Notes Tough Draw For Walker Cup

By Associated PressDecember 8, 2004, 5:00 pm
The USGA doesnt need to spend much time or money promoting the Walker Cup next year because odds are not many will care.
 
The Walker Cup will be played outside Chicago on Aug. 13-14 -- the same weekend as the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey.
 
USGA executive director David Fay said officials never bothered to check when the fourth major was being played, and it might not have mattered. Moving the Walker Cup up one week makes it back-to-back with the U.S. Amateur. To move it back a week would conflict with the U.S. Womens Amateur.
 
Great Britain & Ireland has won the Walker Cup the last three times.
 
Europe won the Ryder Cup three straight times -- 1985-89 -- and it made the 91 matches at Kiawah Island one of the biggest golf events of the year.
 
Then again, the Walker Cup doesnt get a lot of attention even when its not up against a major.
 
I wish more people were complaining about it, Fay said.
 
That would mean its stature is elevated.
 
AMERICAN PERK
Paula Creamer was not eligible for the $6,000 check by winning the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament because she competed as an amateur, turning pro only after she completed her five-shot victory.
 
However, she was eligible to get a perk that goes to the winner - one round-trip ticket anywhere in the continental United States on American Airlines. Excuse the 18-year-old if she doesnt get too excited.
 
Her father, Paul, is a pilot for American Airlines. Creamer has pretty much been flying free her whole life.
 
OLD ROOKIE
Todd Hamilton is the British Open champion and possibly the answer to a trivia question.
 
Who was the oldest player to ever win PGA Tour rookie of the year?
 
Hamilton, 39, won the award based on his major championship and winning the Honda Classic. While he has been a professional for 17 years, he had spent the last dozen seasons toiling on Asian tours.
 
Still, he wont apologize for the award, nor should be. Hamilton earned his PGA Tour card for the first time by making it through Q-school.
 
A lot of these courses I had never seen before, Hamilton said. And if I wasnt in the pro-am, I only had one chance to play the course in a practice round.
 
The second-oldest rookie of the year since the award began in 1990 was Carlos Franco, who earned his PGA Tour card at Q-school in 1998, then played in the Presidents Cup before starting his rookie season.
 
SHARK BYTES
Karrie Webb only has to play 15 tournaments next year to qualify for the World Golf Hall of Fame. She earned the required 27 points on the LPGA Tour four years ago, and now lacks only 10 years on tour.
 
She already is thinking ahead, mostly to make sure her longtime Aussie swing coach, Kelvin Haller, can make it to Florida. He was paralyzed long ago, and Webb said it will be quite a process to get him over.
 
As for the person who presents her?
 
Considering it has to be a current member in the Hall of Fame, dont rule out another famous Australian.
 
I think it would be pretty cool that I grew up looking up to Greg Norman, Webb said.
 
Webb won a junior tournament in Australia as a 17-year-old, and among the rewards was spending a week with Norman in his Florida home and following his workout and practice routine.
 
I couldnt even believe I was meeting Greg Norman and staying at his house, she said. To have him present would be pretty special. But well see what happens. I dont even know what date it is next year, if Greg is going to be around or anything like that.
 
DIVOTS
Peter Lonard will be trying to become the first player to win the Australian Triple Crown'the Australian Open, Australia PGA Championship and Australian Masters'in the same year. The Australian Masters is being held this week at Huntingdale in Melbourne, when Lonard won his first Australasian Tour event in 1997. ... Nancy Scranton gave birth to twins last week'Libby Jane and Luke, born Dec. 2. ... Among those who earned their PGA Tour cards Monday at PGA West was Sean OHair, a 22-year-old who turned pro five years ago before finishing high school.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Arnold Palmer has won $183,000 in two silly-season events this year. Thats just $1,065 short of his best year ever on the PGA Tour in 1967.
 
FINAL WORD
It was a lot more fun when it felt like I was winning every three or four tournaments.'Tiger Woods, on the increased competition on the PGA Tour.
 
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).

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.