well as senior and women golfers with TaylorMade-adidas Golf's focus on the younger and the low-to-mid handicap golfer."

The acquisition by TaylorMade caps a whirlwind few weeks for Adams, which posted sales of $96.5 million in 2011. CEO Chip Brewer left Adams for Callaway Golf on Feb. 28 with company founder Barney Adams taking over as interim CEO.

In addition to the stated benefit of adding a brand focused on game-improvement clubs, TaylorMade also acquires some intriguing intellectual property in the area of slots in clubheads and Yes! Golf's C-Groove technology. Further, Adams has often won the hybrid count on the PGA Tour in recent years -- something that did not sit well with TaylorMade. Now the two hybrid leaders are part of the same company.

The adidas Group plans to finance the acquisition with cash on hand or through existing credit lines and the transaction is subject to standard closing conditions and regulatory approvals as well as approval by Adams Golf shareholders. Those are expected to be mere formalities, however, and the transaction is expected to close mid-2012.


Edoardo Molinari is planning to have surgery on his injured left wrist later this year.
Molinari said after finishing with a share of 11th place in the Andalucian Open on Sunday that he has had the injury for four years.

The Italian Ryder Cup player said he originally had tendinitis in the wrist and learned from doctors after returning home from the European Tour’s recent Middle East swing that he has cartilage that needs to be removed.

Molinari had two cortisone shots and played with his wrist taped in Spain.
He hopes to keep playing and have the operation around September.


 
Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa has decided to take special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, which allows him to accept as many sponsor exemptions as he wants for the rest of the 2012 season.

The 20-year-old was runner-up in the Puerto Rico Open two weeks ago. In six events this year, he has earned $582,471, more than enough to be a special temporary member.
Non-members can play no more than 12 times on the PGA Tour.

The next goal for Ishikawa is to make as much as the player who ends the year at No. 125 on the money list. That would allow him to become a full member next year.

Listen to my podcast weekly at http://TGWG.podomatic.com
 Stitcher Smart Radio (get the free app at stitcher.com/talkinggolfwithgary)
TuneIn.com
As well as on itunes
 View the podcast at You Tube - duffersports Vimeo - duffersports
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
 Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Sunday, March 18, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-18-2012

DONALD BACK TO #1
Luke Donald returned to No. 1 in the world the same way he got there the first time.

Donald rallied from a three-shot deficit Sunday at the Transitions with a 5-under 66, then won a four-man playoff on the first extra hole with a shot out of the rough to 6 feet and a birdie putt that curled in the left side of the cup.

He gave a big uppercut with his right fist to celebrate the end of a wild day at Innisbrook—and a devastating finish for Ernie Els.

Els was among eight players who were tied for the lead at some point in the final round, and he had a one-shot lead going into the closing stretch known as the “Snake Pit” at the Copperhead course.

The Big Easy missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and then badly missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole that caused him to miss the playoff by one shot. He likely has to win in the next two weeks to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1993.

Donald ended Rory McIlroy’s two-week stay atop the world ranking.

He first reached No. 1 in the world by winning a playoff over Lee Westwood at Wentworth last May. This required more work as Donald had to beat Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Bae Sang-Moon in sudden death.

Furyk, who closed with a 69, had an awkward lie just short of the bunker and left himself a 40-foot putt. Bae  missed his birdie attempt from 18 feet. Garrigus, who birdied the last two holes in regulation for a 64, pounded his tee shot and hit wedge into 7 feet, but he pulled his birdie putt.

That set the stage for Donald, who had hit a superb shot from the rough that barely cleared the bunker.
Scott Piercy, who finished his 62 before the leaders teed off, joined Els, Ken Duke and Jeff Overton in a tie for fifth. Overton and Piercy had birdie chances on the 18th, neither knowing it would be enough for a playoff. Duke missed a 5-foot par putt on the 17th hole to fall out of a six-way share of the lead.

The Big Easy needed to win to secure his spot at Augusta National, and he was poised to do just that with a flawless round until the end. But he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th that would have given him a two-shot lead, then fell back into a six-way tie with a tee shot that sailed well right of the par-3 17th green and left him no chance of getting it close to save par.

He pulled his approach into the light rough left of the flag on the 18th, chipped below the hole and seemed a lock to be in the playoff. But his par putt never even touched the hole.


