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.

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