Notes: Tour says officials need to be on course

By Doug FergusonMay 21, 2013, 9:25 pm

The number of people calling PGA Tour events after seeing possible rules violations has gone up since Tiger Woods took what turned out to be an illegal drop at the Masters. That doesn't mean the number of violations is increasing.

''The rate of irrelevant call-ins has gone up dramatically, too,'' said Tyler Dennis, the Tour's vice president of competition.

What might seem like a simple solution – have a rules official monitor the telecast to look for any violations that cause fans to call from home – is not that simple. Years ago, the Tour had one official devoted to watching the tournament on TV and found it to be a waste of time when no one called.

''We constantly talk about it,'' Dennis said on Tuesday. ''Because we're running 50-odd events a year, we want to use our resources in the best way we can. It's far better to have someone on the course than having someone watching the telecast.''

The Players Championship had rules officials from all over the world. Dennis, who scored well enough on his USGA rules exam to help officiate a Nationwide Tour event when he was 16, didn't have a specific assignment and decided to monitor the telecast himself in the final round.

''Quite honestly, we had enough people here, and I had the ability to do it,'' Dennis said. ''I felt it was a day that was important to do. I don't know that we'll make a program of this. I just happened to do it at The Players.''

About the only big issue was the drop Woods took after his tee shot found the water on the 14th hole. Dennis, who watched the replay with chief rules official Mark Russell, saw nothing inappropriate.

''In our professional opinion, you couldn't tell anything definitive on TV, and the players agreed 100 percent on where it crossed,'' Dennis said.

Dennis said the Tour is focused instead on working with the USGA and R&A on what rules might need an adjustment to ''reflect the modern state of the things.''

OPEN DEADLINE: Thongchai Jaidee was runner-up to Graeme McDowell last week in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, and it came with a consolation prize. Jaidee moved up 10 spots to No. 49 in the Official World Golf Ranking, assuring him a spot in the U.S. Open.

Now the pressure shifts to Chris Wood on the European Tour and Marc Leishman on the PGA Tour.

The end of this week is the first deadline to earn an exemption from the U.S. Open by getting inside the top 60 in the world. Players have one more chance to get inside the top 60 the Sunday before the U.S. Open begins.

Wood is at No. 60 and playing the BMW PGA Championship. Also at Wentworth is Marcus Fraser (No. 65) and Alex Noren (No. 69). Leishman is No. 58 and playing this week at Colonial, along with Russell Henley (No. 55). Among those not playing at Colonial are Jimmy Walker (No. 63) and Charles Howell III (No. 67).

Sunday also is the cutoff to be in the top 50 to earn an exemption to the British Open. Billy Horschel (No. 51) is not playing this week.

BABIES AND MAJORS: Phil Mickelson famously carried a pager with him at Pinehurst No. 2 for the 1999 U.S. Open. Payne Stewart beat him with a par putt on the final hole, and Mickelson's first child (Amanda) was born the next day.

Turns out Mickelson wasn't the only guy who had a beeper at a major. Justin Leonard had one with him at Augusta National, of all places, because his fourth child (Skylar) was due the week after the 2010 Masters.

Not to worry. No rules were broken.

''It was a Masters-issued pager,'' he said. ''I'd never had a pager.''

Leonard's four children all were born around golf tournaments. His second daughter, Avery, was born the week before the 2005 Masters. Leonard flew into Augusta National on Wednesday and then tied for 13th. His oldest daughter, Reese, was born in September 2003. He was near the lead at the John Deere Classic preparing for a 36-hole Sunday when his wife called. Leonard withdrew. His third child, Luke, was born the week of the 2006 British Open, which Leonard did not play.

One thing is clear about golfers and big occasions. They're geared around the schedule.

Hunter Mahan is expecting his first child. Asked when the baby was due, wife Kandi replied, ''The week of Greensboro.'' That would be the third week in August. Louis Oosthuizen said his baby was due Saturday of the U.S. Open.

''We all think that way,'' Leonard said. ''We have no idea what the date is.''

Leonard then turned to his daughter, Reese, who was born in September, about three weeks early.

''We thought you were supposed to be a Texas-OU baby,'' he told her before catching himself. ''See, it's still not a date. It's an event.''

COLES RETIRING: Hall of Fame administrator Neil Coles is stepping down as chairman of the board on the European Tour.

Coles became chairman in 1975, the year before a 19-year-old Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros first showed his skill at the British Open. In 38 years, he has overseen the international growth of the tour, along with the development of the Challenge Tour (1989) and European Senior Tour (1992).

The 78-year-old Coles, inducted in 2000 into the World Golf Hall of Fame, said he decided it was time to step down in December, about the same time he agreed that the European Tour board of directors should be restructured.

He will stay on until a successor is found.

''I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chairman, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve such a prestigious organization in a sport which has been my life, both inside the ropes and inside the boardroom,'' Coles said.

DIVOTS: Jennifer Johnson became the third member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team from 2010 to win on the LPGA. The others were Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson. ... The Royal Trophy, matches between players from Europe and Asia, will be held Dec. 20-22 at Dragon Lake Golf Club in China.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Six players who were outside the top 200 in the OWGR have won on the PGA Tour this year.

FINAL WORD: ''I didn't hit a 1-iron. I hit a 3-hybrid. I think Hogan probably rolled in his grave, to be honest with you.'' – McDowell, on playing a shot on the 18th hole at Merion next to the plaque commemorating Ben Hogan's 1-iron in the 1950 U.S. Open.

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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.

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.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.