Notes Stableford Scoring Lefty Back to School

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Change never comes easily on the PGA TOUR.
 
For those who think the FedEx Cup competition that starts next year is a mathematical nightmare, consider the reaction 20 years ago when it was announced that a new PGA TOUR event in Colorado was going to use a modified Stableford scoring system.
 
Safe to say, it took time for players to embrace it.
 
'I don't understand it,' Andy Bean said in 1986, arms flailing in frustration. 'I don't know what to think about it. It isn't stroke play and it isn't match play. It's not golf. It's just ... playing games.'
 
Twenty years later, the International has created its own niche with the strange scoring system and a world-class stable of winners, from Phil Mickelson to Ernie Els, from Vijay Singh to Greg Norman.
 
Brad Faxon won in 1992 but is skipping this year because he is eligible for the World Golf Championship at Firestone, giving him four straight tournaments. Even so, he loves the modified Stableford and wonders why more recreational players don't use some form of it.
 
'When the great courses were built in America at the turn of the century, a lot of them were built to be match play or a Stableford system,' Faxon said. 'You played it as a game, not to shoot the lowest score. It was a match.'
 
The modified Stableford at the International awards two points for a birdie, five for an eagle and eight for a double eagle. One point is subtracted for a bogey, three points for a double bogey or worse.
 
The real Stableford system is much more friendly to average players.
 
It was developed by Frank Stableford, a member of Wallasey Golf Club in England who was frustrated at his inability to reach the green on the second hole. It now measures 458 yards from the members' tee, a dogleg to the right with a pot bunker at 260 yards into strong gusts from the Irish Sea.
 
'I was practicing on the second fairway at Wallasey Golf Club one day in the latter part of 1931 when the thought ran through my mind that many players in competitions got very little fun since they tore up their cards after playing on a few holes,' Stableford once said. 'And I wondered if anything could be done about it.'
 
The first Stableford competition was held at Wallasey on May 16, 1932.
 
It awards one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie, four for an eagle and five for a double eagle, with no points deducted no matter what the score. John Daly, no doubt, would thrive under the pure Stableford format.
 
Players of all skill level get strokes depending on the handicap and the hole, and it keeps the game competitive.
 
It leads to fireworks at the International. And for those amateurs playing on the weekend, it's more fun than match play.
 
BACK TO SCHOOL
For the second straight year, Phil Mickelson and his wife hosted a $250,000 shopping spree in San Diego County to provide needy children with clothes and supplies for elementary school.
 
It's part of their foundation's 'Start Smart' program.
 
'Our goal is to give these kids some of the advantages enjoyed by more fortunate young people, to improve their self-esteem and encourage them to work hard in school this year,' Mickelson said. 'The look on the faces of these kids and their parents make it worth the months of planning and logistics. When you're young, it's amazing the self esteem new school clothes can give you.'
 
EVERY PUTT COUNTS
In another example of how much every shot counts in the weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup, Scott Verplank came up 10 feet short and into the water while going for the green on the par-5 13th at the Buick Open.
 
That two-shot difference left him in a three-way tie for fourth instead of a two-way tie for second, the difference of 50 points, meaning he moved up to 18th in the Ryder Cup standings instead of 13th place.
 
Then there's Vaughn Taylor.
 
By making a 40-foot par putt on the 18th hole, he tied for fourth and earned 120 points to move from 11th to seventh place. Had he missed the putt, he would have finished in a five-way tie for sixth, earned 60 points and moved up one spot to 10th.
 
DIVOTS
Of those in the top 20 in Ryder Cup standings who haven't already locked up a spot on the U.S. team, the only players not at the International are Vaughn Taylor (No. 7), Brett Wetterich (No. 10), Jerry Kelly (No. 12), Tim Herron (No. 16) and Scott Verplank (No. 18). Kelly and Herron are the only players who also skipped the Buick Open last week. ... Sherri Steinhauer's victory in the Women's British Open ended a record eight consecutive LPGA majors won by international players. ... Michelle Wie did not break par in any round of the Women's British Open, the first time she failed to do that on the LPGA Tour since she missed the cut at the 2003 Kroger Classic (73-72) as a 13-year-old.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods had the highest percentage in driving accuracy (85.7) of any PGA Tour winner this year at the British Open. Two weeks later at the Buick Open, he had the longest average in driving distance (316 yards) of any winner this year.
 
FINAL WORD
'I think if she was Tiger, she'd be treated like Tiger. Because if she was a man, she'd be Tiger.' -- Laura Davies on the dominance of Annika Sorenstam.
 
Copyright 2006 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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.