ROBERTS WINS AT RAINY TOSHIBA
Loren Roberts won by two strokes at the Toshiba Classic.

Despite three bogeys down the stretch, Loren Roberts walked off with the title on Sunday at the Toshiba Classic.

Roberts birdied the final hole for a two-under 69. He finished his 13th Champions Tour title at eight-under-par 205.

Second-round leader Mark Calcavecchia fought back from a terrible start to shoot two-over 73. That left him tied for second at minus-six. He was joined there by Tom Kite  and 2008 champion Bernhard Langer.
 
Joey Sindelar, Mark McNulty and David Eger shared fifth place at five-under-par 208 at Newport Beach Country Club.


 QUESNE GETS FIRST
 Julien Quesne tied the course record with an 8-under 64 on Sunday to win the Andalucian Open for his first European Tour victory.

The 31-year-old birdied four of his final five holes to finish at 17 under, winning by two strokes ahead of Matteo Manassero of Italy.

Quesne, who has been to European Tour Q-School seven times to seek his playing card, also earned a one-year Tour exemption to the end of 2013.

He also qualified for November’s WGC-Champions event at Millions Hills in China along with a start in next year’s Volvo Champions.

Quesne has enjoyed six other lesser victories in his eight-year pro career, including two on the secondary Challenge Tour.

Ten of Quesne’s French golfing colleagues and their caddies showered France’s 26th European Tour winner in champagne. Among those was Thomas Levet, who won the 2008 Andalucian Open the last time it was played on the Aloha course.

Eduardo De La Riva of Spain, who led by a stroke going into the last day, shot a 70 to secure third place at 14 under.

Jimenez, the tournament host who was looking to become the oldest winner on the European Tour, carded a 71 to finish 11 under.

 

 TSENG DOES IT AGAIN
 Yani Tseng won her second LPGA event of the season and her 14th overall with a one shot victory over Na Yeon Choi and former number one Ai Miyazato.

Five birdies in a stretch of six holes in the middle of her round at the Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix swept Tseng to the lead and although Miyazato and Choi chased hard over the closing stages they could not catch the dominant force in women’s golf.

Both Choi and Miyazato had the lead through the early stages of their rounds, a double bogey at her 8th hole costing Choi dearly and Miyazato unable to withstand the mid round charge of Tseng.

So Yeon Ryu was four shots back in 4th position.

Defending champion, Karrie Webb, was in line for a top ten finish early in the day but dropped shots early in her round cost her that chance.


 IN OTHER NEWS
Tiger Woods returned to practice Friday and declared himself ready to play next week.

Woods said in a story on his website that his left Achilles tendon felt good and that he would play in the two-day Tavistock Cup exhibition that starts Monday, and then the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Woods withdrew from the Cadillac Championship on Sunday after 11 holes with what he described as tightness in his Achilles tendon. He said he didn’t want to risk further damage. One day later, he said doctors told him it was only a mild strain.

It was the left Achilles that caused him to miss two majors last year.

Woods has won Bay Hill six times. It will be his final tournament before the Masters begins April 5.


 Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal have withdrew from the Andalucian Open.

Lawrie, the defending champion at Parador de Malaga, picked up an upper respiratory infection while competing last week in Miami, while Olazabal has a right foot injury.

Both Lawrie and Olazabal, the European Ryder Cup captain, are expected to be sidelined until next month’s Masters tournament at Augusta National. Lawrie is ranked No. 45 and needs to be in the top 50 to be assured of playing at the Masters for the first time since 2004.

Olazabal, as a past champion, has his spot in the field assured.


Listen to my podcast weekly at http://TGWG.podomatic.com
Stitcher Smart Radio (get the free app at stitcher.com/talkinggolfwithgary)
TuneIn.com
As well as on itunes
 View the podcast at You Tube - duffersports Vimeo - duffersports
Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-11-2012

 ROSE WINS WGC CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP
 Justin Rose won his first World Golf Championship, making up a three-shot deficit against Bubba Watson, and then a two-shot deficit against Keegan Bradley. Rose was steady down the stretch, even with a bogey from the bunker on the 18th hole, and closed with a 2-under 70 to win the Cadillac Championship.

Watson, as always, made it interesting. He hit a bullet of a 4-iron out of the palm trees to just inside 10 feet for a chance to force a playoff. His birdie putt missed on the low side, ending a wild day even by his standards. He closed with a 74.

