Notes Rough Week for Vijays Caddie

By Associated PressNovember 9, 2004, 5:00 pm
The richest caddie on the PGA Tour this year had a rough end of the year.
 
Dave Renwick, who has been with Vijay Singh for seven of his nine victories, was held up at knifepoint by two men in downtown Atlanta as he was returning from dinner at the start of the week. Renwick was robbed of his watch and money, although he was not injured.
 
Then, he was mysteriously missing from the bag of the No. 1 player on the weekend. Singh instead used his trainer, Joey Diovisalvi, for the final two rounds.
 
Singh said Renwick had a bad hip, although that raised eyebrows because the Scottish caddie was seen at East Lake early Saturday morning.
 
There has been speculation that the two were about to part ways, although Singh said Renwick would be back on the bag at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii in two weeks.
 
It has been a peculiar relationship over the last 18 months.
 
Singh has praised Renwick for his work, although it hasn't always been a ringing endorsement.
 
'The caddie is as good as the player, and I proved it twice this year,' Singh said, noting that Diovisalvi caddied for two of his wins. 'I'm pretty happy with his work, and I guess he's happy with what he's been rewarded with.'
 
Something for Everyone
Tiger Woods will play in the Skins Game and the Target World Challenge. Vijay Singh has the PGA Grand Slam and the Father-Son Challenge. Other top players can chase free money at the UBS Cup or the Shark Shootout.
 
But the PGA Tour is all about opportunity, and this year it is offering something from everyone.
 
Anyone up for the Korea Golf Championship?
 
The latest addition to the silly season will be played Nov. 25-28 at JungMun Golf Course on Jeju Island. It was supposed to be a $4 million tournament for 60 players with $1 million going to the winner. The top 20 players from the PGA Tour money list through Aug. 22 were eligible.
 
The only hitch?
 
It takes about 20 hours to get there - a flight to Seoul, transfer by bus to a regional airport, a short flight to Jeju Island and then another bus to the golf course - and it starts on Thanksgiving.
 
To no one's surprise, there weren't a lot of takers.
 
Cameron Beckman was outside the top 125 on the money list in late August, but two months later he was holding out hope he could get in.
 
'I think I'm third alternate,' Beckman said.
 
Among those planning to play are Mark Calcavecchia, who will travel anywhere for a chance to win $1 million. Besides, he won in Korea earlier this year at the Maekyung Open.
 
'I'm 1-0 in Korea,' Calcavecchia said. 'It could be my place.'
 
Calcavecchia said he was in line to get a sponsor's exemption because of his earlier victory, but he made it through the money list - even though he, too, was struggling to get his card.
 
Others who have committed include Tom Pernice Jr., Harrison Frazar, Arron Oberholser, Tim Petrovic, Brian Bateman and K.J. Choi, who figures to be the star attraction at home in South Korea.
 
But there already has been some changes.
 
Because of budget cuts, the purse has been reduced to about $3.5 million, causing tournament organizers to lower the field to 39 players to make it worth their while.
 
Still, it's a nice perk to those players who ordinarily don't get them this time of the year. Last place is $20,000, and players don't have to pay for the airfare or hotel.
 
AWTREY LEAVING
Now that the PGA of America has found a Ryder Cup captain, a more important search is under way - finding a replacement for Jim Awtrey, the chief executive officer who is retiring in 2006.
 
Awtrey informed the PGA board during its annual meeting last week, noting that 2006 will be his 20th year.
 
'While this was not an easy decision, it is the proper decision and the proper time,' Awtrey said.
 
Awtrey's contract expires June 1, 2006, although the PGA extended it to the end of that year to allow the organization time to find his replacement and help with the transition. That means Awtrey will be around for the Ryder Cup matches in Ireland.
 
FIRST STEP
Paula Creamer at least has some security if she decides to turn pro.
 
Creamer, an 18-year-old senior in high school, shared medalist honors at Q-school on the Futures Tour with 19-year-old Brittany Lincicome.
 
Lincicome, the first-round leader at the U.S. Women's Open, already has decided to turn pro and cashed her first check worth $500. Creamer is leaning toward turning pro, but still has not decided.
 
She is in the finals of LPGA qualifying next month. If Creamer does not get her card, she has a spot on the Futures Tour, or she can go to college and compete on the Futures Tour as an amateur.
 
Creamer tied for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open with Michelle Wie.
 
'Everybody wants to win, but this is all about getting a card,' Creamer said.
 
DIVOTS
During the $6 million Tour Championship, the Byron Nelson Championship announced its purse would be $6.2 million next year. The winner will get $1,116,000. It was the 11th straight year the Nelson has raised its prize money. ... Titleist came out with a new version of the Pro V1 during the Tour Championship. Seven players tried it out at East Lake. ... Don't be surprised to see K.J. Choi in a swoosh next year. The South Korean had the Nike blades in his bag during the Tour Championship, and asked Tiger Woods on the practice green if he could borrow a few golf balls. Choi is said to be close to signing a deal with Nike. ... The PGA Tour will announce its player of the year awards Dec. 6 in New York. A year ago, when the race between Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods came down to the wire, the tour announced the winner live on ESPN's 'SportsCenter.'
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Vijay Singh ranked No. 3 in rounds played on the PGA Tour this year with 110. Ted Purdy played 112 rounds in 35 events, followed by Patrick Sheehan at 111 rounds in 33 events. Singh played 29 tournaments, matching his career-high on tour.
 
FINAL WORD
'I'm going to be in Hawaii for the Grand Slam, and I think I'm going to have a party there. You all are invited.' - Vijay Singh, speaking to a group of reporters on when he would celebrate his nine-win season.
 
Copyright 2004 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 what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

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).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


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.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

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.