Sunday, March 3, 2013

TALKING GOLF WITH GARY 3-2-2013

THOMPSON WINS HIS FIRST AT HONDA
Michael Thompson had a one-shot lead as he stood in the 18th fairway, some 240 yards from the flag with trouble in the way in the shape of large lake. The motto from his golf team at Alabama was to ''finish strong,'' and Thompson did just that.


Instead of laying up, he drilled a 5-wood into the bunker left of the green, setting up a simple sand shot and a birdie he didn't even need. He closed with a 1-under 69, one of only five rounds under par on a punishing day at PGA National to finally become a PGA Tour winner at the Honda Classic.


Thompson holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the third hole, relied on a superb short game around the toughest part of the golf course to build a four-shot lead, and hung on for a two-shot win over Geoff Ogilvy that takes him places he always wanted to be.


He gets into his first World Golf Championship next week at Doral, and qualifies for two more WGCs this year at Firestone and in Shanghai. He's in the PGA Championship, gets to start next year in Hawaii and earned a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. A big week indeed for Thompson.


It turned out to be a big week for Geoff Ogilvy, too.


The former U.S. Open champion missed his past four cuts and had plunged to No. 79 in the world ranking. He already missed the Match Play Championship and was ready to miss another WGC next week at Doral until putting together four solid rounds.


He chipped in for birdie behind the 16th green and two-putted for birdie on the 18th for a 69 to finish alone in second, moving him up to No. 47 to get into Doral.


Ogilvy has to stay in the top 50 by the end of the month to return to Augusta National. For now, he has smaller problems - he only packed enough for this week.


Luke Guthrie, tied with Thompson for the 54-hole lead, fell behind with a bogey on the second hole and closed with a 73 to finish third.


Tiger Woods was never in the picture. He started the final round eight shots behind, and whatever hopes he had of a rally ended on the sixth hole when he hit his drive so far to the right that the ball was never found.


Woods took double bogey, and only an eagle on the final hole kept the damage to a minimum. He closed with a 74 - his first time since the Masters last year that he failed to break par in any round of a 72-hole tournament - and tied for 37th.


It was the second straight year Woods closed with an eagle at PGA National - the difference was last year, it gave him a 62 and a tie for second.


Despite a bogey on the final hole, Erik Compton had a 70 and was part of the five-way tie for fourth. Compton, who already has had two heart transplants, earned his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
Thompson finished at 9-under 271, a strong performance considering the difficult course and the weekend wind. He was among three players who never shot over par at PGA National.


The final round was never going to be easy with the wind whipping on PGA National, and it showed. Of those who finished before the leaders even teed off, only two players managed to break par. 


Scoring was so difficult that Lucas Glover played the weekend in 2-over par and still tied for fourth.
Lee Westwood failed to save par on consecutive holes on the front nine and could never catch up. 


Charles Howell III, who started the day three shots behind and needed a win to get to the Masters in his hometown, fell apart on the back nine with a 41 and closed with a 78. Rickie Fowler made three bogeys on the first six holes and was never a factor.


VANDER WALT WINS HIS FIRST EURO TOUR TITLE

Dawie Van Der Walt became the fifth South African winner in 10 European Tour events this season with his two-shot victory at the Tshwane Open on Sunday.


Van Der Walt posted a final round 5-under 67 to finish at 21-under overall for his first win on the Tour.


The Texas-based golfer is ranked 436th in the world. Van Der Walt was among four players tied for the lead after the third round, including fellow South African Darren Fichardt, who shot 69 to finish second at 19-under in the European and Sunshine Tour event.


Local favorite Fichardt broke the early deadlock atop the leaderboard with birdies at Nos. 2 and 3.
Van Der Walt then countered by holing a 40-foot putt for eagle at the longest hole in the 41-year history of the European Tour - the 685-yard par five, fourth hole.


Fichardt responded with a birdie at the fifth but Van Der Walt birdied the sixth and seventh holes and held the lead from there. South African Louis De Jager posted a 69 to finish third on 18-under.
2010 US Amateur Champion Peter Uihlein is still seeking his first pro win. He was fourth with a 69 that included an eighth hole-eagle for a 17-under total.



LEWIS GETS SIXTH LPGA WIN

American Stacy Lewis won the HSBC Women's Champions on Sunday for her sixth career LPGA title, overcoming two bogeys and some shaky putting on the back nine to hold off South Korea's Na Yeon Choi.

Lewis, the 2012 LPGA Player of the Year, shot a 1-under 71 in the final round at Sentosa Golf Club to finish at 15-under 273, one stroke ahead of Choi.

Choi, who had a 72, was runner-up at the tournament for the second consecutive year. She lost to Angela Stanford in a four-player playoff last year.

Paula Creamer, hampered by a shoulder injury from a car accident last week in Thailand, briefly held a share of the lead early in the day but struggled with her putting on the back nine and faded to a 71 to finish third at 13-under.


Top-ranked Yani Tseng shot a 74 to finish a disappointing week in a share of 28th place.
Lewis started the day tied with Choi atop the leaderboard, but she was able to gain some distance with a superb shot on the par-5 7th hole.


After a long drive off the tee, Lewis hit a perfectly placed, 200-yard shot toward the pin that stopped about five inches short of going in for an albatross. She tapped it in for eagle, which put her one clear of Choi and two up on Creamer.

