Eger still content even after losing in playoff

By Associated PressMay 29, 2011, 11:38 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—It would have been the greatest victory of DavidEger ’s life.

But he wasn’t surprised that Tom Watson —a man he had watched win majorchampionships for years—had what it took to ruin Eger’s dream Sunday.

Watson rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hold to beatEager in the Senior PGA Championship.

“It’s amazing,” said Eger, a longtime PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Associationrules official who worked closely with Watson and other superstars for a coupleof decades. “Tom hasn’t played well this year until this week and suddenly,bam, it clicked on. I don’t know what he does out there in Kansas City, orHawaii, or wherever in the world he goes. But whatever he does, it’s been theright formula.”

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Eger had great jobs as a rules official, and now finds himself traveling theworld playing the game he loves. Sure, he would have done anything to win onSunday. But he’s not going to jump off a bridge, either.

“I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people haveapplied or have wanted the jobs that I’ve had with those organizations. When Iturned 48 or so I decided, well, I might as well get in shape and try at thattime what was called the Senior Tour. I got lucky and qualified and I’ve beenout here for 10 years now.”

He has had a close-up of the greatest golf imaginable.

“It’s the ultimate mulligan in life for a golfer to be able to come outhere and play and play reasonably well at time and compete with the likes of TomWatson and Hale Irwin and wonderful, great players who I watched from a golfcart for years and years. It’s not a bad feeling. I’m comfortable in my ownskin.”

Eger collected $216,000 for his runner-up finish. His best previous finishin a Senior PGA Championship was a tie for 16th in 2008. His 67 in the finalround was the lowest of the day.

ECSTASY AND AGONY: Jeff Sluman came out firing at pins in the final round.He birdied the first four holes to get to 4 under for the tournament—thenpromptly threw it all away with a triple-bogey 7 on the fifth hole.

His triple included four putts.

But that wasn’t the end of his trauma. He double-bogeyed the next hole, thenbirdied holes 7, 9 and 10 for seven birdies in 10 holes—and a score of just 2under. He made three more bogeys before birdieing the closing hole for a 72 thatleft him at 286 and eight shots out of the playoff.

He had just five pars in the round.

FIRST MAJOR: Ken Martin , a club pro from Wellington, Fla., finally got toplay in his first major golf championship at the age of 52. He barely made thecut after rounds of 73 and 75, then shot 81 and 76 on the weekend. But thescores were secondary to the emotion of making it to the pinnacle of the sport.

“If there’s a bucket list, this is it, to get in a major championship,” hesaid. “I’ve been playing since I was 13. So it’s 40 years, basically, and myfirst major championship. So thrilling.”

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The world’s top pros make golf look easy on TV. It’s rarewhen someone gets the opportunity to actually test themselves under the sameconditions as elite athletes.

Keith Reese is a teaching pro at Valhalla Golf Club, host of the Senior PGAChampionship. He played as a marker so Tim Parun would not have to play byhimself in the first tee time of Sunday’s final round.

It was a revelation.

“Probably through the sixth hole I was so nervous it was hard to swing theclub,” said Reese, who was greeted by applause on most holes. “But it was alot of fun. So I can see what these guys go through now. I can’t imagine beingin the lead in a major, but I guess these guys have done it and that’s what theydo.”

Reese, who is 46, knows the course. He’s a terrific golfer. And he stillstruggled, shooting an 80.

Even though he’s roughly in the same career field as the Hale Irwins, TomWatsons and Nick Prices of the world, he got a new appreciation for theirnerves, guile and ability.

“Wow, how difficult is that? I’ve seen how difficult it is now, to keepyour composure and be able to hit shots,” he said. “You’ve got people watchingevery shot, so you feel like you have to hit a good shot. When the fans startclapping for your shots, it gives you such an unbelievable feeling.”

SHOT OF THE DAY: Eduardo Romero miss-hit his second shot to theelevated-on-rocks 13th hole, the ball glancing midway up the wall of stone andbouncing high onto the green. From there, he turned what would have been a bogeyinto a birdie by hitting a 10-foot putt and remain in contention.

“I hit a very fat shot and I put my head down thinking it’s coming down inthe water,” he said later. “And then I hear screaming people over there behindthe green and I thought, ‘What?”’

He later chipped in for a birdie, stretching his string of luck evenfurther.

He finished with a 69 that left him tied for fifth at 281.

“Sometimes you get lucky,” he said with a grin. “Sometimes it happens andsometimes not, but I’m very happy.”

DIVOTS: The low club pro was Sonny Skinner from Sylvester, Ga., also theonly player in the field who attended Baldwin Agricultural College. … Nextyear’s Senior PGA will be at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor,Mich., on May 24-27. The 2013 site is Bellerive in St. Louis. … A total of 21players finished under par, three more than the last time the Senior PGAChampionship was held at Valhalla in 2004. … It was the second year in a rowthat the tournament ended in a playoff. A year ago, Tom Lehman beat David Frost and Fred Couples on the first extra hole at Colorado Golf Club.

Rusty Miller can be reached at

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.