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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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.”


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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.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.