If that wasn’t enough, Tiger Woods muddied his Masters future when he left after 11 holes with soreness in his left Achilles tendon, wincing badly on his final shot—a 321-yard drive down the middle of the 12th fairway.

Woods said he would have it evaluated to determine the scope of the injury.
New #1 Rory McIlroy pulled within one shot of the lead with a birdie on the 16th hole, but he closed with a bogey and a 67 to finish alone in third.

Through it all, Rose worked his way to the top of the leaderboard with a nifty up-and-down behind the green on the par-5 10th, and he seized control of the tournament with a shot into 5 feet for birdie on the 14th.

Rose finished on 16-under 272 for his 10th victory worldwide, moving him back into the top 10 of a world ranking that remains loaded with Europe

Watson didn’t hit a fairway on the front nine, and only one tee shot managed to stay inside the bunkers that frame the fairways. He was in the water twice, once in a canal on the fifth hole that not many knew were there. He shot a 39 on the front nine, which included three putts outside 8 feet to limit the damage.

Watson wasn’t the only player who faltered. Bradley opened with an eagle, tied for the lead with a wedge into 3 feet for birdie on the fifth, then rolled in a 12-foot birdie at No. 7 that gave him a two-shot lead.

Bradley came undone with bogeys on the par 5s, even though he was around the green with his second shot on both of them. On No. 8, his ball buried so deep in the grass behind the green he called for a ruling to see if it had plugged , that he purposely played 20 feet away from the flag, knowing it would roll off the green. He failed to get up-and-down.

Then, he three-putted from about 6 feet on the par-5 10th, turning a birdie chance into bogey.
Bradley dropped four shots over the last four holes, including a double bogey on the 18th for a 75. He went from leading at the turn to a tie for eighth with a 41 on the back nine.

Rose was the last man standing. Throughout the back nine, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, McIlroy and even Luke Donald for a brief moment all looked to be poised for a run.

Rose never came seriously close to a bogey on the back nine until his approach landed in the back bunker, and he blasted out through the green and just off the edge. He chipped to tap-in range for a bogey, dropping his lead down to one shot. Then, he headed to practice range to see if Watson could catch him. It was there he celebrated when Watson missed the tying putt.



MCNEILL RALLIES FOR WIN IN PUERTO RICO
George McNeill has birdied his last three holes for a 3-under 69 to rally past Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa and win the Puerto Rico Open.

Ishikawa, on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left his homeland in ruins, closed with a 68 on Sunday and had a one-shot lead. McNeill caught him with a birdie on the 16th, took the lead with a birdie on the 17th and added another birdie on the par-5 18th.
It was the second career win for McNeill, who finished on 16-under 272.

Ishikawa had his best career finish on the PGA Tour.

Henrik Stenson and Boo Weekley  tied for third, three shots behind.

 McNeill finished at 16-under 272 and earned $630,000 for his second career victory. He won the 2007 Frys.com Open in Las Vegas as a PGA Tour rookie.


HALEY WINS IN CHILE


Paul Haley II won the Chile Classic in his third career Nationwide Tour start, closing with a 1-under 71 on Sunday for a three-stroke victory.

The 24-year-old former Georgia Tech player shot 64 on Friday and Saturday to take a six-shot lead into the final round. He finished at 22-under 266 and earned $108,000 in the inaugural event.

Joseph Bramlett shot a 64 to finish second at Prince of Wales Country Club.

Paul Claxton was another stroke back after a 68.

Haley missed all but one fairway in his first 12 holes.Haley found the fairway on the par-4 12th and made a 6-foot birdie putt to widen the lead to three, then hit the fairway on the par-4 14th and holed a 12-footer for birdie to push his advantage to four strokes.

A bogey on the par-3 15th cut the lead to three, and he parred the final three holes.



IN OTHER NEWS
Ryo Ishikawa no longer has to worry about trying to qualify for the Masters. The 20-year-old from Japan received a special invitation for the second time.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne says the Masters historically invites international players to expand the major’s global reach. He says Ishikawa will help increase interest in Japan and throughout Asia.

Ishikawa has won nine times on the Japan Golf Tour. He also received an invitation in 2009 when he was 17. He was the second-youngest player to compete in the Masters.

In the last 10 years, the only player not from Asia to receive a special invitation to the Masters was Greg Norman in 2002.

