Monday, April 30, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-30-2012


Rosie Jones won the Legends Tour's season-opening Walgreens Charity Classic on Sunday, finishing with a 4-under 68 for a two-stroke victory over Elaine Crosby in the 36-hole event.
The 52-year-old Jones, a 13-time LPGA Tour winner who captained the losing U.S. Solheim Cup team last year, had a 5-under 139 total on the Grandview Golf Course. Crosby also closed with a 68.
Liselotte Neumann and Jan Stephenson tied for second at 2 under. Neumann shot a 69, and Stephenson had a 70.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-29-2012

 DUFNER BEATS ELS IN PLAYOFF
Jason Dufner beat Ernie Els with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff Sunday in the Zurich Classic to win for the first time in 164 starts on the PGA Tour.

After entering the fourth round with a two-shot lead, Dufner shot a 2-under 70 at TPC Louisiana. Els had a 67 to match Dufner at 19-under 269.

After both players missed birdie putts within 8 feet on the par-5 18th, they went back to the 18th tee for the second extra hole, which Dufner won by hitting the green in two strokes and tapping home a short birdie putt after Els' birdie attempt from the fringe narrowly missed.

Dufner lost playoffs last year to Mark Wilson in the Phoenix Open and Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship for two of his three career runner-up finishes.

On the second playoff hole, Els' tee shot went into a fairway bunker, and his second shot landed 137 yards from the pin. His third shot landed on the fringe, nearly 19 feet from the pin, but he nearly saved birdie from there, his putt missing by 2 inches.

Dufner then made his birdie putt from less than 2 feet, and in his typically low-key way, briefly raised both arms to acknowledge the cheering crowd before casually walking off the green to accept some congratulatory hugs.

Luke Donald shot a 67 to finish third at 17 under, and move past Rory McIlroy for the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Defending Zurich Classic champ Bubba Watson, playing for the first time since a life-changing win at the Masters over Easter weekend, entered the final round eight shots off the lead. He was unable to mount a charge after bogeys on his first two holes. He wound up tied for 18th at 11 under, a solid outing by most standards, but one of his worst finishes of the year.



LEWIS WINS HOLDS OFF TEEN SENSATION
Stacy Lewis won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic  for her second LPGA Tour title, holding off charging teen Lexi Thompson by a stroke.

Lewis, who held a five-stroke lead early in the day, reclaimed the edge with a birdie on No. 16, while the 17-year-old Thompson parred the final hole and had to wait.

Lewis parred out. Her week was so solid that her finishing 3-under 69 was her worst round en route to a 17-under 271 total. The former Arkansas star also won the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Thompson found redemption from her final-round fall in Mobile a year ago. She didn't flinch under the pressure given a second shot, closing with rounds of 66 and 65, tying her career low in a bogey-free round.

Lewis secured the win with a two-putt par from the edge of the green. Karine Icher of France closed with a 68 to finish third, two strokes back.

Lewis spent her teen years in a back brace with scoliosis, then had surgery that corrected her spine with five screws and a steel rod.

Lewis had birdied holes 15-17 each of the past two days, when she was a combined 9 under on the back nine.


WIESBERGER GETS FIRST AT BALLANTINE'S
Bernd Wiesberger of Austria shot a final-round 4-under 68 to earn his first European Tour victory with a five-stroke win at the Ballantine's Championship on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Wiesberger made four birdies on his way to claiming the win to become only the third Austrian to win on the European Tour after Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele.

Wiesberger finished at 18 under, five strokes ahead of Richie Ramsay of Scotland, who shot a 65 to equal the course record.Victor Dubuisson, who had led after the first round, finished third alongside Australian Marcus Fraser. Another Australian, Adam Scott, the highest ranked player at the event at No. 12, finished 12th after shooting 65.

Wiesberger went 55 holes without dropping a shot during the tournament, after making a double bogey on the No. 13 par-3 in his first round.

His victory gives him his European Tour playing card until the end of 2014.

Englishman Ian Poulter finished tied for 15th with a 281, as did Y.E. Yang.

