Brown wins Puerto Rico Open with late birdie

By Associated PressMarch 10, 2013, 9:40 pm

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – Scott Brown went from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory Sunday in the Puerto Rico Open when he made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole to beat Fabian Gomez and capture his first PGA Tour title.

Brown closed with a 2-under 70, his final birdie set up with a 3-iron that he kept low to avoid palm trees and leave himself a 30-yard pitch short of the green.

Gomez, trying to become the first Argentine to win on Tour since Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters, was in perfect position off the tee at the 18th. That's when it went all around.

His second shot left him a tough lie in the bunker, and he blasted that over the green and into another bunker. He missed a 15-foot par putt for a 71, and then had to watch as Brown rapped in the winning putt.

''I thought I would need an eagle as well as he was playing,'' Brown said. ''So I just stayed aggressive.''

Brown finished at 20-under 268 to set the tournament record. He earned $630,000, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a spot in The Players Championship in May and the PGA Championship in August. Because the Puerto Rico Open is held the same week as a World Golf Championship in Florida, the win does not get the native of Augusta, Ga., into The Masters.

Even so, it was a stunning turnaround in so many ways.

Late last year, Brown was on the putting green at Disney in the final event of the year, wondering if he would have to go through the second stage of Q-school. He wound up at 148th on the money list for conditional status, which offered him limited starts on Tour this year.

The Puerto Rico Open was one of them, and Brown made the most of it.

He had been planning on playing a full Web.com Tour schedule this year. Instead, he was headed to the Tampa Bay Championship next week and can spend the rest of his season in the big leagues, and start next season in Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions.

''I was nervous over that last putt,'' Brown said. ''A kid growing up in Augusta, this is a dream come true.''

It was anything but that for Gomez, who earned his Tour card at Q-school a year ago.

''On that final hole I hit a good drive off the tee, but followed that with a poor 3-iron and it cost me big,'' Gomez said. ''I had a very bad lie there and it was a difficult shot, and I was unable to pull it off. But that's golf. You never know what may happen.''

Gomez tied for second with 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who was playing on a sponsor exemption and now is exempt into the Tampa Bay Championship. Spieth shot 67.

''It was cool to battle on the back nine there and know that I was close in the heat and to feel the pressure,'' Spieth said. ''It was a first-time experience for me.''

Justin Bolli (66) and Brian Stuard (68) were another shot behind.

Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made eagle on the final hole for a 67 to tie for sixth, giving him a spot in Tampa Bay next week. Uihlein, who is playing the Challenge Tour in Europe, was coming off a tie for fourth in South Africa in a European Tour event.

Brown became the fourth first-time Tour winner this year, joining Russell Henley (Sony Open), John Merrick (Northern Trust Open) and Michael Thompson (Honda Classic).

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.