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.


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