Dufner, Watson among former champs in Zurich field

By Associated PressApril 24, 2013, 10:48 pm

AVONDALE, La. – One year ago, Jason Dufner's victory at the Zurich Classic made him the fifth player in the last eight years to celebrate his maiden PGA Tour triumph in New Orleans.

This weekend, Dufner will try to become the first repeat winner in the Big Easy since Carlos Franco in 2000. But even if Dufner remains beset by the inconsistency that has kept him out of the top 10 this season, the odds of yet another first-time winner at the Zurich seem increasingly slim.

Dufner is one of eight former winners of the New Orleans Tour stop who are back at TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye-designed course carved out of cypress swamp just southwest of the city, and home to the Zurich Classic since 2005.

In fact, he'll tee off with two of them – Bubba Watson and Nick Watney – in Thursday's first round.

''In the last three or four years, it seems like this has become a great spot for premier players to come,'' Dufner said. ''This event is becoming more and more of a place that guys enjoy coming to play and one of the premier events other than the majors and the World Golf events.''


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More than 60 players in the Zurich Classic Field already have a PGA Tour victory to their name. Four of them have already won events this year: John Merrick (Northern Trust Open), Michael Thompson (Honda Classic), D.A. Points (Houston Open) and Scott Brown (Puerto Rico Open).

Some of the other more accomplished players in the field include Justin Rose, who is No. 4 in the world ranking; 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and ''The Big Easy'' himself, Ernie Els, who has 19 career wins and was the runner up in the Zurich Classic in a playoff a year ago.

The former winners in New Orleans who've returned include Jason Bohn (2010), Jerry Kelly (2009), Andres Romero (2008), K.J. Choi (2002) and David Toms (2001).

''The tournament is getting stronger and stronger,'' Rose said. ''The golf course has gotten better and better every single year, it feels like. I think I'm slowly learning how to play it.''

The course appeared to be in impeccable shape when the tournament's charity pro-am began Wednesday morning – before the arrival of driving rain, lightning and even a severe weather warning that had authorities briefly evacuating the course and tents used by media, tournament staff and VIPs. Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in the middle of the day, but officials said the course drains well and was expected to be fine by the time the first round started Thursday morning. Even the pro-am resumed after 3 p.m.

For about a half-hour after spectators and players alike were shepherded into permanent structures, the main club house was jammed. Some players retreated into the locker room, but others remained in the dining area or pro shop, which is normally off limits to the typical spectator during the tournament.

Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old amateur whose world fame skyrocketed after he made the cut at the Masters, remained with family and friends at a table in the corner of the restaurant and exchanged handshakes with a couple fans who noticed him.

The eight-grader had planned to return to China after the Masters, but then received a late-hour invitation to play in New Orleans, where he'd spent a month last summer working on his game at the invitation of a family friend who lives in the area.

Guan arrived in New Orleans right after the Masters, and last weekend helped out at a youth golf clinic at Lakewood Golf Club, which hosted the area's PGA event from 1963 to 1988, and where past winners included all-time greats Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw.

Now Guan is expected to have a sizable local following.

''I want to enjoy the week like the Masters and hopefully make the cut,'' Guan said. ''If not, it's still a great experience.''

Watson, who grew up about a three-hour's drive from New Orleans in the Florida panhandle, considers the Zurich his home tournament, and his group was already drawing a number of spectators during the pro-am, though many seemed more intrigued by his playing partners, brothers Willie and Jase Robertson of the Louisiana-based TV series, ''Duck Dynasty.''

In 2012, the Zurich Classic was the first tournament Watson played after winning the Masters and becoming one of golf's biggest draws. He said he only played the tournament last year because he felt obliged as the then-defending champ, and because it is one of the tournaments his mother traditionally makes the trip from Pensacola to see.

''I was tired,'' Watson said of last year's Zurich, in which he finished tied for 18th.

This time, Watson said he is ''pumped up to play this golf course.''

He also appeared rather loose while exchanging lighthearted jabs with the Robertsons. When asked if he ever considered experimenting with the abundant facial hair for which the ''Duck Dynasty'' men are known, Watson cracked, ''No, I look way too good to cover up my face. They have to cover up their face to be on TV.''

Although Watson has yet to finish in the top three this year and tied for 50th at the Masters, he has two top-10 finishes and figures his unorthodox swing isn't all that far off from where he wants it to be.

''I've been playing well. Just some breaks haven't went my way,'' Watson said. ''All in all, I know that I have the game and the ability to do it.''

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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