Players show gratitude for sponsor invitations

By Doug FergusonDecember 27, 2011, 7:01 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rod Pampling had a few nervous moments while watching parts of the final PGA Tour event on TV, though it ended well for him. After starting the year with only limited status as a past champion, he regained his full card at No. 124 on the money list with $2,033 to spare.

Pampling spent the next month trying to contact every tournament director who gave him a sponsor exemption, thanking them for helping him get his card again. In some cases, Pampling wound up earning his way into tournaments and didn’t need the exemption. The way he saw it, the offer of an exemption at least gave him something to fall back on, so it still meant a lot.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years. I’m not saying I’ve never had a guy call me and thank me for doing that, but it’s the first in a long time,” AT&T National tournament director Greg McLaughlin said. “It’s very rare. All the other guys are thankful and appreciative. But rarely do I get one after the season when a guy gets his card and calls you to thank you.

“As far as I’m concerned, he can play in one of my tournaments if he ever needs a spot. He’s set for life.”

Pampling most likely was not alone. Even so, it was a classy gesture worth pointing out with hopes that it gets repeated.

“It was just to thank them for helping me out,” Pampling said. “They didn’t have to do that. It was a simple gesture on their part, and it’s not that hard to call and say, `Thanks for that.’ I was just trying to do the right thing. Hopefully, I won’t need the invite again.”

Joe Ogilvie, who lives in Austin, Texas, added a local flavor to his gratitude.

This year he had conditional status, those between No. 126 and No. 150 on the money list, and received his share of exemptions. Ogilvie finished at No. 116. The tournament directors who gave Ogilvie a spot received goodies from Salt Lick, which he regards as the best barbecue in Texas.

“The help I got from these tournament directors … enabled me to finish in the top 125,” Ogilvie said. “Obviously, I helped myself by playing well, but they certainly helped. I’m not a star by any means. I think I’m really good in front of corporates and sponsors, but I’m not going to sell three tickets. These guys helped me, and I wanted to show my appreciation.

“That was my `thank you’ note.”


BJORN IS BACK: Thomas Bjorn was No. 65 in the world, two weeks removed from winning the Qatar Masters, when he arrived in Arizona for the Match Play Championship. It was his first time at a World Golf Championship in four years. He had a chance to sneak into the top 50 and get into the WGC at Doral and perhaps get back to the Masters.

Bjorn, however, would have none of that talk.

“Those days are behind me,” he said.

How wrong the great Dane turned out to be. As an alternate at the British Open, he finished fourth. A month later, Bjorn won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles and then won again the next week in Switzerland at the European Masters.

It was his first multiple-win season, and his three titles tied him with Luke Donald for most on the European Tour this year.

Bjorn is at No. 35 in the world, eligible for at least three of the World Golf Championships next year. He also goes back to Augusta National for the first time in five years.

As for those comments in February?

“It was important to not get ahead of myself with everything,” Bjorn said. “I wanted to keep working hard and keep my feet on solid ground, to do the work that enabled me to get back and play decent stuff. If I started talking myself into believing I was back, I might have just been off a little bit.

“I would never say I believed the big stuff was behind me,” he said. “I just knew it was a long track for me to get into a position where it’s there, and you don’t have to think about it.”


ZACH’S YEAR: Before showing up for his final tournament of the year, Zach Johnson met with his team for a two-day summit to assess the season and look ahead to 2012. He failed to win for the first time since 2006, but the year didn’t feel like a failure.

“We looked at the goals we had,” Johnson said halfway through the Chevron World Challenge. “We have three or four specific goals, and I accomplished all of them but one. And the one I didn’t, I was awfully close.

“For the most part, it was all pretty good. You’d think we would have a banner year, but we didn’t,” he said. “The more I chewed on it, the more I realized it was going the right way.”

The next day, he shot 68 to take a one-shot lead and wound up losing to a birdie-birdie finish by Tiger Woods, which would seem to indicate he is heading in the right direction.

Even so, nothing beats holding a trophy.

“I don’t think winning is the only formula for a great year,” he said. “But you want to win. That’s why you play.”


HAVE CLUBS, WILL PULL A TROLLEY: As long as Laura Davies has been playing tournament golf, she managed to do something new during the Indian Open earlier this month on the Ladies European Tour.

She didn’t bother taking a caddie.

Davies said her caddie was having visa troubles and didn’t make it to New Delhi. The English star lost patience and instead of hiring a local caddie decided to take care of it herself.

“Ended up having to pull my own trolley around, which is the first time I’ve done that in 26 years on tour,” Davies said. “I shot 3 over the first day. He made it for the second round, but it didn’t work out. I missed the cut.”

Davies doesn’t get flustered easily. This was an exception.

“The officials were like, `You should take a local.’ But I was just irritated,” Davies said. “So I just wanted to get out there, try and shoot something that wasn’t going to ruin the week, and I ended up shooting 3 over and the week was over before it got started.

“These things happen, but it was a shame.”


DIVOTS: Seven players between No. 126 and No. 150 on the money list last year with conditional status finished among the top 125 to earn full cards for 2012. … Five Americans have been picked for the Curtis Cup, which will be June 8-10 at Nairn in Scotland - Amy Anderson, Lindy Duncan, Austin Ernst, Tiffany Lua and Brooke Pancake. The other three will be selected next month. … There were 501 tee shots that went at least 360 yards on the PGA Tour this year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 200 hardest holes on the PGA Tour this year, only one was a par 5 - the 14th hole at Pebble Beach was tied for 20th with an average score of 5.341.


FINAL WORD: “It’s a funny old fuddy-duddy game, but I love it. And I quite understand if people don’t. But it’s something very, very special, and I’m very honored to be a part of it.” -British commentator Peter Alliss, upon his selection for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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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“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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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 also one shot off 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 and Shanshan Feng 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.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''