On the back nine, however, the 28-year-old American had to battle nerves and a determined challenge by Choi.

Leading by two shots on the 15th, Lewis hit her tee shot into the water for the second time this week and slammed her club into the turf in frustration. She took a bogey on the hole, allowing Choi to pull within one.

Then, on the 17th, Lewis hit into the bunker off the tee and missed a long par putt to card her second bogey of the back nine.

That gave Choi one last chance to even the score on the 18th, but she pulled her birdie putt wide by an inch. Lewis exhaled deeply after making her own par putt for the win.

Lewis and Choi had their putting woes, but it was almost worse for the 26-year-old Creamer, who was aiming for her 10th LPGA title.

She missed a 20-footer for eagle on No. 12 by inches, covering her mouth in disbelief. Then she barely missed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and started laughing. Two more near-misses followed on No. 15 and 16, which wiped the smile from her face.

Creamer never dreamed she'd be this close to the title after the car accident on the way to the airport in Bangkok after the LPGA Honda Thailand tournament last week.

Creamer set low expectations for her chances, which may have taken the pressure off.



CANTLAY SECOND YOUNGEST WINNER ON WEB.COM TOUR
California rookie Patrick Cantlay fired a 5-under 66 Sunday and pulled away from fellow third-round co-leader Jim Renner to win the Colombia Championship at Country Club de Bogota by four strokes.


Cantlay finished with a tournament-record total of 18-under, bettering the old mark set by Steven Pate in 2010 by seven strokes. In addition to earning his first professional title at the tender of age of 20 years 11 months and 15 days, Cantlay also becomes the second-youngest winner in Web.com Tour history.

Cantlay also picks up a check for $126,000 and takes over the No. 1 spot on the money list.Cantlay’s 66 was the best round of the final day, just as his 65 was the low round on Saturday.

Cantlay started the final round tied with Renner but spurted to the lead with birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 and then eagled the par-5, 10th hole from 12 feet to increase his lead to two over Renner, who birdied the hole.With no other serious challengers, the back nine was left to the final pairing.


A bogey by Renner at No. 12 increased Cantlay’s lead to three and another birdie by the leader at No. 14 moved it to four, where it stayed the rest of the way as both players closed their round with four consecutive pars.

Shane Bertsch (70) finished third at 12-under 272 while Texas teen Jordan Spieth (67) and Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha (68) shared fourth place at 11-under.


 NEWS &NOTES

Still feelings the effects from a recent five-car crash, Ai Miyazato withdrew from the HSBC Women’s Champions citing whiplash. Miyazato practiced for about 15 minutes at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, where she won in 2010, before telling officials that she would be unable to play.

“I have pain in my neck and shoulder, so I’ll sit this tournament out as a precaution,” she said in a statement.

The news is better for Paula Creamer, if only slightly. Though she was unable to play in the pro-am Wednesday, she attended a photo shoot this week and is hopeful of teeing it up Thursday.

On Monday, Creamer tweeted that she “felt like a ping pong ball” after being in the middle of a five-car crash as the LPGA players headed to the airport Sunday after the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand event. Creamer said then that both she and longtime caddie Colin Cann both suffered whiplash and likely would be sore for several weeks.

Suzann Pettersen also traveled with the group, but managed to avoid the accident in the trailing car.


Rory McIlroy abruptly walked off the course Friday at the Honda Classic, telling reporters who followed him to his car he's ''not in a good place mentally.'' An hour later, he attributed his withdrawal to a sore wisdom tooth.


It raised serious questions about golf's No. 1 player with the Masters just more than a month away.
McIlroy already was 7-over par through eight holes of the second round when he hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 18th at PGA National. He shook hands with Ernie Els and Mark Wilson and was headed to the parking lot before they even finished the hole.


He said there was nothing wrong physically. When asked about his swing, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland replied, ''Yeah, I really don't know what's going on.''


About an hour after he left, McIlroy released a statement that pinned his withdrawal on dental problems.


''I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth, which is due to come out in the near future,'' 

McIlroy said. ''It began bothering me again last night, so I relieved it with Advil. It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and had begun to affect my playing partners.''

He was seen eating a sandwich on the 18th fairway.


McIlroy apologized to the tournament, saying he had every intention of defending his title at the Honda Classic. He mentioned the wisdom tooth on Twitter and said he was ''gutted.''




Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat
shot a 9-under 63 Friday to win a 36-hole Asia regional qualifying tournament for this year's British Open.


Kiradech finished at 13-under 131 at the Amata Springs Country Club, where the top four players advanced to the July 18-21 tournament at Muirfield, the 142nd British Open.


Two-time Asia-Pacific amateur champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who shared the first-round lead, shot 69 Friday to finish second, four strokes behind. Daisuke Maruyama of Japan (65) and Wu Ashun of China (68) also qualified by finishing tied for third.


Teenage amateur Guan Tianlang of China, who won the Asia-Pacific amateur championship on the same course last year and has qualified for the U.S. Masters, shot 74 Friday to finish 16 strokes behind.




CALENDAR
PGA TOUR -  WGC - CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP - JUSTIN ROSE

                       PUERTO RICO OPEN - GEORGE MCNEILL

EUROPEAN TOUR
- OFF


CHAMPIONS TOUR -   OFF

LPGA TOUR - OFF

WEB.COM TOUR - CHILE CLASSIC - PAUL HALEY II



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