Sunday, February 17, 2013

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 2-17-2013

 MERRICK GETS FIRST TOUR WIN
John Merrick  won his first PGA TOUR event in a playoff with Charlie Beljan with a par on the second extra hole.

The win came in Merrick's 169th start on the PGA TOUR and moved him to fourth in the FedExCup. Merrick has never missed the Playoffs with his best finish 40th in 2008.
Merrick held at least a share of thee lead throughout most of the pressure-packed back nine. But Beljan was the first to post 11 under when he rolled in an 18-footer for birdie and a 67 at the 72nd hole.

Merrick was playing in the penultimate group with Fredrik Jacobson, and both came to Rivieria's 18th at 11 under as Beljan was signing his scorecard. Jacobson missed a 4-footer for par there but Merrick made his from 3 to get into what was the second straight playoff at the Northern Trust Open.

Neither Beljan nor Merrick found the green the second time the two played the 18th hole on Sunday. Merrick chipped to tap-in distance while Beljan had to convert from 6 fee to extend the playoff.

The 10th hole is a driveable par 4 but Merrick chose to lay up with a 3-iron for the second time on Sunday. He had 87 yards and chipped to 18 feet while Beljan's drive left him well left in the rough.

Beljan's second shot found the collar of the green and he putted from 71 feet to 5. Merrick's birdie attempt came up 21 inches shy and he took no chances, tapping in for par. When Beljan's putt passed the cut, Merrick was a PGA TOUR champion and he wrapped his caddy in a bear hug.


 LANGER WINS ACE GROUP CLASSIC 
Bernhard Langer shot even-par 72 on Sunday and wrapped up a wire-to-wire victory at the ACE Group Classic.

Langer finished at 12-under 204, one stroke ahead of Jay Don Blake, who fired a final-round 68 at the Club at TwinEagles' Talon Course.


It was the 17th Champions Tour victory for Langer and his second at this tournament. The German won here in 2011 and finished runner-up to Kenny Perry a year ago.


John Cook shot 68 to end tied for third with Tom Pernice Jr. (72) at 9-under, while Rocco Mediate (69) and David Frost (68) tied for fifth at minus-8. Mediate was a winner last week in his Champions Tour debut at the Allianz Championship.



 FICHARDT TAKES AFRICA OPEN
Darren Fichardt overcame a bout of final-round jitters to win the Africa Open by two strokes on Sunday.


Fichardt's closing one-under-par 71 handed him victory over France's Gregory Bourdy  and another South African, Jaco Van Zyl,  who finished tied-second on 14-under.


Fichardt had started the day tied at the top of the leaderboard with Van Zyl before the 37-year-old pulled four shots clear on the front nine.


However three bogies on the 14th, 16th and 17th made for a nervy finish in windy conditions before he claimed a fourth title on the European Tour.


Fichardt, who will move into the world's top 100 from his current position of 146, became the second successive South African winner on the tour following Richard Sterne's victory at the Joburg Open last weekend.


Compatriot Garth Mulroy  fired the joint-best round of the day to finish alone in fourth place on 13-under.



SHIN WINS LPGA OPENER
South Korea's Jiyai Shin won the Australian Women's Golf Open by two shots Sunday, finishing with a 1-under 72 to beat world No. 1 Yani Tseng after being tied for the overnight lead with teenage star Lydia Ko.


Shin mixed three birdies with two bogeys in a final-round showdown with Ko and Tseng of Taiwan, and added the Australian title to her two British Opens among 37 professional victories.


Ko's share of the lead evaporated quickly when she began the final day with a double bogey and bogey. However, the 15-year-old who was born in South Korea and is based in New Zealand fought back to reclaim the joint lead after 13 holes before Shin dismissed the challenge.


Shin effectively clinched her victory on the 14th hole when, tied with Ko at 16-under, she holed an incredible pitch from deep rough behind an advertising billboard to make birdie.