Paul Casey continued to step up his comeback from a shoulder injury and finished 25th at 5 under, finishing 1 under for the day.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez managed his first top-five finish of the season after finishing 10 under.


LIST TAKES NATIONWIDE EVENT
Luke List eagled the 13th hole to jump into the lead, and later made a birdie to help secure a two-stroke victory at the South Georgia Classic. List, the longest hitter on the tour,won on the longest course on the tour.

List had bogeyed the 12th hole to fall behind, but his strong closing stretch allowed him to earn his first career Nationwide Tour win. He carded a four- under 68 to finish at 16-under-par 272.

Brian Stuard fired a six-under 66 on Sunday at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, but started the round too far back and took second at minus-14.

The victory was a long time in the making for List, who had been close to winning before. Prior to Sunday, he had six career top-10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes. One of those came in early March at the Panama Claro Championship, where he was one of four tied for second place behind Edward Loar.

The 27-year-old's victory was a convincing one. He came up with crucial shots down the stretch when many of his competitors faltered.

Woody Austin, who shared the third-round lead with List, stumbled to a one- over 73 after carding three bogeys on the back nine. Austin finished in third place at 11-under 277.

Will MacKenzie had perhaps the most stunning fall. He was alone in first after making a birdie at the 10th, which put him at 15-under. But a bogey at 11, double-bogey at 12 and triple-bogey at the last sent him into the clubhouse with a 73. MacKenzie shared seventh place with three others at minus-nine.


IN OTHER NEWS
Asked on Golf Channel's Morning Drive about advice to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, Hal Sutton basically told Love to stay out of the way.
 
"I don't know that guys are following anyone but their own selves today. We live in a pretty selfish world. It's not a criticism. In my mind that's a fact," said Sutton, the 2004 captain.

"In order to be a leader you've got to understand that from the beginning. These guys don't want to follow anybody. The hard part about being a captain is you're the greatest guy in the world if you win and did the worst job in the world if you lose and you never hit a shot. And with golf I think there's more to it than that."

The 2004 team lost to the Europeans 18 1/2 to 9 1/2. The competition is remembered for Sutton pairing Tiger Woods with Phil Mickelson.


When Rich Beem won  the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine he received a  10-year exemption on the European Tour.
He never used it because he didn't need it — until now.

Beem's only status on the PGA Tour is as a past champion, and sponsor exemptions have been limited. In the last year of his exemption in Europe, he took up membership and is having more fun than he imagined.

His  results,so far, have not been great .

Beem missed the cut in his first three events,  the Joburg Open, Andalucia Open and the Hassan Trophy in Morocco before he tied for 11th two weeks ago in Italy at the Sicilian Open. He plays the Spanish Open next week, then gears up for seven tournaments in eight weeks in which he will play in England, Wales, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, France and Scotland.

The events he has played in continental Europe are not among the top events, and thus the galleries have been a bit sparse.He figures that will change when Europe gets to the meat of its schedule this summer, and every tournament is no more than a short flight from London.

Beem isn't sure where this will lead. The worst-case scenario is that he tries to go through two stages of PGA Tour qualifying school and tries to get his card back. Or, he could play great and work his way back toward the top 50 in the world.


 The course at Royal Lytham and St. Annes has been lengthened by 181 yards for this year's British Open, with all but two holes having been altered since the last time the tournament was held there in 2001.

Royal and Ancient Chief Executive Peter Dawson said Monday that the total length of the course has increased to 7,086 yards, but that it will remain a par 70.

Dawson said the biggest changes were made to the seventh, 10th and 11th holes. The 10th is 52 yards longer compared to 11 years ago, while No. 7 is 35 yards longer and has a completely new green. The 11th now measures 592 yards — 56 yards longer than last time.

The only holes that have not been changed are the par-4 fourth and par-3 12th.


 Budding LPGA star Lexi Thompson needs a date for her high school prom.

The 17-year-old Thompson has posted a YouTube inviting young military men 18 to 20 years of age,  to make a bid to be her date by sending their qualifications to her Facebook page.

Lexi will even take care of the details, and provide free transportation to Fort Lauderdale.


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Sunday, April 22, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-22-2012

IT'S BEN CURTIS IN TEXAS
The final round of the Valero Texas Open is in the books with Ben Curtis getting his first win since 2006.


