Notes: Job security a 'big deal'; Horses for courses

By Doug FergusonMarch 13, 2013, 12:30 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Scott Brown feels as if he grew up at Augusta National.

He stayed with his grandfather, whose house was about a half-mile away from one of the main gates to the home of The Masters. They had season badges, and Brown for years camped out behind the 16th green. He missed out on the U-turn chip by Tiger Woods that hung on the lip for a second and dropped in 2005.

''That was the first year I didn't go,'' he said. ''I was old enough to realize those galleries were so big that I couldn't see anything.''

Then again, that was the first year Brown was invited to play Augusta National, one week before the 2005 Masters.

So if anyone had reason to be disappointed that not every PGA Tour victory comes with an invitation to the Masters, it would be the 29-year-old Brown.

But he's not.

''It doesn't bother me,'' Brown said Tuesday. ''If I play well, that gets me in what I want to get in. It's a freedom thing for me. Job security is a big deal.''

Brown was hoping to get into a playoff Sunday in the Puerto Rico Open when he was one shot behind Fabian Gomez playing the par-5 18th, with Gomez in the fairway. What happened next is still hard for him to believe. Gomez hit into an awkward spot in the bunker, flew over the green into another bunker and made bogey. Brown laced a 3-iron to just short of the green, chipped up to 4 feet and made the birdie putt to win.

Augusta National doesn't give invitations to winners of Tour events held the same week as a major or World Golf Championship.

Playing in the Masters is still his dream. His job is reality.

Brown was 148th on the money list a year ago in his first season on Tour. With a short season, he figured he would be playing on the Web.com Tour this year, except that he already was in Chile for a Web.com event and Puerto Rico was on the way home.

Even playing the final hole, he felt he had nothing to lose. Second place wouldn't offer enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for the playoffs.

Now, his year has taken a dramatic change.

He is playing this week at the Tampa Bay Championship, next week at Bay Hill and the week after the Masters at Hilton Head. He's also in The Players Championship in May and makes his major debut - unless he qualifies for the U.S. Open - at the PGA Championship in August.

''It's a relief more than anything, knowing you can win out here,'' Brown said.


HORSES FOR COURSES: With his two-shot win at the Cadillac Championship, Tiger Woods now has won 40 times - or 53 percent of his PGA Tour wins - on seven courses.

Exactly what that means is a matter of interpretation.

One might suggest Woods only plays well on the golf courses he likes, which would not make him different from many other players. Phil Mickelson has won 19 of his 41 titles on the West Coast Swing. Mark O'Meara won nearly one-third of his titles at Pebble Beach.

Then again, Woods has won 27 percent of all his PGA Tour events, meaning he wins at an absurd rate, and he wins anywhere when he's playing well.

While he is a five-time winner at Muirfield Village, Woods once went five straight times without winning the Memorial. He won for the fourth time at Doral on Sunday, but he had not been in serious contention the last four times he played. Woods also is a four-time winner at Augusta National. He has not won his last seven tries.


ZACH GOES GLOBAL: Zach Johnson will lose a distinction in May when he plays the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea. Johnson in the only American from the top 50 in the world ranking who has not played anywhere overseas except the British Open over the last two years.

And he was aware of that.

''I haven't gone overseas that much,'' Johnson said. ''It fits in my schedule. It's a good opportunity and I want to do more of it. I don't want to be labeled as the guy who won't leave the country. For one, it's inaccurate.''

Johnson has had plenty of chances, especially after his 2007 win at the Masters. His son was 3 months old when he won his first major, and he had another son in the summer of 2010 and a third child last November. The time to travel was at the end of the year when he was tired and wanted to be with his family.

''It's never really meshed with my schedule,'' he said. ''I'm taking Charlotte (Quail Hollow) off for the first time, so I'll go to Korea.''

Johnson said the one European Tour event he has always wanted to play is the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

''But it's the same week as Colonial, and I can't not play there,'' he said. Johnson is defending this year at Colonial, a tournament he has won twice.


AUSSIE MASTERS: The Australian Masters typically is played on the sand belt courses of Melbourne, perhaps the finest stretch of golf courses in any city in the world. It gets even better this year by celebrating its 35th anniversary by going to the composite course at Royal Melbourne for the first time.

Royal Melbourne has hosted the Presidents Cup twice, and it formerly had the Heineken Classic, where Ernie Els won.

The Australian Masters most recently has been held at Kingston Heath and Victoria.

IMG is running the tournament, and said it was committed to bring at least three of the top 25 players in the world.


PADRAIG'S SPECS: Padraig Harrington has been wearing glasses for the last month, and now he's wearing them on the golf course. The most peculiar part of this look is that the three-time major champion technically doesn't even need glasses.

''I've got 20/20 vision without glasses,'' he said. ''But I have struggled for a number of years with reading the greens. What I see and what it is are not the same thing.''

Harrington's eyes are too dry to wear contact lenses, so he's opted for eye glasses. He was on his fifth pair at Doral, and he's getting closer to the right frame.

The trouble for Harrington is that he grew up with a slight right-to-left bias with how he reads. After a number of laser surgeries, his bias is now left-to-right.

''I'll wear them all the time to relax my eyes,'' Harrington said. ''Your eyes change as you get older, and certainly mine have. This is better to read the greens. Because if you can't read the greens, it leads to indecision. And indecision leads to bad putting.''


DIVOTS: The women's world ranking, which began in 2006, now has added players from the Ladies European Tour Access Series and the China LPGA Tour into its list. The addition will create more opportunities for golfers around the world to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. ... James Dodson was won the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for ''American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf.'' Dodson also won the award in 2004 for a book on Hogan. ... Brian Gay is the only player to compete in every Tampa Bay Championship since the tournament began in 2000. His best finish is a tie for fourth in 2007.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Lee Westwood dropped out of the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since October 2009.

INFLATED STAT OF THE WEEK: Steve Stricker has made $1.82 million in three tournaments this year. Arnold Palmer made $1,861,857 in 734 career tournaments.


FINAL WORD: ''When a course is short, they end up having tricky pin positions. This is what we'll all be worried about at Merion. We prefer a big, solid golf course made easier rather than a short golf course made trickier.'' - Padraig Harrington.

 

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.