Notes Nicklaus Says World Catching Up with US

By Associated PressJune 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Not far from the 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club are a dozen or so flags snapping in the breeze. They represent the home nations of the players participating in the Memorial Tournament.
 
A year after a Swede (Carl Pettersson) won the Memorial, the 2007 title was taken by South Korean K.J. Choi. Choi closed with a 7-under 65 on Sunday to beat Ryan Moore by a stroke. Six of the top 10 finishers were not from the United States.
 
Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial founder, said golf fans should get used to hearing about such successes. He said the balance of power in the game is tilting, perhaps necessitating a change in how teams are formed for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, which pit a U.S. team against another gleaned from several countries.
 
'We keep playing the United States against the rest of the world,' said Nicklaus, the captain of the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup, which takes on an international team in September. 'Maybe we ought to play East versus West.'
 
Nicklaus said the game is spreading across the planet, with some areas producing players which never have before.
 
'We ought to divide this up a little differently, maybe the Americas (North and South) as a team because it's going to continue to go that way as the game grows internationally,' he said. 'That's not to say we're not going to have good golfers in the United States, but we're going to have good golfers everywhere else in the world and that's great for the game. I think you're going to continue to see that trend in the game.'
 
2008 HONOREES:
Each year the Memorial Tournament commemorates those who have made significant contributions to the game.
 
The tournament announced on Sunday that next year's honoree will be two-time major champion Tony Jacklin and posthumous honorees Ralph Guldahl, Charles Blair MacDonald and Craig Wood.
 
Jacklin won the 1969 British Open at Royal Lytham and then became the first British golfer in 50 years to win the U.S. Open in 1970. He played in seven Ryder Cups and was captain of the victorious European team in 1985 and 1987.
 
Guldahl was a star of the 1930s, taking U.S. Opens in 1937 and '38 along with the Masters in '39. The Canadian-born MacDonald won the first U.S. Amateur championship in 1895. Wood won 21 times on the PGA Tour, the highlight coming when he went wire-to-wire in the 1941 Masters.
 
The 2006 honorees were Mae Louise Suggs and Dow Finsterwald Sr.
 
PARENTHOOD:
Tiger Woods is looking forward to being a father.
 
It seemed that every time he turned around during the Memorial Tournament, someone was asking him about his wife Elin's pregnancy. She's due in early July.
 
'Yeah, it's coming up quickly,' Woods said after shooting a closing 5-under 67 on Sunday to finish eight shots behind winner K.J. Choi. 'It's just amazing how fast it's coming along. You figure that, oh, it'll get here eventually and then all of a sudden it's coming up quickly. We're very excited. Elin is at home chilling out, and I can't wait to get back there and hang out and start relaxing as well.'
 
Someone asked if the baby was a boy.
 
'I don't know anything,' Woods said with a laugh. 'You know more than I do then.'
 
CLOSE ... SORT OF:
Two-time Memorial winner Kenny Perry came out of nowhere to charge to a share of the lead. Perry, who likes to collect muscle cars, shot the best round on Sunday -- a 9-under 63 -- but didn't have enough fuel left in the tank to overtake K.J. Choi's closing 65.
 
'I was so far behind all day, trying to play catch-up,' said Perry, who won the Memorial in 1991 and again in 2003. 'So, you know, I had the gas pedal down all day. I was just pushing hard. I knew I just had to try to make birdie every hole.'
 
The highlight of his day came at the 447-yard, par-4 sixth hole when he holed a wedge from 131 yards for eagle.
 
Perry has lost 25 pounds and recovered from surgery on his right knee to right himself after some of the darkest moments of his career.
 
'It was just a great day for me, being from where I was two months ago to where I am today,' he said. 'It's been very uplifting.'
 
NICKLAUS AWARD:
Southern California freshman Jamie Lovemark was presented the Jack Nicklaus Award by its namesake on Sunday during the Memorial Tournament. The award is given annually to the national collegiate player of the year.
 
'There's quite a few pretty good names on that trophy, Jamie,' Nicklaus said during the presentation. 'If you want to stay around this afternoon, you'll see probably about 20 of those guys out her playing.'
 
Lovemark was the medalist at this year's NCAA championship at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Course in Williamsburg, Va. He also was medalist of the Pac-10, Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge and the Oregon Duck Invitational. He made two cuts on the PGA TOUR at the Western Open and Buick Invitational.
 
Asked by his USC coach, Chris Zambri, if he planned on getting his degree, Lovemark smiled and said, 'I sure do. All three years of being stuck with you.'
 
DIVOTS:
Charles Howell III, after rounds of 69, 73 and 80, withdrew due to an undisclosed illness before the final 18 holes. ... Ryan Moore strung together five birdies in a row in a back-nine 31 to shoot 66 and take second place by himself, a shot back of Choi. ... Choi had 24 putts in the final round, and totaled 109 for the tournament.
 
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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.