After John Huh and Matt Every missed their birdie attempts on the par-5 18th, Ben Curtis had two putts to get his first win since 2006, but he only needed one.


After the round, Curtis fought back tears while saying: ''It's been a tough couple of years.''
Huh roared back with a 69, but the Mayakoba Classic winner fell just short.


Curtis birdied the par-5 18th for an even-par 72 and 9-under total. 


It was a redeeming and emotional win for the 2003 British Open winner who had only limited tour status after a long slump. Every couldn't close the deal after starting the tournament with a course-record 63.


Four blown putts from 9 feet or closer - including a 6-footer for birdie - kept Every a stroke back until Curtis birdied No. 18.


It was nonetheless a validating week for the 28-year-old Floridian, whose only name recognition in three winless years on the tour was a misdemeanor marijuana arrest as a rookie in 2010. That earned a PGA Tour suspension, and even now, Every's official biography lists regaining his tour privileges as his biggest achievement.


Defending champion Brendan Steele, a distant afterthought for three rounds, made himself known again at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67 to finish an impressive weekend climb from 56th. He tied for fourth with Bob Estes, Brian Gay, and Charlie Wi at 5 under.


ALLEN AND FROST WINS LEGENDS OF GOLF
Michael Allen and David Frost shot a better-ball 10-under-par 62 Sunday for 29-under 187 and a one-stroke victory over John Cook and Joey Sindelar in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf championship.


Allen won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship, then went winless in 40 consecutive events until winning at TPC Tampa Bay last week. Now, he's the top money-winner on the senior circuit and leads in the Charles Schwab Cup race.


Frost eagled the 14th to put the team at 29 under at The Club at Savannah Harbor and that proved to be the difference as, moments later, Cook cut the lead to one with a 45-foot birdie at No. 18.


The leaders made par the rest of the way.


Allen sealed it despite a heavy downpour that swept in over the Savannah River just as they finished teeing off on the final hole. His 40-foot birdie attempt from just off the green hung on the lip of the cup, but that was all the team needed.


Three teams tied for third at 27-under: Andy Bean and Chien Soon Lu (62); Jeff Sluman and Brad Faxon (63), and Tom Purtzer Brad Bryant (64). The winners each received $230,000 and 230 points in the season-long Schwab Cup race.


Allen went into the Legends Cup race with 620 points, 157 ahead of Bernhard Langer.



GRACE IS VICTORIOUS IN CHINA
Branden Grace won the China Open on Sunday for his third European Tour victory of the year, closing with a 3-under 69 to hold off 2011 winner Nicolas Colsaerts by three strokes.


The 23-year-old Grace, from South Africa, finished at 21-under 267 at Binhai Lake.


He won the Joburg Open and Volvo Champions in consecutive weeks in South Africa in January. Colsaerts, the winner last year at Luxehills, also shot a 69.


The event also was sanctioned by the OneAsia Tour and China Golf Association.  


WESTWOOD DEFENDS TITLE
Third-ranked Lee Westwood defended his Indonesian Masters title Sunday with a two-stroke victory despite a shaky final round.


The 39-year-old Englishman, who completed his delayed third round with a 7-under 65 to take an eight-shot lead in the morning, shot a 2-over 74 in his final round at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club for a 16-under total of 272.


He opened his fourth round with a birdie but then had two bogeys at the fifth and sixth holes. Westwood birdied No. 10 and followed that with a bogey, and he also dropped shots on the 13th and 14th holes.


Former top-ranked Asian Tour player Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand shot a 5-under 67 in his final round to finish second with a 14-under 274.


MIYAZATO WINS LPGA EVENT
Japan's Ai Miyazato won the LPGA LOTTE Championship on Saturday for her eighth career LPGA Tour title, birdieing three of the last six holes for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory.


Miyazato finished at 12-under 276 at wind-swept Ko Olina. She opened with rounds of 71, 65 and 70 to take a three-stroke lead in the final round. Miyazato won after finishing second behind top-ranked Yani Tseng this year in Thailand and Phoenix.


