Notes: World No. 51 is no place to be

By Doug FergusonFebruary 20, 2013, 2:03 am

MARANA, Ariz. – The road to the Masters starts in Marana. At least for some European Tour members.

Alex Noren arrived at the Match Play Championship at No. 51 in the world, and when he says this is a big week, he has more than just this tournament on his mind.

The ultimate goal is to be in the top 50 on March 31 to get into the Masters. But there figures to be a lot of movement in the coming weeks, and Noren needs to make sure he gets as many chances as possible. This is where it gets tough on the Swede and a few other international players like him.

The top 50 in the world after the Match Play are eligible for the next World Golf Championship in two weeks at Doral. So if Noren doesn't at least get by Dustin Johnson in the opening round, the Swede won't get another chance at picking up big ranking points. He is not a PGA Tour member and thus is not in the Honda Classic.

''I've got to win a few matches to keep in the top 50,'' Noren said. ''I'm trying to play good tournaments.''

Noren probably won't get much sympathy from American-based players, especially those who didn't qualify for the Match Play. One reason international players have an advantage for this WGC event is the timing. After the Tour season is over, Europe had big events in Shanghai, Singapore and Dubai. It began this year with strong events in places like Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai.

The cutoff for the Match Play was a week after Dubai.

For the next two months in Europe, the pickings are slim when it comes to ranking points. A year ago, the strongest field in Europe from Doral through its flagship BMW PGA Championship at Europe was the Malaysian Open, which awarded 36 points to the winner. Malaysia has moved this year opposite Bay Hill, and the field is likely to suffer. Louis Oosthuizen is not going back to defend.

So it's make-or-break time for guys like Noren, Shane Lowry (68), Stephen Gallacher (56) and Marcus Fraser of Australia, who is No. 54.

And while the Match Play typically offers 74 points to the winner, keep in mind that everybody in the top 64 is at Dove Mountain (except Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker), so winning a match or even two matches is not likely to make up much ground.

Chris Wood is at No. 59, but he is likely to get into Doral from being among the top 10 on the European Tour's money list. Ditto for Richard Sterne, who is No. 57. Fraser gets into Doral from the Asian Tour money list.

Still, they can't just show up. Those fields are stacked.

''I need to play well these few weeks,'' Fraser said. ''If I can play well, I'll have a chance.''

Fourteen of the 64 players at Dove Mountain are not in the Masters. Of that group, only one is an American – Charles Howell III, who grew up in Augusta.


THE ALTERNATE: It took Bernd Wiesberger some 18 hours to travel from his home in Austria to the high desert of Dove Mountain, a journey that might have felt a lot shorter if only his wedge would have stayed on the 18th green at Dubai.

Wiesberger, a two-time winner on the European Tour last year, was in the middle of the pack at the Dubai Desert Classic, when his wedge to the par-5 18th spun off the green and into the water – twice. Instead of par, he made a 9. Instead of getting some world ranking points, he got none. And that kept him from being ranked ahead of Shane Lowry and Fredrik Jacobson, when the field was set for the Match Play Championship.

Instead, he was the first alternate.

''Vienna to Washington was nine-and-a-half hours,'' Wiesberger said Monday night on the range at Dove Mountain. ''Three-hour layover and five hours to here. It was a chance worth taking. Otherwise, I'd be covered in snow.''

He still lives in Austria, a central base for travel, and the weather is not an issue because he's on the road so much. He came out to California in December and played in San Diego and Palm Springs just to stay sharp.

If anyone withdraws, Wiesberger will take that spot in the bracket. There doesn't appear to be any candidates to drop out.

''Even in the worst case, it's not a terrible thing to do,'' Wiesberger said of his long trip. ''It's a beautiful place. Hopefully, I'll get in and play well. Otherwise, I'll go back to Europe. I'm hitting it well right now. If I can get in, you never know.''

The stakes are high. This would be his only chance to get into Doral and keep alive his hopes of cracking the top 50 to get into the Masters.


TRAVELING ADVICE: For those who have never had to cross oceans and multiple time zones, Padraig Harrington has some advice.

Make sure you keep working. You'll catch up on sleep soon enough.

''It's harder when you go home and you don't have a time schedule to stick to,'' he said. ''One night's sleep deprivation has no effect on performance whatsoever. Two nights is extremely detrimental. So I know no matter how bad I sleep or how bad I feel, I can get through a round of golf. If it's really bad, it just means you have to maybe curtail practice and catch up on your sleep.''

Go to the gym.

''That's probably one of the keys,'' he said. ''We'll all wake ourselves up by going to the gym.''

He also mentioned stayed properly hydrated and eating proper foods. But his greatest piece of advice? Leave the television off.

''If you wake up in the middle of the night, you're wide awake, do not put on the television,'' Harrington said. ''That's the golden rule. Just lie there. Look at the four walls. But the minute you put on the television, that's it. You ain't ever getting back to sleep.''


DIVOTS: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that CordeValle Golf Club is in line to get the 2016 U.S. Women's Open. It would be the first U.S. Women's Open in California since 1982. CordeValle has hosted the Frys.com Open on the PGA Tour the last three years. ... Andrew Coltart, a two-time winner on the European Tour who played in the '99 Ryder Cup at Brookline, has been selected as Europe's coach for the Palmer Cup the next two years. The Palmer Cup is matches between American and European college players. ... Sony Open winner Russell Henley began his rookie season with nine of 10 rounds in the 60s. He has failed to break par his last four rounds. ... Jeff Maggert (1999) and Darren Clarke (2000) are the only players to beat the No. 1 seed on their way to winning the Match Play Championship. ... Dave Thomas, a four-time Ryder Cup player and renowned course designer, has been awarded Honorary Life Membership on the European Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The top four players from the FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour are not at the Match Play Championship.


FINAL WORD: ''Stay confident, trust what it is you've been working hard to do, and never, ever, ever tell yourself you're in bad form.'' – Ian Poulter, on the key to overcoming a bad stretch of golf in match play.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: