Tour Champ Not Just for Big Names
At times, it can be staggering.
``Last year, I was getting ready for the second stage of Q-school,'' O'Hair said Wednesday at the season-ending Tour Championship, the PGA Tour's version of an All-Star event for only the top 30 players on the money list.
This year's tournament features a half-dozen players like O'Hair, who essentially were nobodies a year ago and now take their place among the elite at East Lake, with $1.17 million to the winner and $92,000 for last place.
``I've gone from the lowest level in golf to the highest level in one year,'' O'Hair said. ``That's pretty cool.''
He's not alone.
For every Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, there is someone like Billy Mayfair, a former winner of the Tour Championship whose game fell into disarray. It got so bad last year that Mayfair finished 140th on the money list and had to use a one-time exemption from the career money list to regain his card.
For every Retief Goosen and Davis Love III there is Brandt Jobe, who missed the last eight months of the season last year with a left wrist injury. Jobe started out this season on a major medical extension, meaning he had 20 tournaments to get his game in order.
Olin Browne missed the cut in the Chrysler Championship last year to fall on the wrong side of the bubble, from No. 125 on the money list to another year of begging for sponsors' exemptions.
Lucas Glover was headed back to Q-school for the fourth time at the end season.
The Tour Championship indeed is an All-Star game, but the stars are redefined. It's not who draws the biggest galleries or has the lucrative contracts. It's not former major champions.
This week is for the guys who played the best, even if some of them need an introduction.
O'Hair is becoming a known quantity, and not just for his troubled past with a father who treated him like a commodity, making him run a mile for every bogey and driving him to turn pro at age 16.
He finished second in the Byron Nelson Championship, won the John Deere Classic and comes into East Lake at No. 16 on the money list with nearly $2.3 million. O'Hair, 23, is a lock to win PGA Tour rookie of the year.
And to think of where he was a year ago.
``I had to birdie the last three holes to get into the final stage of Q-school,'' he said. ``If I don't do that, I'm not here. It just goes to show how quickly life can change.''
Browne might be the most unlikely story of all. He is the definition of a journeyman, a 46-year-old who has been grinding away at a game he loves for the last 20 years. Browne had not won since the 1999 Colonial, and spent the last two years outside the top 125 on the money list, a sure sign that his best golf was behind him.
He refused to accept that.
Browne went to Houston swing coach Jim Hardy nearly two years ago and saw steady progress. He finally broke through at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a one-shot victory, and a runner-up finish at the Texas Open. He had never been higher than 45th on the money list, but this year checks in at No. 24.
``Top 30 is something you'd like to do, but I hadn't done anything to feel confidence enough that top 30 was attainable,'' Browne said. ``It's been a lot of fun. This is like a pat on the back for the guys have played great.''
Mayfair played more solidly than great, and his only regret is not having won this year.
Not that he is disappointed in his season, a remarkable turnaround for the former U.S. Amateur champion. Mayfair was so determined to play better than he started his season in Hawaii, his only goal to finish in the top 125. Then came his runner-up finish in the Colonial, fourth place at the Western Open and four other top 10s.
``If you play good, everything takes care of itself,'' he said.
Jobe was thinking the same thing when he sat down for breakfast Wednesday morning at East Lake, and later when he walked through a tunnel beneath the bleachers and onto the practice range. He walked past Goosen. Down the way was Love and Justin Leonard, players who make regular appearances at this tournament.
``I was reflecting about that, where we were when we started the year and where we are now,'' he said. ``I couldn't dream this would happen after the last two years. This is the ultimate bonus.''
It might seem like another Tour Championship for Woods, who has never missed one since he turned pro at age 20 in 1996 and qualified in just seven tournaments. He needs to win to become the first $11 million man in golf.
Phil Mickelson, No. 3 on the money list, decided to stay home this year with his kids.
Nine players are at the Tour Championship for the first time, but they have one thing in common with everyone else.
``Everyone has worked their tails off,'' O'Hair said. ``And that's why they're here.''
Full Coverage - The Tour Championship
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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
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.
Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore
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.
''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.''
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
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.
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.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.