Wu makes history with breakthrough win in China

By Associated PressApril 26, 2015, 1:00 pm

SHANGHAI – With two Chinese golfers tied for the lead going into the final round of the Volvo China Open, there was a good chance one of them would break new ground by becoming the first from the country to capture a European Tour title on home soil.

Most eyes were on Li Haotong at the start of the round, the talented 19-year-old touted as a future golf star in China. Instead, it was Wu Ashun, a player nearing 30 who had recently taken six months off to rebuild his swing and had never had a top-10 finish on the tour, who took home the trophy.

Wu proved to be the steadiest player during a final round filled with momentum swings, delighting the crowd in his hometown of Shanghai with a final-round 71 to secure a one-stroke victory over David Howell on Sunday. Wu finished at 9-under 279 overall.

''I tried my best to play every shot well,'' he said. ''I played very good today – not down, not up. Just simple golf today.''

It was not only the biggest title of Wu's career, but also the biggest paycheck. He takes home nearly 500,000 euros ($543,000) - more than doubling how much he's earned in seven years on the European Tour.

''There's a long journey in a golf career, someone can hit a low score in their 30s, 40s, so I have to just be patient and keep practicing, keep playing the tournaments, and it will come,'' Wu said through a translator.

Wu is the third Chinese player to win on the tour and the first since Liang Wen-Chong took the title at the Singapore Masters in 2007.

Howell missed a five-foot par putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff. It was just one of four bogeys for the veteran Englishman, who also had four birdies in his round of 72.

Emiliano Grillo of Argentina had a spirited run on the final day, making four birdies in five holes on the front nine and two more on the back to pull within one shot of the lead. But his chances of winning a maiden European Tour title slipped away with a tee shot into the water on No. 17, leading to double bogey.

He shot a 69 to finish in a tie for third with defending champion Alexander Levy of France (73) and Prom Meesawat of Thailand (71).

Wu started the day in a four-way tie for the lead with Howell, Levy and Li, but he had played the least recently. He was coming off a six-month break to work on his swing with his coach in California and didn't make the cut at a Japan Tour event last week.

Li, on the other hand, nearly won his first European Tour title last week at the Shenzhen International, losing in a playoff to Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Li, however, didn't look sharp from the first hole Sunday. With hundreds of excited fans lining the green, phones poised to snap photos, he missed a routine 3-foot par putt that caught the lip of the cup and curled away, drawing gasps from the gallery.

It was just the start of an up-and-down day for the rising star. He made a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and then a tremendous approach and nervy putt for eagle on the par-5 No. 13, but also missed a number of relatively easy putts from close in, the frustration apparent on his face.

He carded five bogeys – more than his first three rounds combined – and finished tied for sixth at 6-under 282.

''It's a great experience for me, especially considering I still finished sixth, which is much better than last year, so I learned a lot,'' he said.

Howell had vastly more experience than the Chinese players, with 523 starts on the European Tour compared to just 26 for Wu and 13 for Li. Ten years ago in Shanghai, he fought then-No. 1 Tiger Woods in the final round of the HSBC Champions – and won the title.

But Howell missed when it mattered most, trying to save par after his approach on the 18th left him with a long putt. When his shot skirted by the left side of the hole, thousands of Chinese fans around the Tomson Golf Club erupted in cheers.

''Obviously a crying shame for me not to come home with the trophy, but there's I don't know how many billion people who are rather pleased I made six on the last,'' Howell said.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.