Bettencourt Wilson 54-hole leaders at the Memorial

By Doug FergusonJune 6, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' Even when he was on the verge of giving up golf, Matt Bettencourt believed he was good enough to beat the best players in the world. He gets his chance at the Memorial.
 
Bettencourt ran off four straight birdies Saturday on the super slick greens of Muirfield Village, survived a few scary moments on the back nine and wound up with a 4-under 68 to share the 54-hole lead with two-time tour winner Mark Wilson.
 
They were at 9-under 207, with a host of major champions lurking, including Tiger Woods.
 
Matt Bettencourt
Matt Bettencourt is a rookie this season on the PGA Tour. (Getty Images)
Jim Furyk steadied himself for a 1-under 71 and was one shot behind with Jonathan Byrd, who overcame a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth and finished with a birdie for a 71.
 
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who started the third round nine shots out of the lead, turned in a tournament-best 63 and was atop the leaderboard for most of the warm afternoon. Ogilvy wound up at 209, tied with former PGA champion Davis Love III, who chipped in for birdie on his last hole.
 
Woods turned away a half-dozen times on birdie putts that burned the edge, but he climbed into contention on the back nine and shot a 68, leaving him four shots behind.
 
I put myself back in the tournament, Woods said.
 
But not even Woods was taking anything for granted at Muirfield Village, where the greens were as fast as any on tour this year.
 
I have to play well, he said. Thats the difference between being out front and trailing.
 
Bettencourt is a true rookie, having never played a PGA Tour event until this year. He earned his card by winning the Nationwide Tour money list, and its a wonder hes even on any tour. The California native had intentions of a career in baseball until hurting his arm, and he didnt start playing competitive golf until after college.
 
Even during his seven years in the minor leagues of golf, he considered finding a new career path.
 
But he stuck it out, made the big leagues, and gave him a chance to prove he belongs on the course Jack Nicklaus built against a leaderboard that features so many stars.
 
Wilson, who won in Mexico earlier this year when the worlds best players were at a World Golf Championship, didnt figure to be in the mix when he came up short of the green on his first three holes and quickly fell behind with bogeys. He got those shots back by the turn, overcame a blunder on the tricky 14th hole with consecutive birdies and wound up in a share of the lead.
 
A victory for Wilson would give him the day off Monday from 36-hole U.S. Open qualifying, because it would be his second PGA Tour victory since the U.S. Open last year.
 
That exemption also applies to Love, who won at Disney at the end of last year. That was the furthest from his mind, however. Love has been on the bubble for majors all year and decided to concern himself only with winning a tournament that has eluded him for two decades.
 
I said going into the tournament that Im playing for this week, Love said. I want to win.
 
Woods was in the group at 5-under 211 that included Ernie Els, a three-time major champion who also looked to be a strong factor until he chopped up the par-5 15th hole and took double bogey.
 
The Big Easy was only the one player who took his spills.
 
Stewart Cink was in range of the lead until he bogeyed his last three holes. Luke Donald, who opened with a 64, also dropped a costly shot at the end of his round and had to settle for a 72.
 
About the only guy who didnt go backward was Ogilvy, who was disgusted with himself Friday when he shot 74. That gave him an early tee time Saturday, which worked in his favor. The greens were as pure as can be, Ogilvy was in a good frame of mind, and it helped by sticking his approach on the first hole about a foot from the cup.
 
He kept at it all day, zooming up the leaderboard, taking the early lead by holing out a bunker shot.
 
I guess the longer you play on tour, the more you realize that youre probably going to have a lot more 74s than youre going to have 63s, Ogilvy said.
 
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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.