Among those yet to qualify this year is Ernie Els of South Africa.



Donald Trump has monster plans for his purchase of the Doral Golf Resort.

As I said last week, Trump bought the famous golf resort outside Miami for $150 million and said Thursday he plans to invest more than $200 million to revamp the Blue Monster championship course and stop at nothing to make Doral the ultimate golf destination.

Doral has held a PGA Tour event since 1962, and it was elevated to a World Golf Championship in 2007. It is hosting a 74-man field this week that includes the top 50 players in the world ranking. 

Trump said the course would be shut down after the 2013 tournament, and Gil Hanse would renovate what is now called the TPC Blue Monster.

Hanse was selected Wednesday to design the course in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.

Trump is likely to change the name of the Doral course but won’t decide until the project is finished.

Trump already has Trump International in West Palm Beach, which once hosted the LPGA Tour Championship. He also has courses in New York, Washington, along the coast in California.



Professional golfer Jarrod Lyle suffered a recurrence of leukemia upon returning home to Australia to prepare for the birth of his first child.

Robert Allenby, the fellow PGA Tour player who supports a cancer program that once had Lyle as a patient, said he received word Thursday morning that Lyle was going to start chemotherapy as soon as his wife gave birth.

Lyle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 17. He not only recovered, he went on to earn his PGA Tour card. He thought the chemotherapy from his teen years would make him infertile, and was thrilled to learn his wife, Briony, was pregnant.

Lyle’s manager Tony Bouffler said Friday the player was in good spirits and elated about the birth of his child, which was expected by Saturday.

Lyle matched his best finish on the PGA Tour three weeks ago at Riviera, where he missed a playoff by two shots and tied for fifth. He went to Mexico and tied for 37th.

Perhaps his greatest fame in America came last year in the Phoenix Open, when he made an ace on the raucous par-3 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale.



Listen to my podcast weekly at http://TGWG.podomatic.com 
Stitcher Smart Radio (get the free app at stitcher.com/talkinggolfwithgary) 
TuneIn.com.
As well as on itunes
 View the podcast at You Tube - duffersports
 Vimeo - duffersports 
 Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary 
 Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com

Sunday, March 4, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-4-2012

 NEW #1 - RORY MCILROY
 Rory McIlroy won the Honda Classic with a performance worthy of the new No. 1 player in golf.

Right when it looked as though McIlroy had no serious challenge Sunday, Tiger Woods put some color into that red shirt with a birdie-eagle finish for a 62—his lowest final round ever—to get within one shot of the lead.

McIlroy could hear the roar from the farthest corner of PGA National, and the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland responded with some clutch golf of his own. He made an 8-foot birdie putt, and then made three clutch par saves during a daunting stretch at PGA National.

He played it safe with a two-shot lead on the par-5 18th and made par to close with a 1-under 69 and the victory he needed to replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking that will be published Monday.

McIlroy is the 16th player to be No. 1 in the world, and the second-youngest behind Woods, who was 21 when he first went to No. 1 after the 1997 U.S. Open.

Woods made two eagles in the final round and wound up two shots behind, along with Tom Gillis, who birdied the last hole for a 69.

McIlroy, who finished on 12-under 268, won for the fifth time in his career. Three of those are on the PGA Tour, including his record-setting victory in the U.S. Open last summer at Congressional.

He has finished out of the top five only once since the PGA Championship last August.
He was nine shots behind going into the final round, and even a 31 on the front nine in blustery conditions left him five shots behind McIlroy. But the finish—especially that 5-iron into the 18th green—was vintage Woods, and it at least gave him a chance.

Lee Westwood, playing two groups ahead of Woods, closed with a 63 to finish alone in fourth.


 LOAR PICKSUP FIRST NATIONWIDE WIN
Edward Loar won the Panama Championship on Sunday for first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 4-over 74 for one-stroke victory over four players.
The 34-year-old left-hander, four strokes ahead entering the final round, survived a triple-bogey 7 on the seventh hole and had only two birdies in the final round—the last on the par-4 16th.
He finished at 4-under 276 and earned $99,000.
Cameron Percy, Ryan Armour, Luke List and Brian Smock tied for second. Percy finished with a 67, Armour and List shot 68, and Smock had a 69.

Loar, a 6-foot-4 former Oklahoma State player, has two victories on the Asian Tour, winning the 2003 Thailand Open and 2004 Korean Open.



