Notes: Clark making most of big break at N.C. State

By Doug FergusonJanuary 11, 2015, 9:54 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Tim Clark knows all about pressure, and not just when he's in contention at a golf tournament.

Clark has had a productive career as he enters his 14th season on the PGA Tour. His two victories include The Players Championship. His six international titles include the Australian Open and Scottish Open. He has played on three Presidents Cup teams.

And it all started with a tryout in the North Carolina snow.

For a South African who didn't have the pedigree of an Ernie Els or Retief Goosen, Clark never imagined how he could get to the toughest tour in golf. Travel was long and expensive. A chance to play college golf turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.

There was another South African playing at North Carolina State, and one year his father had come over to watch Simon Hobday in the U.S. Senior Open at Pinehurst. He spoke to Wolfpack golf coach Richard Sykes about Clark, who was approaching his 20th birthday.

''His dad spoke to the coach and said, 'Listen, there's a kid in South Africa who would really like to come and play on your team right now if you'd give him a chance,''' Clark said. ''So he called me up and said, 'You can come in the spring. If you play any good, you can stay. If you don't, sorry, your scholarship is gone.' And then I made first-team All-American in the spring.''

But it wasn't that easy.

Clark had only been to America once in his life. He came over in 1993 with Rory Sabbatini to play in the International Junior Masters (Sabbatini won). They headed over to Las Vegas for an AJGA and were asked to qualify (Clark was the only one who did). The Junior World at Torrey Pines was the next week, but Clark said South Africa was banned because of apartheid.

And then he went home, until North Carolina State gave him a chance - with a caveat.

''I left South Africa on Christmas Day because that's the cheapest flight,'' Clark said. ''We landed and it was snowing. And I was like, 'Wow, I'm not prepared for this.' I live in weather like this (Hawaii) all year round. Coach picked me up. He had never seen me play before and he took me to hit balls - straight off the plane, in the snow. He just wanted to see what he had.''

Clark apparently swung the club good enough. Along with getting off to an All-American start that spring, he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links the next year and played in the 1998 Masters. He turned pro later that year, spent two years on the Nationwide Tour, won twice in 2000 to the PGA Tour and was on his way.

''The biggest opportunity I had in my career was to go there and play,'' Clark said.

It's not an unusual path for international players. Colin Montgomerie went to Houston Baptist. Luke Donald went to Northwestern, earned a degree in art and won an NCAA title. Graeme McDowell played at Alabama-Birmingham.

Back then, it was rarer for South Africans given the distance and lack of attention unless young Springboks could make frequent trips to America.

''When we grew up, the PGA Tour was like an afterthought,'' Clark said. ''You never thought that was even a possibility. I was lucky to come over to college and have that opportunity. For most of us, that was so far-fetched. Financially, it's a big thing to come from South Africa to play Q-school. Guys can't afford it. For me, that was probably the biggest break I ever had in my career.''


MONDAY FINISH: The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the second PGA Tour event that ends on a Monday. The other is the Deutsche Bank Championship, which has ended on Labor Day since its inception in 2003 and it works beautifully with the Boston community.

As for Kapalua? The decision to switch to a Monday finish didn't make sense four years ago, and it doesn't make sense now.

For sure, the tour wants to get away from the NFL playoffs. But the NFL is not played on Sunday night - the second game ends about 8 p.m. EST - and that would be ideal for the frigid part of the mainland to watch the final round from Kapalua with scenic shots of surf and humpbacks.

Instead, it's only the third round. The final round Monday ends before the college championship game. But the guess here is that most fans aren't watching golf, they're watching the pre-game show.

Worse yet, it cuts into the following week at the Sony Open, a loyal sponsor that is not treated like one by giving it a shorter week.


CHANGING TIMES: When the Tournament of Champions first came to Kapalua in 1999, there were 13 major champions in the 30-man field. There are four major champions in the 34-man field this year.

Of course, some of those 13 major champions make 1999 seem a long time ago. The field included Tom Watson and Scott Simpson. The regular winners included Brandel Chamblee.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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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Mickelson 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.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. 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.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.