Notes Race to Augusta Players Hobbled

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Six players at the Mercedes Championship have to play well quickly if they want to get into the Masters.
 
Augusta National six years ago went away from its criteria that winning on the PGA Tour earns a trip down Magnolia Lane, preferring to put more emphasis on overall play by relying on the world ranking and money list.
 
Heath Slocum, Wes Short Jr., Robert Gamez, Jason Gore, Brad Faxon and Tim Petrovic failed to crack the top 50 in the world ranking or finish in the top 40 on last year's money list. But there's still time. The Masters will take the top 50 in the world and the top 10 on the current money list at the end of March.
 
'I'm going to hammer out a lot on the West Coast,' said Gore, who is No. 90 in the world. 'It's definitely a dream of mine to play there. I pretty much watched videotapes falling asleep, watching Augusta, for a long, long time.'
 
Faxon gave up a good chance to get back to the Masters by having knee surgery. His victory in Hartford put him inside the top 30 on the money list and the top 50 in the world ranking, but he didn't play the final two months of the season. He wound up 45th on the money list, and slipped to No. 67 in the world.
 
'I thought if I came back early and played well, I would have a chance to make points early,' Faxon said. 'That's still my goal.'
 
PLAYERS HOBBLING
Fresh out of surgery, Brad Faxon started counting the days.
 
It was a difficult decision to get the torn ligaments repaired in his left knee, coming off a victory in the Buick Championship at Hartford and a good showing at home in the Deutsche Bank Championship. The recovery was supposed to be between four and six months, which would knock him out of the Mercedes Championships at Kapalua.

'I was hopeful to be here,' Faxon said, in this winners-only field for the first time in four years. 'I was counting on my fingers what four months was, and my doctor told me that would be really pushing it.'
 
Faxon is among three players at Kapalua recovering from surgery on their knees, although his was the most severe. He injured it two years when he took an awkward fall working with a medicine ball, tried to avoid surgery and eventually found that while he could play golf, it was painful and limited other activities.
 
The recovery, clearly, was ahead of schedule.
 
Faxon went to California a week before Christmas and felt no pain. His first round before coming out to Hawaii showed some rust, as he shot 48 on the front and 32 on the back.
 
'Physically, I feel like I'm in good shape on a machine,' he said of his work in the gym. 'But hitting shots, walking, waiting, lining up putts, that will be tough this week.'
 
Walking is what worries Bart Bryant.
 
A two-time winner last year, including his wire-to-wire win at the Tour Championship, Bryant went ahead with a minor procedure to clean out some loose cartilage in his left knee. The surgery was two days after the Tour Championship, plenty of time to recover for the Mercedes.
 
But doctors found frayed cartilage underneath the knee cap, and decided to shave that down.
 
'That's something that we really hadn't talked much about before the surgery,' he said. 'That put me back a little bit more than I expected. ... Walking is not bad. Just walking downhill is what really is getting me right now. It gets really sore at the end of the day. If I start feeling some kind of sharp pain in there, I might need to consider what I'm doing, but I expect to be able to play this week.'
 
Peter Lonard had surgery he didn't expect, and it was perhaps the most minor of the three.
 
The 38-year-old Aussie felt occasional pain in his left knee over the last several months until it became unbearable at the Australian Masters last month.
 
The next day, Dec. 12, he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus.
 
'I went in at 9 a.m. and that afternoon, I hobbled out,' Lonard said. 'It's still a little uncomfortable, but it's pretty good. They said it would be six weeks to recover, three week before I could play.'
 
Lonard wasn't about to miss the Mercedes Championships, winning for the first time last year at the MCI Heritage. He wasn't sure how he injured his knee, and didn't even realize he needed surgery.
 
'Some days it hurt, some days it didn't,' he said. 'The day I went in for surgery, I said, 'We don't need to do this. It doesn't hurt.' But it's done now, so we'll start again.'
 
RANKING FILES:
One way to look at who had the best year is to consider only the points earned for the official world golf ranking. That not only is a reflection on players' most recent success, but shows how they did against the stronger fields.
 
Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods tops the list at 772.44 points, well ahead of Vijay Singh (514.53 points). Retief Goosen earned 386.2 points, followed by Phil Mickelson (369.93) and Sergio Garcia (296.4).
 
Rounding out the top 10 were Colin Montgomerie (282.9), Ernie Els (274.23), Jim Furyk (272.13), Michael Campbell (249.88) and Adam Scott (245.42).
 
Among top players, the biggest turnaround belonged to Campbell and Montgomerie, each of whom improved 73 spots in the world ranking. Montgomerie ended last year at No. 81 and finished 2005 at No. 8, while the U.S. Open champion went from No. 89 to No. 16.
 
One of the biggest falls belonged to Todd Hamilton, who went from No. 16 last year to No. 97. His best finish was a tie for 13th in the John Deere Classic.
 
Related links:
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    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.