Monday, May 14, 2012


Matt Kucher won the Players Championship with a gutsy performance down the stretch making clutch putts to hold off challengers.

Kuchar opened with a bogey and quickly fell three shots behind. After coming backhand grabbing the lead, he was locked in a brief battle with Martin Laird, and when he looked across the water from the 16th green to see Rickie Fowler dressed in his all-orange outfit sink a birdie putt on the island-green 17th to cut Kuchar's lead to two shots.

Kuchar answered with a birdie of his own on the 16th to restore his margin to three shots. He found land on the par-3 17th, even though he three-putted for a bogey that extended the drama for one more hole. And best of all was tapping in for par and celebrating with his entire family. 

He won by two shots over four players who had a chance on the back nine.
Fowler, slowed by a double bogey on the fifth hole, birdied the 16th and 17th and had an 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have put enormous pressure on Kuchar. It caught the right lip and he had to settle for a 70. Ben Curtis ran off four straight birdies around the turn, but not enough until it was too late. He made a 10-foot birdie on the last hole for a 68.

Zach Johnson was in range until a bogey on the 15th. He made a great par save on the 18th for a 68. Laird was the only runner-up who was tied for the lead, running off three straight birdies on the back nine until a poor tee shot on the 14th led to bogey. Laird, who three-putted the 18th in regulation at The Barclays in 2010 that allowed Kuchar into a playoff that he won for his most recent win, made bogey on the 18th at Sawgrass after nearly hitting into the water. He shot 67.

Kevin Na had a one-shot lead going into the final round and was under pressure from the viewing public more than any player. His pre-shot routine is painful to watch, and he knows it. The waggles. The whiffs he does on purpose so he can start over. The practice swings. The indecision.

He tried to speed up, even walking well ahead of Kuchar to get to his ball, and he wonders if rushing hurt him. Na made four bogeys in a five-hole stretch at the turn to lose the lead. But what really stung were the chants he heard from the gallery. Everyone knew this guy had a hard time making his swing.

The worst of it was on the par-3 13th, when he pulled his tee shot into the water, effectively ending all hope. Some in the crowd sang, ''Na-na-na-na ... good-bye.''

He shot 76, extending a remarkable trend at Sawgrass since the tournament moved from March to May in 2007. It's one thing that the 54-hole leader has never won The Players in those six years. None of the third-round leaders has ever shot better than 74 in the final round, with an average score of 76.3.

Luke Donald shot 30 on the back nine for a 66, making him stick around to see if it would be enough. It wasn't, and he wound up in sixth place, not quite enough for him to return to No. 1 in the world ranking.

Tiger Woods shot 40 on his front nine and rallied for a 73, at least finishing The Players Championship under par. He tied for 40th it's the first time in his career that he has finished no better than 40th in three straight tournaments. The streak began after a five-shot win at Bay Hill for his first PGA Tour title in 30 months.

Kuchar finished on 13-under 275 and collected $1.71 million. He moved to No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings, and to a career-best No. 5 in the world ranking.

Portugal's Ricardo Santos came from four strokes behind to set a new championship record as he stormed to four-shot victory in the Madeira Islands Open.

Santos also became the first Portuguese-born player to win on home soil in the 40-year history of the European Tour after posting a last round 63 for a 22-under total on the Santo da Serra course.

Sweden's Magnus Carlsson birdied the last in a round of 67 to finish second on 18-under.

The 29-year-old Santos birdied his closing three holes to also set a record lowest winning final round in the 19-year history of the event. Victory earns Santos, a former Challenge Tour graduate, a one-year European Tour exemption as well as entry to the upcoming PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Andreas Harto of Denmark finished third, one stroke further back, after a 67.

Sun-Ju Ahn beat Morgan Pressel and Inbee Park in Playoff to claim the Salanpas Cup,the first Major of the year on the JLPGA.

Pressel had the the lead at the 8th when things began to unravell.She bogeyed the 173-yard par-3 8th. She bogeyed the 391-yard par-4 11th. She bogeyed the 512-yard par-5 12th. She bogeyed the 401-yard par-4 14th. Meanwhile, Ahn, the JLPGA's money-list leader for the past 2 seasons, was going through some turbulence of her own, with bogeys on the long par 4s 9 and 14. Pressel and Ahn left the door wide open for Park, and for a while it looked like she was going to bust through it and never look back.

The 3-time JLPGA winner Park looking for her 2nd major on tour birdied the 188-yard par-3 13th and the 163-yard par-3 15th to get to -6 on the day and -10 for the week. But then she, too, stumbled badly down the stretch, with back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th. When she parred the 408-yard 18th to become leader in the clubhouse at -8, it looked like anything could happen.

When Ahn made an amazing walkoff birdie on 18 to join Park at -8, it was up to Pressel to beat them, join them, or leave the playoff to them. She closed with her 4th straight par, but Ahn made quick work of both LPGA major winners with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 1st playoff hole.

British player-turned-broadcaster Peter Alliss is among those who believe Tiger Woods is getting too much instruction.

At a news conference before his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Alliss said Woods' ''golfing brain for some reason or another is completely addled.'' What astonished him was a scene from the practice range at the Masters last year. Alliss said he was sitting with Arnold Palmer at the end of the range.

''And there 50 yards away is Tiger Woods at the green nearest the television facility being shown how to chip,'' Alliss said. '''You must do it this way, this way.' And I said to Arnold, 'Are we seeing ...?' He was the greatest chipper in the world for a period, and this guy is teaching, 'No, don't do it that way.'

''It's like Pavarotti saying, 'I'm fed up with being a tenor. I think I'm going to sing as a baritone.' Land sake,'' he said. ''That's as stupid as that, in my opinion. That's not a criticism, that's an opinion. But that's why he's fuddled and befuddled. ... But he's gone. He's gone at the moment.''

Nancy Lopez will receive the Byron Nelson Prize next week at the Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas. The award recognizes people in golf who show the same philanthropic spirit for which Nelson was known.

The Irish Open got another boost Tuesday when PGA champion Keegan Bradley announced he was playing. The field will feature three of the last four major champions - Bradley, McIlroy and Darren Clarke

Rory McIlroy is to throw out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game June 12, two days before the start of the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco

England's Paul Casey withdrew from the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Sunday because of a right shoulder injury, and Sweden Robert Karlsson took his spot in the 24-man field in the European Tour event that begins Thursday at Finca Cortesin.

Casey withdrew from The Players Championship in Florida on Thursday after shooting a 42 on the front nine in the first round. He dislocated the shoulder snowboarding over the holidays.
Karlsson tied for 56th on Sunday in The Players Championship.

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