Bowditch cruises to Byron Nelson win

By Associated PressMay 31, 2015, 10:46 pm

IRVING, Texas – Steven Bowditch already had wedding photos from the 18th green at the home of the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Now there are plenty of images of the Australian holding a big trophy after winning in his adopted home.

Bowditch rode his best birdie binge on the PGA Tour to a 5-under 64 and a four-shot victory Sunday in the Nelson, making him two-for-Texas in career titles after winning the Texas Open in San Antonio last year.

A Dallas-area resident for 10 years, Bowditch had 27 birdies while becoming the seventh player to lead all four rounds of the event. Playing next to the resort hotel where he got married four years ago, the 31-year-old Bowditch finished at 18-under 259 on the rain-altered TPC Four Seasons layout.

''You know, taking photos on the green today was probably - wasn't probably, it's definitely the second best time I've had on that green - since we got married,'' Bowditch said in the interview room while wife Amanda watched from the back.

Charley Hoffman (65), Texan Jimmy Walker (66) and Scott Pinckney (66) tied for second at 14 under. Zach Johnson shot a 63 to finish alone in fifth at 13 under.


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Hometown favorite and Masters champion Jordan Spieth stayed at 7 under after an even-par 69.

Playing with Bowditch in the final group, Dustin Johnson briefly overtook him early in the round before making an 8 at the par-4 sixth. He finished at 11 under with a 69.

Before the highs of getting married and winning at the home of the Nelson, Bowditch endured the low of a suicide attempt at his Dallas home while battling depression in 2006, not long after he moved to the U.S.

''My personal life is my personal life,'' said Bowditch, who jumped 52 spots to No. 16 in FedEx Cup points and qualified for next year's Masters. ''It's closed doors and, you know, it's built me into the person I am today. Every win is special. This is just another one.''

A sunny day wrapped up two otherwise soggy weeks of golf in Dallas-Fort Worth starting with Colonial. A 5-inch overnight downpour after the first round of the Nelson turned one of its toughest holes - the par-4 14th - into a pitch-and-putt par 3 of barely 100 yards for the final three rounds.

While birdies were the norm after easy wedge shots from what might normally be a drop area in front of a greenside pond, Bowditch had to save par from about 12 feet to keep a three-shot lead, pumping his right fist after the ball dropped in.

The temporary tee box was about 20 yards farther back Sunday, and tour officials believe par of under 70 was a first according to records going back to 1983. The overall par total was 277.

Up by three at the spectator-friendly 17th, Bowditch leaned like he thought his tee shot on the par 3 might go in the water to the right of the green. Instead, the ball flew over the pin and landed safety on the back, and Bowditch raised his putter as the putt rolled in to punctuate the win.

''I was trying to hit it 30 feet left of the stick,'' Bowditch said. ''It was eyes closed and stomach to the floor a little bit.''

Spieth had an opening birdie but quickly gave it back at the par-3 2nd. He went in the water twice for bogeys on the back nine, including on 17 a day after he gave big galleries that followed him all week their biggest thrill by almost hitting the pin on the fly on the 198-yard hole.

After getting within three shots of the lead halfway through the tournament, Spieth never did threaten and ended his streak of second-place finishes in all three previous Texas events this year. The 21-year-old Dallas player tied for 30th five years after finishing 16th in his first tour event as a 16-year-old amateur.

''I really tried to soak it in today,'' Spieth said. ''I was getting frustrated this week just trying so hard, which is what I've done in past years as well. I don't know if that's going to stop in the future.''

Johnson birdied two of the first three holes even though he missed the first four greens, but the erratic start caught up with him at No. 6. Johnson went out of bounds to the right off the tee, then way left into tall grass off the rough with his second tee shot. It took him three swings to get out on his way to a quadruple bogey.

Walker, who won the Texas Open not far from home in March, also held the lead on the front nine but missed short putts for par on 11 and 12. He tried to make a late run with an eagle chip at the par-5 16th and a birdie on 17, but Bowditch answered with birdies on both holes.

''I had told myself going into 15, you know, birdie, eagle would be big,'' Walker said. ''But Steven played great today and hats off.''

To the groom.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.