Kraft Wins Inaugural Puerto Rico Open

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- Greg Kraft struggled to explain the emotions that followed his first official PGA TOUR victory when a simple thought came to him.
 
I wish I could describe how I feel, Kraft said. Maybe justice.
 
Perhaps, given Krafts career of near misses, lost chances and overlooked success, thats indeed the most appropriate.
 
Kraft held on for a one-shot victory at the inaugural Puerto Rico Open on Sunday. He finished at 14-under to hold off Bo Van Pelt (72), who led after the first three days, and Jerry Kelly (70), the highest-rated player to compete at Trump International Golf Club.
 
All the work, rookie year, 91, 92, all the way to now. Ups and downs, I had chances to win through the years, Kraft reflected.
 
Even Krafts one win on tour before now, the Deposit Guaranty Classic in 1993, a second-tier event played opposite the Masters.
 
Back then, the younger Kraft figured he deserved the win because it was my time.
 
Fifteen years has a way of changing ones perspective.
 
I enjoyed it, dont get me wrong, but it doesnt even compare to the way I feel now, he said.
 
The worlds best were again elsewhere for Krafts latest success, playing Dorals Blue Monster in the World Golf Championships CA Championships.
 
This time, though, therell be no asterisks.
 
Kraft earned $630,000'more than hes made on the PGA TOUR combined since 2003'and has secured playing privileges through 2010. He had played only two other PGA Tour events this season, his best finish before now a tie for 19th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, which also came the week of a WGC tournament.
 
The win brings Kraft flexibility. Since hell no longer worry about chasing tournament opportunities, hell work on conditioning to regain playing shape.
 
I dont have to play the Nationwide Tour to get my card back. Thats no fun, go out there and starve, he said.
 
Its been a long road back to the top for Kraft, who turns 44 in April.
 
Kraft had closed in on the tours top 50 money winners a decade ago and looked to be entering the prime of his career. However, he contracted an illness, Valley fever, during the 2002 Tucson Open. The disease is caused by a fungus that get stirred up in soil and attacks the lungs.
 
Kraft suddenly was losing strength and didnt know what was wrong. Doctors had trouble diagnosing the malady, even telling Kraft he had cancer. He underwent painful chemotherapy and had a section of a lung removed.
 
The problems led Kraft to sue the PGA TOUR and the resort that hosted the tournament. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, Kraft said.
 
Gradually, Kraft found his strength. This week in Puerto Rico, he rediscovered his championship game.
 
That crystal trophy that Ill lug home, he said. Ill look at that every day.
 
No one was steadier than Kraft. He went 29 straight holes without a bogey on the weekend until a meaningless mistake on the 72nd hole.
 
Kraft began Sunday a shot behind Van Pelt, who led after each of first three days here.
 
Early on, Van Pelt seemingly locked down his own first tour win with a stunning eagle-3 on the fifth hole to grab a two-shot lead.
 
Still, Kraft stayed close with a birdie on No. 5. His chance came soon enough as Van Pelt had consecutive bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes to fall into a three-way tie for first with the back nine to go.
 
Kraft and Van Pelt had matching birdies on the 12th to stay tied at 14 under. Two holes later, Kraft moved in front for good after Van Pelts bogey.
 
Van Pelt felt confident and figured his eagle'he amazingly hooked a low-liner around some palm trees on the par-5 fifth to land 12 feet away'was the jump start he needed.
 
Instead, the 32-year-old will have to wait for his first tour win.
 
It was frustrating because I knew how good I played all week, Van Pelt said.
 
Briny Baird was part of that three-way tie for first. But Baird followed with four straight bogeys to fall from contention. He rallied back within a shot of Kraft after a stretch of three birdies in four holes, but that was as close as Baird could get.
 
Baird blamed his putter, missing makable par putts on all four holes. I was looking for a rock to hide under, Baird said.
 
It probably wouldnt have mattered since Kraft wasnt about to bobble this one away. He cemented things with a birdie on the par-4 17th to open a three-shot cushion.
 
Divots
 
Puerto Ricos lone native golfer in the field Sunday, Miguel Suarez, finished 1-over par and tied for 61st. Van Pelt was trying to become the first first-time winner to go wire-to-wire since K.J. Choi won the Tampa Bay Classic in 2002. Organizers were pleased with the weeks turnout, considering the event coincided with Holy Week ceremonies on this highly religious island. Chairman Sidney Wolf says next years tournament is expected to come earlier on the PGA TOUR schedule.
 
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.