Leonard back in the quarters of Match Play

By Associated PressFebruary 27, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink are starting to get the hang of the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Stewart Cink WGC 2009
Stewart Cink plays his tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the WGC - Accenture Match Play. (Getty Images)

Both reached the quarterfinals at Dove Mountain for the second straight year, joining eight other players in the 11-year history of his most fickle tournament to reach the weekend in consecutive years.
 
The others are Tiger Woods, Brad Faxon, David Toms, Ian Poulter, Retief Goosen, Chad Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson. Four of those players went on to win the title.
 
Given how unpredictable match play is over 18 holes, is it more skill or luck?
 
Id like to think its more skill, Leonard said with a laugh. Last year I came into the tournament playing pretty good. I got here and rode that momentum. This year, I missed the cut in my last two tournaments. But Im feeling pretty good.
 
On paper, his match with Oliver Wilson of England might have been the least interesting. It turned out to be among the most compelling.
 
They halved the first eight holes Friday before Leonard had a 20-foot birdie putt to take the lead. He wound up three-putting to lose the hole, then squared the match with a birdie on the next hole.
 
Paul Casey 2009 WGC
Paul Casey putting on the first hole during the third round of the Match Play. (Getty Images)

The match was tied when Leonard chipped in for birdie on the 17th only to see Wilson hit a wedge into the 18th and make a 6-foot birdie. Leonard won on the 19th hole with a par.
 
The difference this week could be the latest club he put in the bag.
 
Not to sound like NASCAR or anything, but this Dymo driver is making a big difference, Leonard said.
 
Leonard is sponsored by Nike, and he tried the new driver when he arrived on Monday. He asked for the shaft to be three-quarters of an inch shorter, allowing him a little more control. And he was surprised to see that his numbers on the launch monitor had not changed.
 
That made a big difference in my game this week, he said.
 
Cink now has played 60 holes in three rounds, the most of anyone. His first two matches went overtime, and he thought his match against Phil Mickelson was headed there until Lefty went from the bunker to the desert waste area, over the gallery, onto the green and then missed a 4-foot putt and took double bogey on the 17th hole. Cink closed him out, 1 up.
 

 
FASHION FAUX PAS: Its probably a good thing Stewart Cink and Paul Casey were on opposite sides of the bracket.
 
Both players wore the same green shirt on Friday.
 
And that wasnt the first time it happened to Casey. When he showed up on the range Thursday, he looked over and realized that he and Justin Leonard were wearing the same shirt.
 
All three players are sponsored by Nike.
 
What are you wearing tomorrow, Casey asked Leonard after their matches Friday. Im going to go wear orange.
 

 
EASY DOES IT: Maybe all it took was a few miles up Dove Mountain for Arizona to feel like Australia to Ernie Els.
 
The Big Easy has never fared too well in the Accenture Match Play Championship, and his victory Friday was only the second time he has advanced to the quarterfinals. The other occasion was in 2001 at Metropolitan Golf Club in Australia.
 
Els was never a big fan of La Costa Resort, even to the point he stopped coming for two years. He didnt have much success a few miles down the road at The Gallery, either, both times losing in the first round.
 
Finally, maybe, I got a golf course that I can play, he said. The last one was in Melbourne in 2001.
 

 
EARLY ARRIVALS: Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey live in Scottsdale, and both drove up to Dove Mountain a few weeks ago to take a look at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Is it any coincidence that both are among the final eight players in the tournament?
 
It was probably worth coming down and checking it out, Ogilvy said. Most courses we play on tour, each round you play is probably a big advantage over everyone else who has played one less. So I think the one extra round we had is holding us in good stead. Its a small coincidence, but a nice one.
 

 
TOUGH LOVE: Davis Love III lost in the second round to Justin Leonard, and it might have been more crucial than he realized.
 
Because the top 64 in the world were at the Match Play, it requires more than a victory or two to move up. Love started the week at No. 58 in the world. If he had beaten Leonard in the second round, he likely would have moved into the top 50.
 
That would have made him eligible for the next World Golf Championship in two weeks at Doral. Instead, Love is likely to move up only to about No. 53. Alas, he still can try to break into the top 50 and qualify for the CA Championship next week in the Honda Classic.
 

 
DIVOTS: Paul Casey and Ernie Els are the only players who have not trailed this week at the Match Play Championship. Casey has played 48 holes, while Els has played 49 holes. On the flip side, Sean OHair has been behind on 13 holes this week, the most of any of the eight players still remaining. No one has trailed by more than two holes and come back to win this week. Ernie Els is the only player who still has not had to play the 18th hole in competition.
 

Related Links:
  • Match Play Scoring
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Match Play Bracket
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Getty Images

    J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Make way for Jin Young Ko.

    The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

    Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

    Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.


    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


    Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

    Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

    “I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

    Ko finished at 14 under overall.

    It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

    Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

    Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

    Getty Images

    Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

    It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

    Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

    ''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

    ''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.


    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


    ''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

    Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

    Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

    ''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

    Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

    Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

    The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.

    Getty Images

    J.Y. Ko wins Women's Australian Open by three

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:10 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - South Korea's Jin Young Ko shot a 3-under par 69 Sunday to clinch a 3-shot, start-to-finish win the Women's Australian Open.

    Playing in her first tournament as a full LPGA member, Ko shot 65, 69, 71, 69 to lead after all four rounds and to finish with a total of 274, 14-under par at the Kooyonga Golf Club. She is the first player to win her first tournament as an LPGA member in the tour's 67-year history.

    Ko started the day four shots clear of 21-year-old Hannah Green, who was bidding to become the first Australian to win her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014.

    Green played solidly in the final group with Ko, shooting 69 and missing a birdie on the 18th which cost her a share of second place.

    The stiffest challenge Sunday came from Ko's compatriot Hyejin Choi who closed within a shot at the turn, carding four birdies on her first nine holes. Ko began with birdies at the first and second holes, then stumbled with bogeys on the par-3 third and seventh holes.

    But just as her lead came under threat, she found another gear, birdying the ninth hole to regain a two-shot lead. She then pulled away with birdies at the 13th and 17th in what seemed a nerveless finish, showing the experience gained as a 10-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour.


    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


    She ended with a regulation par on the 18th to claim her second LPGA title after previously winning the co-sanctioned KEB-Hana Bank Championship.

    Ko said she felt ''lots'' of nerves over the final round. Asked her reaction when she holed out on 18, she said ''relief.''

    ''I thought I could do it but I felt I had to play my game and enjoy the game,'' Ko said. ''My goal this week was firstly to make the cut and second to enjoy the game.

    ''But I won this week so I don't know what that might mean. My goal is Rookie of the Year.'' Asked by a reporter whether Player of the Year was a realistic option, Ko replied: ''No, not yet.''

    Ko started the tournament ranked 20 but could be close to the top-10 by the start of the next LPGA tour stop in Thailand next weekend.

    Choi was relentless in pursuit, the only player other than Ko to beat par in all four rounds. She shot 69, 71, 70, 67 on the par-72 layout, finishing at 277, 11 under par.

    Green, in her rookie season, had rounds of 69, 74, 66, 69 to finish third at 10-under, one shot ahead of compatriot Katherine Kirk, who finished with a 7-under 65, the day's best round.

    ''I started off really well,'' Green said. ''My goal was to get into every major and I know that's quite hard being a rookie this year. So hopefully I've made enough money and keep making money to ensure I'm definitely in.''

    Getty Images

    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.