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.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the trophy was out of reach.

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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.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


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.