Notes: Clark gave passionate plea at Tour meeting

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2013, 9:39 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tim Clark would have been easy to miss among dozens of PGA Tour players who poured out of a hotel ballroom after a two-hour meeting on the proposed ban of the stroke used for long putters – except he was the only guy with a suitcase.

Clark didn't bring golf clubs to Torrey Pines, only an overnight bag. He didn't play in the tournament, but he paid his way to San Diego just so he could be at the mandatory players meeting, the one Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not attend. The special guest was U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, invited to explain the proposed rule on anchoring and to take any questions.

Clark wanted to be heard.

''I didn't realize until that night he wasn't in the field,'' Lucas Glover said. ''I thought it was very courageous of him to do what he did. He flew here. He spent his own money to get here and back for something he cares about. My opinion on it doesn't matter. He spoke his mind in a respectful way. He did not lash out. He asked honest questions and stated honest opinions. And I was proud of him. The way he handled himself was brilliant.''

No one has more to lose over this ban than Clark.

He has a genetic condition that keeps him from turning his forearms and wrists inward. Clark has anchored the long putter to his chest for about as long as anyone has seen him play. Despite the physical limitations – Clark has never ranked higher than 140th in driving distance - he has won The Players Championship, Australian Open, Scottish Open and twice the South African Open.

Based on several accounts of those in the room, Clark spoke with dignity and integrity.

''I think what he did to fly in for the meeting showed a lot,'' Keegan Bradley said. ''He's got something he wants to stand up for, and that's something I admire. He presented some nice points. When he talks, people listen.''

Exactly what Clark said remains private, another show of respect by his peers.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is headed back to San Diego this week to meet with the USGA before its annual meeting. Finchem said the Tour's objective had always been to follow the lead of the USGA and R&A for rules. He also said there might be a place for two sets of rules in golf, though perhaps not in the case of anchored strokes.

Geoff Ogilvy felt the majority of players who don't use an anchored stroke are ambivalent about the proposed rule and that ''the passion is coming from 5 percent.''

He was impressed with Clark, especially with how prepared he was.

''He's been researching this the whole offseason,'' Ogilvy said. ''He basically put his position out there and probably positions that Mike hadn't thought about or didn't acknowledge as importantly as Tim saw them.

''What Tim did achieve ... whether he had any effect on the USGA position, a big portion of the ambivalent people were on Tim's side when they walked out of the room.''


BACK TO THE ROCK: Geoff Ogilvy went from one home to another in consecutive weeks on Tour.

Ogilvy has been living in Del Mar, Calif., about 5 miles down the coastal highway from Torrey Pines for the last couple of years. But he felt something was missing from his game. That turned out to be Whisper Rock Golf Club, where he gets plenty of competition from Tour players.

Ogilvy moved his wife and three children back to Scottsdale, Ariz., last summer before 6-year-old Phoebe started school.

''I played well last year without getting anything out of it. The scoring was bad relative to how I was playing,'' he said. ''If I had played like that five years ago, I would have been in the top five on the money list. That's how I felt, anyway.''

The tale of two cities came down to the golf he played away from the Tour.

''I used to play golf all the time with really good players,'' he said. ''All I've done over here is range sessions and putting. That got better, but the scoring got worse. And at the end of the day, it's about scoring.''

Ogilvy is keeping his house in Del Mar and will spend his summers there, when the Pacific summer is more enjoyable than the desert.

''Whisper Rock is a special place,'' he said. ''This is less about Arizona and more about Whisper Rock. It was a hard decision because we love it over here so much. But as soon as we got back, I realized it was the right thing. I get up in the morning, take the kids to school and go to the golf course.''


SOUTHERN HILLS: Southern Hills has not given up on its hopes of hosting a fourth U.S. Open.

It hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and had been working to bring the U.S. Open to Tulsa, Okla., in the next available date. The club was disappointed to learn that the 2020 U.S. Open instead was going to Winged Foot.

''We knew it was coming down to us and Winged Foot,'' Southern Hills general manager Nick Sidorkis told Golf Oklahoma. ''They are two great courses with great tradition. Obviously, Tulsa is not the same as New York when it comes to corporate hospitality potential, but we know that we can hold a successful championship.''

Southern Hills hosted seven majors – three U.S. Opens, most recently in 2001 won by Retief Goosen, and three PGA Championships, the last one in 2007 won by Woods. Sidorkis said it would not pursue other big tournaments until the USGA told the club it is not interested and that hasn't happened.

''Our endeavor is we want to host the national championship. We're going to continue until they tell us otherwise,'' he said.


FOG MULLIGAN: When fog wiped out Saturday's round at Torrey Pines, the 87 players who made the cut played straight through the next two days to try to get in 72 holes. There wasn't time to make a 54-hole cut to the top 70 and ties, ordinarily the case when more than 78 players make it to the weekend.

That's worth keeping in mind later in the year.

Had there been a 54-hole cut, 10 players would have been eliminated after the third round and given one FedEx Cup point. Given the extra round, James Driscoll shot a 68 and Hank Kuehne had a 70. They received 16 points. Doug LaBelle shot 71 and received eight points.

It might not seem like much now, but keep in mind that Jhonattan Vegas missed out on the playoffs by two points and that Kyle Stanley was seven points short of qualifying for the Tour Championship.


DIVOTS: Lee Trevino is this year's recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award. He will receive the highest honor from the PGA of America at the PGA Championship on Aug. 7 at Oak Hill, where Trevino won the 1968 U.S. Open. ... No one was more irritated by CBS Sports wanting the late start to the Monday finish at Torrey Pines than Ben Curtis. He is playing the Dubai Desert Classic this week, and the late start meant getting into the Dubai on Wednesday morning for the pro-am, instead of Tuesday night. ... Woods has more than half of his 75 Tour victories in three states – 14 in California, 13 in Florida and 12 in Ohio. ... And then there were three: Kyle Stanley, Tommy Gainey and Scott Stallings are in the Phoenix Open, making them the only players at all five Tour events this year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has won 80 percent of his stroke-play titles on Tour playing in the final group.


FINAL WORD: ''I'm trying to shoot the lowest score I possibly can. I don't know if I look calm or intense or relaxed or jovial, whatever it is. I'm trying to beat everyone in this field, and that hasn't changed and it won't change.'' – Woods.

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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.