Notes: Valero Texas Open boasts strong field

By Doug FergusonApril 3, 2013, 12:12 am

HUMBLE, Texas – Ben Curtis won the Texas Open last year to secure a spot in the Masters, but it wasn't enough to get him into the Bridgestone Invitational, a 15-minute drive from where he lives in Ohio. The Texas Open had such a weak field that Curtis did not earn enough world ranking points for the winner to qualify for Firestone.

That won't be the case this year, and not just because Rory McIlroy – the No. 2 player in the world – made a last-minute decision to play.

Because of how the calendar falls, there were two weeks between Bay Hill and the Masters. And because of a deal that the Texas Open cannot end on Easter Sunday, it now occupies the final week before Augusta National. That spot had belonged to the Houston Open.

With so many players wanting one last tournament before going to the Masters, the Texas Open has attracted the likes of Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson, along with European Tour members Jamie Donaldson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, all of them in the top 50.

Curtis earned 24 ranking points for winning last year, the same amount for winners of opposite-field events. The winner this year is likely to earn in the neighborhood of 44 points, putting it on par with the Humana Challenge.

It debunked the theory of one agent who predicted both fields – the Houston Open and Texas Open – would suffer because of the date change.

The Houston Open was still attractive enough to get Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley (not to mention McIlroy). D.A. Points won the tournament and earned 56 points, an increase from 50 points a year ago. Even with the date change, the Houston Open attracted 27 players who already were in the Masters, comparable with previous years.

The Texas Open has 16 players who will be in the Masters. Not only is its field strong enough to send the winner to Firestone, he might qualify for another World Golf Championships, the HSBC in Shanghai at the start of the 2013-14 season.

There again will be two weeks between Bay Hill and the Masters next year, but with Easter Sunday the week after Augusta, the Houston Open will return to its normal spot a week before the Masters.


AMERICAN STREAK: Jonas Blixt of Sweden is becoming a footnote in history – the last foreign-born player to win on the PGA Tour.

Blixt won the Frys.com Open at CordeValle on Oct. 14. Since then, Americans have won all 16 official PGA Tour events, including 14 in a row to start the 2013 season. That matches the longest American streak to start the season since 1984. That run ended a week after the Masters when Nick Faldo won at Hilton Head.

As for the 16 in a row?

It's the longest streak of American winners since they won 17 straight in 2006. That streak began with Tiger Woods at the British Open (one week after John Senden won the John Deere Classic) and ended when K.J. Choi won at Innisbrook in the penultimate tournament on the official schedule.


RIGHT CALL, WRONG KIND OF GOLF: A trip to the Masters wasn't meant to be for Geoff Ogilvy, though not from a lack of effort.

Starting with the Humana Challenge, he played 10 tournaments out of 11 weeks in a bid to get into the top 50 in world rankings by the end of the Houston Open. The only week he missed was the Match Play Championship because he didn't qualify.

A question arose last week, after Ogilvy missed the cut for the fifth time this year, about whether he would have been better off not playing the last two weeks.

Turns out he made the right call.

If he had not played Bay Hill or the Houston Open, Ogilvy would have had only 50 tournaments count against his record and his average points would have been 2.31. He would have been projected at No. 50 in the world after Houston, instead of being projected at No. 53.

Ogilvy would have taken the risk, however, that no one would play well enough to move past him.

Henrik Stenson tied for second in the Houston Open. Marcel Siem won the Hassan Trophy on the European Tour. Both would have kept Ogilvy out of the top 50. In the case of Siem, he still didn't get in. The German was No. 51 by a 0.025 points average behind Russell Henley.


ONE LAST CHANCE: Marcel Siem of Germany narrowly missed out on the top 50 and his first trip to the Masters.

Now, he gets one more chance.

Tournament officials said Siem accepted a sponsor's exemption Monday to the Texas Open. While the cutoff for qualifying for the Masters through the world ranking was last week, all winners of PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points get a trip down Magnolia Lane.

Ever since the Masters renewed its criteria to take PGA Tour winners in 2007, only one player has won the last event before the Masters to get in – Johnson Wagner at the Houston Open in 2008.


GEORGIA CUP: A tradition that began in 1998 with Matt Kuchar as the winner resumes Thursday at The Golf Club of Georgia. U.S. Amateur champion Ben Fox faces British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland in the Georgia Cup.

The U.S. Amateur champion has an 8-7 edge in the series.

Kuchar won the inaugural competition in 1998 when he defeated Craig Watson. Over the years, the Georgia Cup has featured three future Ryder Cup players (Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Edoardo Molinari), along with Ricky Barnes, Matteo Manassero, Peter Uihlein and Graeme Storm.

Former Masters and U.S. Open champion Billy Casper will serve as honorary captain.

Fox, a senior at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, won the last two holes in regulation and then made an 18-foot birdie on the 37th hole to beat Michael Weaver last summer at Cherry Hills in the U.S. Amateur. Dunbar, who played on the Walker Cup team in 2011, beat Matthias Schwab of Austria in 36 holes to win the British Amateur at Royal Troon.


DIVOTS: In a classy gesture to the caddies whose players were in the pro-am, Houston Open tournament director Steve Timms gave each of them an envelope with a $100 bill for helping out with amateurs in the group. ... The PGA Tour has decided not to alter the points system for the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. It had been discussing whether to reduce the amount of points in playoff events to keep the volatility but reduce the award of those who can move too high with a second- or third-place finish. ... The Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation raised about $300,000 for local children's charities through the ''Furyk & Friends Celebrity Golf Classic.'' Among the players who took part were Steve Stricker, David Toms and Justin Leonard. Also playing were Reggie Jackson and Chipper Jones. The foundation has raised $800,000 for charities since it began in 2010.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The Houston Open was the seventh tournament out of 14 this year on the PGA Tour that had a round suspended because of weather. The last two tournaments were suspended by storms. The others were suspended because of snow, darkness, frost, fog and wind.


FINAL WORD: ''I've dreamed of this since I was a boy.'' - Wocheng Ye, the 12-year-old from China who became the youngest player to qualify for a European Tour event.

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.