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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