Meena Lee, tied for the lead after a birdie on No. 15, had a 70 to tie for second with Azahara Munoz at 8 under. Munoz finished with a 70.


Tseng, a three-time winner this year, closed with a 74 to tie for 10th at 4 under.



IN OTHER NEWS
Scioto Country Club is returning to the national spotlight in golf for the first time in decadeS. The USGA announced that the U.S. SeniorsOpen will be there, in 2016. The event will be held in conjunction with Scioto's centennial.


Jack Nicklaus learned the game on the rolling Donald Ross-designed layout in suburban Columbus, Ohio. The winner of 18 major championships will serve as the tournament's honorary chairman.The tournament will be held Aug. 11-14, 2016.  



Indianapolis golf fans are going all in for this year's BMW Championship.


Organizers say ticket sales for the city's biggest men's golf tournament since the 1991 PGA Championship have already surpassed last year's total and that attendance for the four-day September tournament could approach 150,000. That would make it one of the tour's most attended non-majors this season.


Daily tickets went on sale April 1, and fans are rushing to buy them despite not knowing who will actually play Sept. 6-9 at Crooked Stick Golf Course in suburban Indy.The top 70 qualifiers receive invites to the third tourney in the FedEx Cup playoff. After the BMW tourney, the field is cut to 30 finalists who vie for a $10 million winner's check two weeks later in Atlanta.


Organizers have already announced the tourney will return to Chicago in 2013 and 2015, with Denver hosting it in 2014. But Indy's response could push the city into the BMW rotation or perhaps prompt tour officials to give Indianapolis a chance to fill a hole on a future schedule.  


Authorities say Australian pro golfer Matthew Giles has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after he crashed his car into a home southeast of Phoenix.


A Gilbert police report says Giles was ''travelling at a very high rate of speed and tried to make a left turn'' when he lost control of his car and it crashed into a single-family home Monday night.


Police say the accident ruptured a natural gas line, but there were no reported injuries.


They say Giles was given sobriety tests at the crash scene and results are expected in about two weeks.


Giles finished 66th in the Nationwide Tour's TPC Stonebrae Championship in California the day before the crash.


The 22-year-old Giles is a native of Sydney, but the former University of Southern California star lives in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.



And finally Bubba Watson admitted that the only person he talked to the night after he won the Masters was Justin Bieber. "He called me and I talked to him on the phone and he and Selena (Gomez) were congratulating me, and it was a big honor that they would both call me and talk to me."  


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-15-2012


PETTERSSON WINS RBC HERITAGE
Carl Pettersson shot a 2-under 69 Sunday to win the RBC Heritage by five over Zach Johnson. It’s the fifth victory of the Swede’s career and his second in an RBC event — he also won the 2010 RBC Canadian Open. With the victory Pettersson moves to fourth in the FedExCup standings.

Top-ranked Luke Donald needed to finish eighth or better to retain his ranking, but tied for 37th and will fall behind Rory McIlroy.

Johnson shot a 70 to finish second at 9 under, while Colt Knost's chances for his first PGA Tour title fell apart with a 74. He was third at 8 under.

Kevin Stadler (68) and Billy Mayfair (69) tied for fourth at 6 under. Two-time Heritage winner Boo Weekley had his worst round of the week, 73, to tie for sixth with Matt Bettencourt (69).

No one, though, was catching Pettersson in this one. He rolled in a 24-footer on No. 1 to get things started with a birdie. He added another birdie, from 16 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, then two-putted from 40 feet on the par-5 fifth to go up by four shots. When Johnson took bogey at No. 10, Pettersson was five strokes in front and cruising.

Pettersson used a run of five straight birdies on the front side Saturday to gain the lead. He was 13 under on the front nine the four days.

He also didn't feel too bad on the greens, needing just 104 putts over 72 holes.

Knost was on top after Thursday and Friday and felt good as part of the final pairing. But those nerves Knost acknowledged Saturday were apparently back again in the final round.

He missed an 8-foot putt for par and made bogey on No. 1 for a second straight round to drop three shots behind Pettersson. And just like Saturday, Knost fought back with a birdie on the second hole - he made eagle there in the third round - to close in on Pettersson.

