Lonely at the Top

By Brian HewittJanuary 21, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Bob Hope Chrysler ClassicJustin Leonard figured to be the lead story line Sunday in the Southern California desert whether he liked it or not. He entered the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with a four-shot lead over an eclectic quartet of players that included Anthony Kim, Kenny Perry, D.J. Trahan and Robert Gamez.
 
Trahan sizzled to a 65. Leonard, playing the last 11 holes in 3 over par, limped in with a 72. Leonard was sportsmanlike in defeat but it was painful to hear him feel the need to say late Sunday that, on the last hole, he was just trying to get out of D.J.s way.
 
I think they pretty much all hurt the same, Leonard said, about a career that has included more than his share of high highs and low lows.
 
You see, the downside of having a 4-shot lead going into Sunday is the ignominy'the ignominy of how youre going to feel and what people are going to think if you dont close the deal. They say you cant play defense in golf and they are correct. But its very often hard not to play defensively, especially on the final day, when you have a big lead.
 
Trahan had little to lose in the expectations department and he turned that into a competitive advantage. You certainly dont feel optimistic about it (his chance of winning at the beginning of the day) when youre playing against a guy like Justin Leonard, he said.
 
Leonard once won a British Open from five shots back on the final day. He also won a PLAYERS from five shots back on the final day. He knew the drill better than Trahan. He also knew that being in the drivers seat in golf is often the place where a player has the least control.
 
My challenge, Leonard said before teeing off in the final group, is to keep playing the way Ive been playing. I dont want to change anything because what Im doing is working.
 
He was most definitely not up to that challenge three years ago in Memphis at the FedEx St. Judes Classic when he showed up on the first tee box Sunday with an 8-shot lead.
 
He would need to convert an up-and-down for par on 17 and make a 3 1/2-foot putt for bogey on the 72nd hole to hold off David Toms by a shot and clinch his 10th PGA TOUR victory. If Leonard had failed to win that day, he famously would have set a new TOUR record for the biggest blown 54-hole lead.
 
I just wanted to get it in, Leonard said after that round in which he didnt register one birdie and hit just five fairways in regulation. His closing 73 was three over par.
 
On the other hand, Leonard entered the final round of the Hope having won five of his 11 TOUR titles after sleeping on the lead Saturday night.
 
Leonard was correct to assume that at least one of his four closest pursuers Sunday would make an early move. He had, after all, fired a closing 67 of his own to win this same 90-hole event three years ago after trailing Joe Ogilvie by three shots through 72.
 
And sure enough, both Gamez and Trajan, playing in the same group as Leonard, birdied two of the first three holes Sunday. Leonard answered with two pars and a birdie on the third.
 
The beginning of the end came on the ninth hole where Leonards first three-putt of the week initiated a chain of poorly-executed shots. The momentum built on itself and Trahan was smart enough and skilled enough to seize the opportunity. For this, he is now in the 2008 Masters.
 
Last year at this time Leonard was struggling with multiple parts of his game. He has turned it around (four top-10s in his last six starts) and, off the course, he talked about how happy he is in his family and spiritual life. But that only takes a little bit of the sting out of it, not all of it, he said.
 
One other thankful note: There was no final round cut controversy this week at the Hope. The cut came at 7 under and 76 players advanced. That number necessitated final round threesomes and split tees. But there was no whining from the players, many of whom had been unhappy last week at the Sony Open when a new rule left almost 20 players without weekend tee times even though they had made the cut.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.