Notes Euros More Fun Million Dollar Baby

By Associated PressSeptember 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
CARMEL, Ind. -- Europe has dominated the alternate-shot format in the Solheim Cup the last three matches with a 14-6-4 record, including a 5-0-3 mark two years ago in Sweden. Laura Davies had a simple explanation Tuesday.
 
European girls have more fun.
 
``They've done really well, but we are very good,'' Davies said. ``We get on so well. I'm sure the American team is good fun, but you won't find the same atmosphere we have. I think it shows in the first two days of competition.''

Davies, the only woman to play in every Solheim Cup, was asked why the United States doesn't mix as well.
 
``They don't seem to have the fun we have,'' she said. ``Maybe they do. On paper, they're a better team, and we still dust them the first two days. It has to be something we do right leading up into the foursomes.''
 
Karen Stupples of England, a rookie in these matches, suggested the record had more to do with experience. She noted that juniors from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales play a series of matches each year.
 
All of this came as news to some of the Americans.
 
Several players have said this is the closest group they've had in years, a camaraderie that started when captain Nancy Lopez chartered a motor home to drive from Ohio to Crooked Stick two weeks ago for a practice round.
 
``We don't know what they're doing,'' Natalie Gulbis said. ``But we're having a great time.''
 
MISSISSIPPI OPTIONS
Dean Wilson and Steve Stricker were among those talking about their schedule for the rest of the year as they try to finish in the top 125 on the money list to secure their PGA Tour cards. Both said they would play in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Mississippi.
 
But there are concerns about the Oct. 6-9 event at Annandale Golf Club because of Hurricane Katrina.
 
``They have over 1,000 trees down on the golf course,'' Henry Hughes, director of operations for the PGA Tour, said Tuesday. ``They had disease in some of the greens, and they were going to re-sod four greens, which is obviously delayed now.''
 
Hughes said he spoke Monday night with tournament director Robert Morgan, and another problem is where to stay. With everyone in the Gulf area evacuating to the north, hotels are full.
 
``They are reviewing what the options are for the Southern Farm Bureau tournament, which is scheduled in five weeks. And we're going to be reviewing options as to what we can do,'' Hughes said.
 
Hughes said they could decide to move the tournament, play it on a different date or attempt to keep it on schedule. The Southern Farm Bureau Classic is held opposite the American Express Championship in San Francisco. It used to be held opposite the Tour Championship at the end of the season.
 
``We haven't talked about specific dates,'' Hughes said.
 
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Jason Bohn can expect a nice paycheck Oct. 1 even if he doesn't play Greensboro.
 
Bohn, whose victory in the B.C. Open and runner-up finish in the Deutsche Bank Championship took him over $1 million, might not be where he is today without a hole-in-one 13 years ago that continues to pay off.
 
He was a redshirt freshman at Alabama when he took part in a fund-raiser that offered $1 million for an ace. Bohn hit a 9-iron from 135 yards into the hole. He gave up his amateur status to accept the prize, which is paying him $50,000 every Oct. 1 for 20 years.
 
That meant giving up his college career, although he stayed at Alabama and earned his degree.
 
``I knew I wasn't Tiger Woods,'' he said. ``Without that money, I would have never been able to chase my dream.''
 
The next check is on its way.
 
``I look forward to every Oct. 1,'' he said. ``It's a fun day.''
 
EQUIPMENT CHECK
It was strange to see an extra fairway metal in Tiger Woods' bag during a practice round at Firestone last month -- a 7-wood, no less. Whether it gets into a tournament remains to be seen.
 
Woods said the difference between how far he hits his 2-iron and his 3-wood can be as much as 30 yards, the largest gap in his bag. He probably could have used another fairway metal at the PGA Championship, especially on Saturday when he tried to take something off a 3-wood for his second shot into the 650-yard 17th.
 
``I've asked Rick Nichols at Nike to see what I can do to bridge the gap, to maybe put a 5-wood or 7-wood in the bag,'' Woods said. ``But I have a problem with having to be able to flight the golf ball with those clubs.''
 
He laughed as soon as he made contact with the 7-wood at Firestone because the ball had just a high trajectory.
 
``I love hitting my 2-iron off tees and hitting it down there low and controlling it,'' he said. ``Then again, sometimes I'm having a hard time into the par 5 of throwing the ball in the air.''
 
He noted that Vijay Singh carried a 7-wood that was bent to work like a 5-wood. Still, it sounded as though Woods would keep the same 14 clubs for a while.
 
``I have a hard time with that club now,'' he said.
 
BELLY UP
Fred Couples has been using the belly putter the past few years, and there's no going back now. He tried using a conventional putter at the Masters, and it hurt his back so much he almost couldn't play.
 
Couples played a practice round with David Duval, who had an extra putter with him. But he found himself stooped over enough to cause discomfort, and when the tournament started, Couples said his back went out.
 
``The thing at Augusta was a joke,'' he said. ``When I bend over, that's when I get a little bump. I would rather go back to the conventional (putter), but the two days I really worked hard at doing it, I could feel a little stress. I just don't think I can go back to that putter.''
 
DIVOTS
Laura Diaz, playing the Solheim Cup as she enters her sixth month of pregnancy, says she has heard from Juli Inkster, Tammie Green and Pat Hurst, who also played with child. The best news she has heard? ``The five-month mark is really, really good on your golf game, you have a lot of energy and they've all putted really well,'' she said. ... Stuart Appleby has four of the 20 longest drives on the PGA Tour this year. ... Only seven players have played the par 4s under par on the PGA Tour this year, including the top six players on the money list. The seventh is Richard Johnson of Sweden, who checks in at No. 94.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jason Bohn earned more money from his runner-up finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship ($594,000) than for his victory two months ago in the B.C. Open ($540,000).
 
FINAL WORD
``He thought I was insane. It took me three bottles of wine one night to talk him into it. He drank most of it.'' -- Olin Browne, on telling his father he wanted to be a professional golfer.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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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.