IN OTHER NEWS
If USGA executive director Mike Davis has his way, the record low scores at last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional are unlikely to travel to the West Coast.

Davis said Monday at San Francisco’s majestic Olympic Club that the course will be “the hardest start in a U.S. Open” when players tee off June 14. The unleveled Lake Course in the serene setting just across the street from the Pacific Ocean will play at a par-70 7,170 yards—373 yards longer than the last time it hosted the national championship in 1998—including the 670-yard 16th hole that would be the longest par 5 in the event’s history.

Windy conditions and the threat of the city’s famous fog also could make the hilly course with fast fairways even tougher.

In decades past, the usual reaction has been to overcompensate after so many red numbers ended up on the leaderboard.The challenge for the USGA is finding a balance between maintaining its standards and turning the tournament into a gimmick.

The front nine will play at a par 34 and the back nine a par 36. The first hole is now a par 4 and the 17th a par 5; the eighth hole, once one of the easiest on the course, is entirely new from 1998—with little room for error along the right-side trees.

The par-5 16th can play as long as 670 yards on the back tees, which Davis expects to happen “at least two days.” The previous longest hole in Open history is the 667-yard Par-5 12th in 2007 at Oakmont, according to the USGA.



 Donald Trump purchased the iconic Doral golf resort  for a reported $150 million on last Monday.

After the resort plunged into bankruptcy a year ago, Trump made an initial bid of $170 million for the resort, before finalizing terms on a deal that will see him get Doral for a bargain-basement price.

Just to give you an idea of how far the resort has fallen, Ryan Ballengee of GolfTalkCentral noted Morgan Stanley subsidiary CNL Hotel and Resorts Inc., purchased Doral for $501 million back in 2007, which means the value of the resort has fallen some $330 million in the last five years.

The deal will see Trump take over four of the resort's five courses (Greg Norman's Great White course was retained by a New York hedge fund to be the centerpiece of a future real estate development) and the 692-room hotel.

Trump also plans to have golf course designer Gil Hanse -- who helped restore the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club and designed Castle Stuart -- come in and redesign all four courses, including the iconic Blue Monster course that will host the upcoming WGC-Cadillac Championship.


In an excerpt from Hank Haney's soon-to-be-released Tiger tell-all, posted on GolfDigest.com, the instructor confirmed there was a point when Woods considered giving up golf to become a Navy SEAL.

   "Tiger was seriously considering becoming a Navy SEAL. I didn't know how he'd go about it, but     when he talked about it, it was clear he had a plan....I thought, Wow, here is Tiger Woods, greatest athlete on the planet, maybe the greatest athlete ever, right in the middle of his prime, basically ready to leave it all behind for a military life."

While the excerpt didn't specify when Woods seriously considered giving up golf, you have to believe it was most likely between 2004 and 2008 (he won six majors during that span), when Haney and Woods were working together.

Woods has a military background and spent four days going through training at Fort Bragg in 2004 also, his father, Earl, was a Green Beret in the U.S. Army -- so it shouldn't come as a total shock that he considered joining the Armed Forces.


American Honda Motor Co. announced Wednesday that it has signed a four-year extension as the title sponsor of the Honda Classic, keeping it the longest active sponsorship on the PGA Tour.

Honda first became the title sponsor in 1981 when it was played at Inverrary. It has since moved to five other golf courses in south Florida, with PGA National starting in 2007.

The second-longest title sponsor still going is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, dating to 1986. Shell has been title sponsor of the Houston Open since 1992.

The extension adds to a remarkable job the PGA Tour has done with title sponsorship in recent years, especially in the wake of a severe economic downturn. Dating to the advent of the FedEx Cup in 2007, there have been 23 new title sponsors (including new tournaments in Puerto Rico and Mexico).

The only tournament in immediate jeopardy is in two weeks at Innisbrook, where Transitions has said it would renew its sponsorship.


Listen to my podcast weekly at http://TGWG.podomatic.com
Stitcher Smart Radio (get the free app at stitcher.com/talkinggolfwithgary)
TuneIn.com
As well as on itunes
 View the podcast at You Tube - duffersports  or at  Vimeo - duffersports or right here at blogspot.com
 Visit my online store at www.zazzle.com/talkinggolfwithgary
Send your questions and comments to talkinggolf@gmail.com