However, Knost's chances ended, a hole later with a horrible drive out of bounds left on No. 3 that led to a triple-bogey seven and left him five shots behind and out of contention.
When Knost flew his approach to the 12th green way left, he simply stood in the fairway and stared straight ahead, hands on hips, in disbelief.

Johnson, four strokes behind Pettersson at the start, tried to make a charge with birdies on the second, fourth and fifth holes. Johnson closed to three shots when he birdied No. 15 and Pettersson had his first bogey of the day moments later.

But Johnson ran out of steam on the 16th hole when he drove into a waste bunker and took bogey. Still, it was Johnson's best showing of the year and first top-10 finish since January.

Donald was largely resigned to surrendering No. 1 when he woke up early for his 9:46 a.m. start time, more than four hours before the final group of Pettersson and Knost teed off.

Donald's round began badly with a double bogey at No. 1. He worked his way back with birdies on the fifth and sixth hole and that's where he stayed. Donald ended a four-week run at No. 1 that began after he won the Transitions Championship last month.

Donald said he's proved he's among the world's best and is confident he'll stay in that conversation, no matter where he's ranked. ''Now, my focus is winning tournaments,'' he said.


ALLEN TAKES CHAMPIONS TOUR EVENT
Michael Allen won the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am on Sunday for his second Champions Tour title, closing with a 3-under 68 for a three-stroke victory over Kenny Perry.

Allen finished the three-day event at 12 under. He took a five-shot advantage into the final round, tying the tournament record for the largest 36-hole margin.

Allen bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4 at TPC Tampa Bay to cut his lead to one, but rebounded with birdies on two of the next three holes. He extended his advantage to four shots with birdies on 12 and 14.
Isao Aoki (1996) and Bruce Fleisher (2000) also took five-stroke leads into the final round of the tournament. Aoki wound up tied for eighth, while Fleisher won by four shots.

Perry eagled the par-4 first hole and par-5 12th during a round of 65. It was the fifth time in the event's history that a player had a pair of eagles in a round.

Allen also won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship. He had gone winless in 40 consecutive Champions Tour events since then.

The 63-year-old Fleisher, who lead after the first round, shot a 74 to finish at 4 over.
Peter Senior was third at 7 under after shooting a 67.

One of Perry's playing partners, Corey Pavin, also had an eagle on 12. Pavin shot 70 and ended up fourth at 5 under.

Kirk Triplett had a 72 to tie for eighth at 2 under in his first start on the 50-and-over tour.


OOSTHUIZEN WINS IN MALAYSIA
Louis Oosthuizen won the Malaysian Open on Sunday, a week after losing a playoff to Bubba Watson in the Masters.

The South African completed a 3-under 69 in the rain-delayed third round, then closed with a 68 for a three-stroke victory over Scotland's Stephen Gallacher.
The 2010 British Open champion finished at 17-under 271 on Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club's West Course.

Gallacher shot a 70. American David Lipsky also closed with a 70 to tie for third at 12 under with Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello and England's Danny Willett. Cabrera-Bello and Willett shot 71.
The tournament was sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.


 ARAGON WINS STONBRAE CHAMPIONSHIP
Former Stanford player Alex Aragon won the TPC Stonebrae Championship on Sunday for his first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 4-under 66 for a one-stroke victory over Matt Harmon, Duffy Waldorf and Paul Haley II.

Aragon had a 10-under 270 total and earned $108,000.

Harmon finished with a 61, and Waldorf and Haley shot 68.



IN OTHER NEWS
Speeding between the Masters and his next tournament cost Jose Maria Olazabal $621 when a Georgia sheriff's deputy pulled him over for driving 97 mph on a rural highway.

Olazabal, the Ryder Cup captain for Europe, agreed to follow a deputy to the Effingham County Sheriff's Office and pay the speeding ticket in cash. The Spaniard was stopped Monday afternoon traveling from Augusta to Hilton Head, S.C., for the Heritage tournament, sheriff's spokesman David Ehsanipoor said.

Ehsanipoor said Tuesday that Olazabal ''apologized, he was cooperative and after the paperwork was done he went on his way.''

