Villegas tops big names at inaugural Begay Challenge
The rising Colombian star won a chipoff Tuesday against Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, and Notah Begay III to walk away with top money at the inaugural Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge at Turning Stone Resorts Atunyote Golf Club.
Villegas winning pitch on the extra hole of the skins game competition boosted his earnings for the day to $220,000. Singh won two holes to finish with $180,000, and Cink finished with one skin worth $100,000 from the total purse of $500,000.
The event, a collaboration between the Oneida Indian Nation of New York and San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians of California, is an effort to aide Native American youth and their communities.
Were lucky to do what we do, said Villegas, who won more than $200,000 at the two-day World Skins Game in June in Canada. If we get a chance to help make an impact on a kids life, thats why were here.
The first six holes were worth $10,000 apiece, the second six $20,000, holes 13 through 17 were worth $50,000 each, and No. 18 was worth $70,000.
It was tough to score a skin despite picture-perfect weather with temperatures in the mid-70s. When Villegas hit a 250-yard fairway shot to within a foot of the pin at the par-5 fifth hole to set up an easy eagle, Weir ified it with an 18-foot eagle putt.
I felt like I played pretty good, Weir said. But thats skins. Youve got to time it right.
Singh, fresh from his win Sunday at The Barclays, the FedexCup playoff opener, scored the lone skin on the front nine, making birdie at the 414-yard par-4 fourth hole. After Begays birdie putt lipped out and Villegas short downhill birdie try stopped 2 inches short of the hole, Singh stepped up and calmly drained a 6-foot putt worth $40,000.
Weir nearly aced the 185-yard, par-3 sixth hole, and when Singh matched his birdie Weir muttered, Make enough money last week?
All five had a chance at $80,000 on No. 9 and all five missed makeable putts. The pot rose to $140,000 at the par-5 12th hole, a slight dogleg right with a massive, 13-acre water hazard lining the right side of the fairway. Singh was the only player to reach the green in two shots, and when his second shot landed within 4 feet of the pin, he easily scored his second skin despite missing the eagle putt.
Three holes later, Villegas finally broke through, draining a pretty 15-foot pitch-and-run from the back fringe at No. 15 for $150,000 as the gallery of about 2,000 cheered.
It wasnt pretty with the putter, Villegas said. I kept hitting good shots, and then I chipped one in. Thats the way golf goes. I kept telling my caddie, Man, weve played pretty good today. Weve been pretty much in every hole with a chance to do something special. And somebody tops me. I top somebody. Then, coming down the stretch I hit some good shots and got a couple of good breaks.
Cink, erratic all day, captured his lone skin at the par-4 17th hole, sinking a downhill putt from 16 feet for birdie.
When nobody won at 17 or 18, all five had one pitch downhill at No. 18 for the final prize, and Villegas shot stopped closest to the pin ' 58 inches ' for $70,000.
The Notah Begay III Foundation was established in 2005 to create sustainable programs that are designed by Native Americans for Native American youth. The NB3 Challenge was the foundations first national event.
At the award ceremony afterward, Singh thanked Begay for organizing the competition and announced he would donate $80,000 of his earnings to the foundation, which also received a $100,000 contribution from the days festivities.
Begay, the only Native American player on the PGA TOUR, was clearly touched.
It brought me to tears, Begay said. I had to compose myself. Guys dont have to do that. Its just a reflection on who he (Singh) is as a person. He understands and respects what were trying to get done.
About the only thing missing was Tiger Woods, Begays college roommate at Stanford. Woods had committed to playing before he was sidelined for the season with a knee injury.
Hes never played a fundraising event. This was going to be his first one ever, Begay said. I think that speaks to the amount of respect he has for our friendship. Weve been together now for over 20 years.
I suspect theres a tremendous chance hell be on the property next year, but the most important thing is that he gets his knee back where he wants to.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”