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.


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