Ko finished 3-over for the day and 14-under for the tournament, in outright third place. She was trying for back-to-back wins in professional tournaments after winning last week's New Zealand Women's Open.


Ko has won three professional tournaments in the last 13 months, taking the New South Wales Open to become the youngest winner of a professional event, then winning the Canadian Open, to become the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour. She struggled to overcome her poor start Sunday and was never able to comfortably settle into her final round.


Meanwhile, Tseng shot the best round of the last day - a 7-under 66 - to dash past Ko into second place, two shots behind Shin.

 

NEWS & NOTES
Brandt Snedeker withdrew from the Match Play Championship on Tuesday because of sore ribs that have been causing him discomfort despite his torrid stretch of golf.


Snedeker said he began feeling soreness in his left rib cage a month ago at the Humana Challenge. He then finished runner-up in consecutive weeks to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for his second win in his last seven starts.


Already this year, Snedeker has earned nearly $3 million and has risen to a career-best No. 4 in the world.

Snedeker also sustained a rib injury last summer, causing him to miss the U.S. Open. He returned a month later and had the 36-hole lead at the British Open before he tied for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.According to a statement from Crown Sports Management, he will return to Nashville and see his personal doctor, James Elrod, who has suggested rest to cope with the injury. It is not believed to be a long-term problem, and Snedeker is scheduled to play March 7-10 in the Cadillac Championship at Doral.

 

Tiger Woods committed to the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, The Honda Classic and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship .

Last year, Woods was eliminated in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, losing to Nick Watney. He has however won the event three times, the last being in 2008.


The WGC-Accenture Match Play begins Feb. 20. Hunter Mahan is the defending champion.

At last year's Honda Classic, Woods charged into contention at PGA National, carding a 10-under 62 on Sunday that included an eagle on the final hole. He finished two strokes back of winner Rory McIlroy.


McIlroy will also be back to defend his title at The Honda Classic, Feb. 28-March 3. Last year's victory  catapulted McIlroy to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time, a position he's maintained for the last 26 weeks.

Woods has won the WGC-Cadillac Championship six times -- in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.


Last year, however, Woods withdrew after 11 holes in the final round due to an injury to his left Achilles.


Woods went on to win two weeks later at Bay Hill before adding victories at Muirfield Village and Congressional.


The WGC-Cadillac begins March 7 at TPC Blue Monster at Doral. Justin Rose is the defending champion.


The U.S. Golf Association is adding its first championship in more than 25 years, getting rid of the U.S. Amateur Public Links in favor of a U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship to meet what it says is a trend at the state and regional level.


The Four-Ball Championship - one tournament for men, one for women - will start in 2015.
Adding these two tournaments means the end of two others, however. That includes the U.S. Amateur Public Links, which dates to 1922 and has a list of winners that includes Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Brandt Snedeker. Also being abandoned is the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, where Michelle Wie made history in 2003 at age 13 as the youngest winner of a USGA championship for adults.


USGA vice president Thomas O'Toole Jr. said the better-ball format for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship should lend to more exciting golf. He also said it was gaining in popularity, with more than 150 tournaments using the format in state and regional competitions last year.



Swedish golfer Daniela Holmqvist says she was bitten by a spider and used a tee to extract what she thought was potentially fatal venom before finishing her round during qualifying for the LPGA Tour's season-opening Women's Australian Open.


The Swedish Golf Federation reported on its website that Holmqvist was hitting out of the rough on the fourth hole at Royal Canberra Golf Club when she felt a sharp pain on her ankle.


Holmqvist swatted the spider away and was told by people nearby that it could have been a black widow, so she used a golf tee to pierce the swelling and squeeze out the venom.


Holmqvist continued her round, under the supervision of medical staff, but finished with a 74 on Tuesday and missed out on qualifying for the tournament.

Fueled by his win at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Brian Gay has been named PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis based on PGATOUR.COM fan voting.




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