Notes: Ogilvy comes within a stroke of Masters

By Doug FergusonDecember 18, 2012, 11:52 pm

Geoff Ogilvy came within one stroke of not having to spend the next three months thinking about the Masters.

Ogilvy tied for fourth in the Australian PGA Championship in the final week of official golf this year. He will end the year at No. 51 in the world ranking, falling just short of cracking the top 50 to earn an invitation to Augusta National.

Thirteen players were added to the 2013 field by finishing the year inside the top 50 – Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Branden Grace, Bill HaasNicolas Colsaerts, Jason Day, Hiroyuki Fujita, Matteo Manassero, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, George Coetzee and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Only two of those are full PGA Tour members (Haas and Day), though they have far more opportunities to get into The Masters by either qualifying for the Tour Championship, winning a regular PGA Tour event or finishing among the top 30 on the money list.

There's still plenty of time for Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson (No. 53). Invitations will be offered to anyone winning a PGA Tour event before the Masters (except for the Puerto Rico Open, held opposite a World Golf Championship event), and anyone who gets into the top 50 after the Houston Open.

The field now is at 83 players expected to compete, leaving the Masters in good shape to keep the field under 100 players. Still to be determined is whether the Masters will continue to take winners of all PGA Tour events now that five additional events get full FedEx Cup points.


THE POULTER COLLECTION: The garage in Ian Poulter's expansive new home in Orlando, Fla., might be mistaken for a Ferrari dealership.

Poulter has two of them in the garage at Lake Nona, and he even built a hydraulic lift to stack them on top of each other. Asked how he decides which one to drive, the Ferrari California or the Ferrari FF, he said it depends on how much time he has to bring one down from the lift.

But he's not stopping at two.

''I've got two more coming,'' he said before leaving the World Challenge in California.

After winning the HSBC Champions and its $1.2 million prize, Poulter said he ''already spent the check last week.'' Turns out it was on a third Ferrari, an Enzo. He didn't get into details as much as he did with the FF, which was customized to include his tartan to line the interior.

As for the fourth Ferrari?

''I'm not going to tell you what it is until I have my hands on it,'' Poulter said. ''It was the first of its type to come off the production line. It was a vehicle I can't say no to. It's a really a special piece.''

Poulter doesn't look at the Ferraris as a hobby, the way some people collect fine art or even baseball cards.

''You can say it's a level of investment,'' he said. ''It's one of those cars that's going to stay good forever.''


NBC IN HAWAII: As if the scenery in Hawaii doesn't already make for good television, Tommy Roy plans to take it up a notch.

Roy, the executive producer for golf at NBC Sports, is bringing his crew to Hawaii for the opening two events on the PGA Tour schedule. The Tournament of Champions and Sony Open will be televised by Golf Channel (NBC and Golf Channel are under the Comcast umbrella).

It's the first time Roy has worked golf in Hawaii in 30 years, though he might not get the same unforgettable moment - Isao Aoki holing out a wedge for eagle on the 18th hole to win the Hawaiian Open at Waialae.

''I was in the truck with Aoki holed out,'' Roy said. ''It's pretty exciting to come back on the 30th anniversary.''

Roy said he plans to add ''quite a few cameras'' to better show the mountainous terrain on the Plantation Course at Kapalua for the season opener. NBC used to broadcast from Kapalua when the tournament was part of the silly season in November.

He also is pleased with the camera locations for the Sony Open, which sits along the ocean down from Waikiki Beach. Roy said there would be an 80-foot tower on the 16th fairway for visuals of the 16th green, with the ocean as a backdrop. Behind the green are four skinny palm trees in the shape of a ''W'' for Waialae, and Roy said he is moving the TV stand that was located at the base of that ''W.''

The formation of the trees is reminiscent of the ''Big W,'' where the cash was buried in the 1963 movie, ''It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.''


CRUISING INTO ROOKIE SEASON: Patrick Reed is wrapping up an unforgettable year next week when he marries Justine Karain, who was with him each step this year as his caddie. Despite having no status, he played 12 times on the PGA Tour, making through Monday qualifying six times. That didn't get him anywhere, so he had to go through the final two stages of Q-school. And despite a slow start in the final stage, he went 68-67-68-67 the last four rounds to barely get his card.

Next up is his Dec. 21, followed by a cruise from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

Reed, however, wants to stay sharp for his rookie debut at the Sony Open in Honolulu, so he's bringing his clubs with him on the honeymoon.

''They're going to let me hit balls off a mat and into the ocean,'' he said.

Patrick Reed is wrapping up an unforgettable year next week when he marries Justine Karain, who was with him each step this year as his caddie. Despite having no status, he played 12 times on the PGA Tour, making through Monday qualifying six times. That didn't get him anywhere, so he had to go through the final two stages of Q-school. And despite a slow start in the final stage, he went 68-67-68-67 the last four rounds to barely get his card.

Next up is his Dec. 21, followed by a cruise from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

Reed, however, wants to stay sharp for his rookie debut at the Sony Open in Honolulu, so he's bringing his clubs with him on the honeymoon.

''They're going to let me hit balls off a mat and into the ocean,'' he said.


DIVOTS: Fred Funk is not done with the kids. The 56-year-old Funk received a sponsor's exemption to play in the Sony Open next month. John Daly also received an exemption into the first full-field event of the 2013 season. ... Two weeks after Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand was co-medalist at Q-school on the LPGA Tour, her 17-year-old sister, Ariya, won the Ladies European Tour qualifying tournament by five shots. ... Arnold Palmer will be writing a regular column for Golf Channel.com. In his first column, the King applauded the USGA and R&A for its ban on anchoring clubs, such as the belly putter. ... The European Tour has launched a Japanese version of its website. It's the first non-European language of the website. ... The Safeway Classic on the LPGA Tour raised $1 million for charity this year, pushing its total to $17 million since 1972, with $14 million of that coming in the last 17 years.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Zach Johnson is the only American among the top 50 in the world who didn't play anywhere overseas the last two years except the British Open.


FINAL WORD: ''I have never in my life been a schmoozer. That's just not my style. You earn it or you don't. They will or they won't. I just can't go that way.'' - Larry Nelson, on his chances of ever being a Ryder Cup captain.

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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.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.