He says the deputy clocked Olazabal's Mercedes exceeding the posted limit of 65 mph on the rural stretch of Ga. 21, a divided four-lane highway near the Georgia-South Carolina state line.

The two-time Masters champion wasn't jailed, but his mug shot was taken. Ehsanipoor said the sheriff's department photographs everyone who is brought in on a criminal charge or citation.



The Houston Open has created an identity as the last chance for a player to qualify for the Masters.
But not next year.

The Masters traditionally ends on the second Sunday of April, and the way the calendar falls in 2013, that pushes it back one week later than usual. The Masters next year will be April 11-14.

That leaves an extra week between Bay Hill - the end of the Florida swing - and the first major of the year. The PGA Tour has decided that Houston will stay the week after Bay Hill, and the Texas Open in San Antonio will take the spot the week before the Masters.

But it's less than ideal for Houston.

For starters, the Houston Open will end on Easter Sunday next year. And if that's not enough, the PGA Tour has agreed to move the Tavistock Cup - a Monday-Tuesday exhibition - from the week of Bay Hill to the week of Houston. That made-for-TV gig attracts 24 players, most of them in the Orlando, Fla., area.

That roster typically includes Tiger Woods, who represents Team Albany from The Bahamas. And that might hurt the one upside of Houston moving away from the week before the Masters - a chance to get Woods for the first time. Steve Timms, the Houston Tournament Director, spoke to Woods' agent last week at the Masters about the schedule change.

The last time this scheduling quirk happened was in 2008. New Orleans was inserted after the Florida swing, and Houston kept its spot before the Masters. Woods did not play in New Orleans that year.

It's the second time in three years the Texas Open has been given a spot that belonged to another tournament. Hilton Head is traditionally the week after the Masters, but in 2011 when the tournament was trying to replace its sponsor, it was moved to two weeks after Augusta. The Texas Open followed the Masters.

Why can't Texas go a week before the Houston Open next year?

According to two officials, the Texas Open contract says that it cannot end on Easter Sunday, which is why it was given the week after the Masters last year. The tournament is one of the top contributors to charity on the PGA Tour, with much of that money coming from a golf outing it holds the day after its event. The fear is that ending on Easter would limit participation in the outing.

Timms sees some positives out of the date change for 2013. There's still a chance he can get Woods. And because it will fall two weeks before the Masters, that will be the cutoff for players trying to get into the top 50 in the world to qualify for the Masters.

''We'll only know next year at this time if that's able to outweigh some of the challenges with Easter,'' Timms said.


Miki Saiki Made up 5 Shots on Ji-Yai Shin over her last 3 Holes to capture 4th Career JLPGA Victory at the Studio Alice Ladies Open.



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Sunday, April 8, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-8-2012



BUBBA WATSON WINS MASTERS
 Bubba Watson won the Masters after a fantastic wedge shot from in the trees and off the straw, onto the green setting up a two putt win for the the green jacket.

After a back and forth day where the lead changed hands many times, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson tied to set up a sudden-death playoff. Both players got good looks at a birdie on 18, with Watson barely missing a Masters-winning putt. 

On the second playoff hole Watson stuck his tee shot on 10 into the deep woods right of the green on 10, but then uncorked a shot not even a Mickelson fan could imagine: a straight-up wedge that landed within 15 feet for birdie. Needing two shots to win, Watson put his first putt close, and tapped in his second for his first major win.

Oosthuizen played a largely mundane round of golf, with one notable exception a three-under albatross on the second hole that surely ranks as one of the greatest shots in Masters history.

The 260-yard shot was enough to keep the field at bay for most of the round, and enough to give Oosthuizen a little room to waver through the course of the round. He steadied himself on the back nine, bringing home the same -10 that he'd staked himself to on the second hole.

Once again, Watson found himself in a playoff for a major championship. In 2010, he fell to Martin Kaymer in the PGA Championship. This year, there would be no such fade.

