Day 7 Gulbis Earns First Tour Title

By December 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's note; In the holiday spirit, the GolfChannel.com Team is counting down the 12 Days of Golf, the most memorable days of the 2007 season. This is Day 7
 
Day 7So young, so rich, so talented and, of course, so beautiful. And yet, so unfulfilled. That was LPGA Tour star Natalie Gulbis in a nutshell somewhere around late July as she flew to Paris to take part in the Evian Masters.
 
On tour for 5-plus years, the 24-year-old Gulbis seemingly had it all ' her own TV show on the GOLF CHANNEL; close to $3 million in career earnings; endorsement deals from countless companies that totaled in the millions; a wildly successful calendar that often times showed off her near-flawless physique; and TV commercials where she starred alongside the likes of John Daly, Butch Harmon, Lee Trevino and David Feherty.
 
Natalie Gulbis
Natalie Gulbis donned the American flag and shed those Kournikova comparisons. (Getty Images)
And, unfortunately for her, a growing comparison to Anna Kournikova ' she of tennis fame, who the media mercilessly ridiculed for being all flash and no substance. They pointed to the fact that Russian tennis star never won a singles titles in her sport, yet still was the top earner in endorsements off the court.
 
And the same was now being said of Gulbis ' sure shes beautiful and pretty, but what has she won? And the simple fact of the matter was she hadnt won anything.
 
Once before, almost a year to the date in fact, Gulbis had let her best-ever opportunity slip away when she lost in a three-hole playoff to Mi Hyun Kim at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Following that loss, the usually upbeat Gulbis said of still being denied a trip to the winners circle, It sucks. It's not good. It's very difficult.
 
The first half of 2007 certainly didnt point to her breaking that winless slump as a back injury forced Gulbis to put away her clubs for an extended period and in the process dropped her way down the tours money list.
 
I was kind of thinking this might be a blessing in disguise with the injury, and I kept working on it and working on my posture and I kept hitting it further and all the things I wanted to happen on my golf swing started happening, said Gulbis.
 
A blessing in disguise no doubt, as she then made her way across the Atlantic to Paris.
 
Never a top-20 showing in her three previous trips to the Evian Masters, Gulbis got off to another auspicious start with an even-par 72 on the opening day. She got back into the mix with a second-round 69 and then trailed leader Juli Inkster by four as they headed into Sundays final round.
 
With three front-nine birdies and Inkster faltering, Gulbis found herself amongst the leaders and must have felt the pressure as she went 1 over par for her final nine holes. She then went to the range to keep warm in case she managed to make it into a playoff.
 
When Jeong Jang closed with three birdies on her last four holes she joined Gulbis at 4 under and off they went into sudden-death.
 
Before the playoff I was very upset at myself because I felt like I had given away this tournament, recalled Gulbis. Going in today I never thought that 4 under would have won this tournament. Cristie Kerr and Greg, my caddie, were there. And they kept saying, No, no. You could be in a playoff. You need to get over the fact that you're so pissed off and go and practice.
 
They were really good. It's amazing the people that support you right when you need them.
 
With her support in tow, and perhaps sensing something in the Parisian air, Gulbis made quick work of the playoff by hitting her second shot onto the putting surface at the 467-yard, par-5 18th. That's usually a par 5 that I cannot reach in two.
 
Meanwhile, Jang could not get up and down from off the green and had to settle for a par.
 
Now all that was facing the 24-year-old Gulbis for a chance to finally visit the winners circle, and at the same time shed that 800 lb. gorilla off her back, was an ever-so-simple tap in from about a foot.
 
As the putt dropped her arms raised high into the sky. All that hard work, all the doubt, all the critics answered. And ironically it came on something so simple as a tap-in putt.
 
But, of course, things are never that simple.
 
What does it mean? How long do you have? This is my sixth year on tour, and obviously the U.S. has been quite a bit of hype on if I would ever win a tournament, stated the freshly minted champion, who was doused with ' what else? ' Champagne after her victory. (Ive) just tried to stay positive, so that means a lot, that the hard work has paid off. So many great people supporting me in the U.S. from the media to my team to my fans. It's great.
 
One could only wonder if somewhere, someone whispered into Anna Kournikovas ear, Natalie has left the building.
 
Related Links:
  • Natalie Photo Gallery
  • Gulbis Earns First LPGA Tour Victory
  • Golf Central Special: Gulbis No Kournikova
  • 12 Days of Golf Countdown
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry