Owen has Company in Long Line of Meltdowns

By Associated PressMarch 20, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The hollow look in his eyes and numbness in his voice made it clear that Greg Owen was still in shock over his gaffe on the 17th green that cost him the Bay Hill Invitational.
But he was thinking clearly enough in the moments afterward to realize what it meant.
'It was one of those silly mistakes I'll be remembered for, you know?' he said.
At least he has plenty of company.
Carnoustie used to be known as the toughest links in golf. Now the mere mention of the word brings back painful images of Jean Van de Velde throwing away the British Open with a combination of stupidity and bad luck.
Nick Faldo eventually got credit for one of the great closing rounds in Masters history when he shot 67, but conversation about 1996 at Augusta National always starts with the ignominious collapse of Greg Norman.
Those were majors. This was only the Bay Hill Invitational.
That won't make it any easier for Owen.
He played better than anyone Sunday at Bay Hill, 6 under par through 16 holes with a birdie from the bunker to take a one-shot lead over Rod Pampling. And when his 3-iron came up just short of the 17th, he still had a reasonable chip that he left 3 feet short of the flag.
Pampling lipped out his 10-footer for par, giving Owen a two-shot margin and only 40 inches left for par before heading to the 18th tee. Then came the meltdown. He shoved his first putt so badly that it didn't touch the cup. Wasting no time, he stood over the 2-foot putt and watched in horror as it horseshoed around the cup.
A two-shot lead became a tie.
His first PGA Tour victory - and a trip to the Masters - became a runner-up finish that will haunt him. Asked how he would cope with the loss, Owen replied, 'I'll find out tonight, but it's not going to be easy.'
'I had it in my pocket. It was there. And I threw it away,' Owen said. 'So, we'll find out. Play again next week and see what happens there.'
That would be The Players Championship, a stage built for such memorable meltdowns. Owen should remember that he played well enough over 70 holes, a tee shot and a chip to give himself a chance to win. And a solid week at Sawgrass still might be enough to get him in the Masters.
Even then, he will be the guy who took three putts in seven seconds from 40 inches to lose Bay Hill.
'It's cruel,' said Rod Pampling, the winner who spent most of his time apologizing. 'But you know, it's golf.'
Mike Reid knows the feeling as well as anyone.
He had a two-shot lead in the 1989 PGA Championship against the late Payne Stewart when he hit into the water on the 16th and had to scramble for bogey. Then, he flubbed a chip behind the 17th green and missed a 15-foot par putt to fall into a tie for the lead.
Just like Owen, Reid bent over to tap in for bogey and watched it spin out of the cup for double bogey, losing the lead and nearly losing his mind.
'It's only a game, right?' Reid said that day, choking back tears. 'Everyone can identify with failure out here.'
Van de Velde had a three-shot lead in the 1999 British Open and tried to finish with a flourish. He hit driver off the tee and got away with it when the ball found a tiny strip of grass. Instead of laying up short of Barry Burn, he boldly fired 2-iron toward the green, only to have the ball carom off a rail on the grandstand and into the burn.
He wound up with a triple bogey - making a 6-footer for that - before losing in a playoff.
'Maybe next time I'll hit the wedge,' Van de Velde said. 'And maybe you will all forgive me.'
Forgive? Sure.
Forget? Never.
Owen is 34, a tall Englishman with a sound game who will get another chance. But there is scar issue starting to build, starting with his three straight bogeys that cost him the final-round lead in Houston last year.
'It wasn't my day,' he said Sunday at Bay Hill. 'I'll have to wait for my day.'
Matt Gogel blew a seven-shot lead to Tiger Woods at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2000, then won the tournament two years later when Pat Perez's temper reached mercurial proportions.
Frank Lickliter didn't have to wait that long for redemption. Remember his playoff loss in the 2001 Buick Invitational? Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot into a canyon on the 17th hole at Torrey Pines, and Lickliter inexplicably hit driver and wound up in the same gorge. And yes, it got worse. After reloading off the tee, Lickliter hit wedge into 12 feet and had that bogey putt to win. He ran it 4 feet by and missed the comebacker to lose.
'I'm in shock right now,' Lickliter said. 'Other than getting a little stupid, I felt I played pretty good.'
Four months later, he captured his first PGA Tour victory at the Kemper Open.
Owen can only hope that's what the future holds for him.
As for Pampling? He got the navy blazer and a silver sword from Arnold Palmer, and his picture in the clubhouse at the Bay Hill Lodge. That might have to do, because not many will remember who won the Bay Hill Invitational in 2006.
Only who lost it.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.