Phil Mickelson, the favorite coming into the day, played 17 solid holes at a level good enough to stay in the hunt, if not own it. The problem was the fourth, where he drove a shot into the side of a grandstand and then needed two right-handed shots to get it free of the dense jungle growth. He carded a triple-bogey 7, falling from eight-under to five-under. And although he wouldn't bogey another shot, he left too many putts too short. He finished right where he started, at -8, staring up an impassable two-stroke incline at the leaders.

Other highlights included two aces at 16, by Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott, and Van Pelt's astonishing 8-under run to tie a Masters record. Lee Westwood didn't do his usual major fade, but his 4-under day to get to -8 simply wasn't enough. And Matt Kuchar and 54-hole leader Peter Hanson both took turns at the lead, but couldn't hold. And Tiger Woods? A 2-over 74 to finish a dismal +5.

In the end, though, the final lingering image of this Masters was a tearful Bubba Watson, embracing his mother as the light faded . He'd finally broken into the ranks of golf's major winners with a well-deserved, hard-earned victory, and there was little more to do at that moment than weep in gratitude.



GONZALES WINS NATIONWIDE EVENT
Andres Gonzales completed a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the Soboba Golf Classic, beating Andrew Svoboda  by two strokes for his first Nationwide Tour title.

Gonzales closed with an even-par 71 to finish at 8-under 276 on The Country Club at Soboda Springs. The 28-year-old former UNLV player earned $135,000.

Svoboda shot a 71. Alistair Presnell  and Michael Letzig tied for third at 5 under. Presnell had a 68, and Letzig finished with a 70. 



IN OTHER NEWS
Sergio Garcia told Spanish reporters after a dismal third-round round at the Masters that he doesn’t think he’s capable of winning a major.

Just 19 when he had a spectacular showdown with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, Garcia was supposed to give Woods a fight for the title of greatest player of their generation. He’s hardly been a washout, with 10 victories on the European Tour and another seven on the PGA Tour.

But he’s never quite lived up to his star billing, either. 

At 32, he’s now 0-for-54 in the majors.

Not that he hasn’t had chances. He finished in the top 12 at the last three majors of 2011, and went into the third round at Augusta National a stroke behind the leaders. But he took himself out of contention with a 3-over 75 that left him eight strokes back, and then unburdened himself to Spanish reporters.




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Sunday, April 1, 2012

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 4-1-2012

 MAHAN WINS SHELL
Hunter Mahan shot a 1-under 71 on Sunday to win the Houston Open, edging out Carl Pettersson by one stroke.

Mahan, who won the Match Play Championship in February, is the first two-time champion on the PGA Tour this year. The victory moved Mahan up to No. 4 in the world rankings, the first time he’s ever been the highest-ranked American.

Pettersson (71) finished with eight pars for his second runner-up finish this year. Third-round leader Louis Oosthuizen (75) was another shot back at 14 under.

Mahan began the day two shots behind Oosthuizen, who lost the lead with two double bogeys on his front nine.

The 29-year-old Mahan earned his fifth career victory. He has six top-25 finishes in seven starts this year.



YOO WINS FIRST LPGA MAJOR OF THE YEAR
Sun Young Yoo won the Kraft Nabisco Championship with an 18-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday, earning her first major title after I.K. Kim missed a 1-foot putt on the final hole of regulation.

Yoo won the LPGA Tour’s first major of the season with steady play down the stretch, but she got to make the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond only after Kim’s mind-boggling miss on the same green minutes earlier.

Yoo, who earned her second career LPGA Tour victory, and Kim finished at 9 under, but Kim could have all but wrapped up her first major with the tap-in par putt.

Kim might have struck the ball oddly, and it went around the lip of the cup before coming out on the same side it entered. The gallery gasped, and Kim raised her left hand to her mouth in disbelief.

Kim’s unbelievable miss on the Dinah Shore course will go down in tournament lore after a thoroughly wacky final round in which five players held the lead.

Yoo and Kim played the 18th again in the playoff, and Kim’s drive barely cleared the water, landing in the rough. She left a birdie putt short from the fringe, and Yoo calmly reached the green before burying her winning putt.

Yoo, who joined Grace Park as the only South Korean winners in the history of the tournament, seemed a bit reluctant to celebrate after hugging Kim, but she joined her caddie for the leap into Poppie’s Pond. She surpassed $3 million in career earnings with her $300,000 share of the $2 million purse.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng finished third at 8 under with a disappointing final-round 73.

Defending champion Stacy Lewis closed with a 66 to finish in a four-way share of fourth place with Amy Yang and Karin Sjodin—who shot a 74 after entering the final round even with Tseng and leading at the turn—and Hee Kyung Seo, who had a three-stroke lead on the back nine before bogeying her final four holes.


OLESEN TAKES EURO TOUR EVENT
Thorbjørn Olesen held on for a first European Tour victory at the Sicilian Open despite a gallant challenge from Chris Wood, who equalled the  course record.

Olesen made six birdies to finish with an overall 15-under 273 at Verdura Golf and Spa Resort for his first career victory on the European Tour.

Wood picked up five shots in his first five holes—including an eagle on the par-5 fourth—and tied for the lead when Olesen bogeyed after hitting a wild approach shot to the 13th green.

But the 22-year-old Olesen, who led by three shots overnight, recovered with a birdie on No. 14 and finished with four straight pars.

Former PGA Championship winner Rich Beem finished tied at 11th, along with John Daly and six others.

It was the first time in four events that Beem has made the cut on the European Tour.



IN OTHER NEWS

Gary Player will join friends and long-time competitors Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus Thursday morning as honorary starters at Augusta National. It’s only one shot, but Player was thrilled when he was asked last July and his excitement has only increased in the nine months since.

Player became the first international player to win the Green Jacket with his victory in 1961, which he felt helped give all players from overseas major credibility with golf audiences in the United States.

He was among the best golfers on Tour when he won the Masters for a second time in 1974. At that time, he was the tournament’s oldest champion until Nicklaus took that distinction with his 1986 victory—then player picked up a third Green Jacket in 1978.

Player holds several marks for the Masters, including making a record 23 straight cuts and being the oldest person to qualify for the weekend rounds when he made the cut in 1998 at age 62.

It’s the first time the Masters will have three starters since 1999 with Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.



Three companies
have signed up to advertise through Padraig Harrington in a unique, part-time sponsorship to raise money for his wife’s cousin, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident.

Harrington decided to auction the branding on his clothes that he wears at the Houston Open, the Masters, and the Heritage. His regular sponsors have endorsed his effort.

IdentityX, Clune Construction and Blarney.com have taken him up on his offer. They have offered more than $200,000, which will go to the Padraig Harrington Charitable Foundation for Gerard Byrne.

IdentityX gets his cap and clothing, while Clune Construction and Blarney.com are taking spots on his clothing. Barney.com also has pledged a percentage of their website sales.



Peter Hanson of Sweden has taken special temporary membership in the PGA Tour, which allows him to take unlimited exemptions for the rest of the year.

Hanson has been living in Orlando (Lake Nona) for the last few years as his children get closer to going to school. He effectively was commuting to the European Tour, though, because he had no status in America.

That changed this year. He reached the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship and tied for fourth at the Cadillac Championship. With $644,765, that was more than enough to get temporary membership.

If his earnings are equal or better to No. 125 on the money list at the end of the year, he will have his full PGA Tour card in 2013 for the first time. That seems likely. Hanson still has four majors and a World Golf Championship that would count toward that.



Phil Mickelson
will be wearing a blue hat at golf tournaments to promote a project with sponsor KPMG aimed at buying books for children in low-income families. The public can buy the same hat, and each hat sold will go toward the purchase of three books



Liselotte Neumann took her name out of the mix as Solheim Cup captain because she thought it would consume too much of her time. A series of messages from European players convinced her it would be worth it.

Neumann was appointed European captain on Wednesday for the 2013 matches, giving the 45-year-old Swede one last chance to celebrate on American soil.

She was on the winning team twice in six tries as a Solheim Cup player, both in Europe. She was an assistant captain under Alison Nicholas in 2009 outside Chicago, where the Americans kept their record perfect at home.

The Solheim Cup will be played Aug. 16-18 next year at Colorado Golf Club. Meg Mallon previously was selected as U.S. captain. The Americans lead the series 8-4, though Europe is coming off a win last year in Ireland.

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