Aussie Wins Title on Futures Tour
Or maybe it was the steely nerves and gentle demeanor that enabled smooth-swinging rookie Sarah-Jane Kenyon of Queensland, Australia to secure her first professional victory at the $65,000 Tampa Bay Futures Golf Classic. Kenyon held a two-shot lead coming into the final hole and added a birdie from 10 feet as if to put a stamp on the start of her pro career at East Lake Woodlands Golf & Country Club.
Her final-round score of 69 on the South Course and 6-under-par total of 210 gave her a three-stroke cushion over runners-up Lori Atsedes (2-under 70) of Ithaca, N.Y., and Becky Iverson (even-par 72) of Gladstone, Mich., who tied at 213 (-3) in the 54-hole event.
'I've been hitting it well for a long time, but I made heaps of putts that were ridiculous this week,' said Kenyon, 20, still too young to rent a car. With her victory, she became the second Tour rookie to win in as many weeks.
Kenyon appeared calm after the victory, almost as if winning was something she expected to do and to do this early in her pro career. But it was the oversize replica champion's check that seemed to capture her imagination the most.
'I've always wanted that big check,' admitted Kenyon, who was more interested in the replica than her actual winner's paycheck for $9,100. Riding in a small car back to Orlando with fellow Australian Tamara Johns, one can imagine how Kenyon's giant check must have figured into every conversation along the congested Interstate-4 corridor.
But the young player already has become pretty savvy about navigating her way around obstacles. She held off her nerves in the Lakeland season opener to finish tied for 18th. And at this week's event, in spite of limited practice time on a golf course that received five inches of rain in three days, she posted rounds of 73-68-69 to make the veterans take note.
'She hit the ball fantastic and was down the middle every time,' said Iverson, a veteran LPGA Tour player and LPGA winner. 'She's a very good young player and she made a ton of putts today.'
'Kids don't know what fear is,' added Atsedes, who also has played on the LPGA Tour and has won five Futures Tour titles. 'They have no reason to doubt and no reason to fear anything out there.'
It was, in fact, the veteran players who doubted themselves on Sunday. Iverson hit 15 greens, but carded 33 putts in today's final round, which she entered tied for the lead with Kenyon.
'I hit the ball well enough to win, but you can't win a tournament with 33 putts,' said Iverson, adding that she had seven putts within 12 feet that she missed for birdie. For the day, she posted one birdie and one bogey.
Normally a solid ball striker, Atsedes second-guessed herself all day with her full swing and recorded 26 putts for the second consecutive day.
'I'm not at all pleased with my long game,' said Atsedes, who recorded four birdies and two bogeys, with birdies on two of her last three holes. 'I've only had two rounds in my entire career where I had 26 putts, and they both came this week. It's just strange.'
Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea, who finished as runner-up at this tournament in 2004, made a late charge, firing a 3-under-par 69 to finish solo fourth at 214 (-2).
Rookie pro Mollie Fankhauser of Columbus, Ohio, also carded a 69 in today's final round for a share of fifth place with Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea, Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Naree Song of Seoul, Dana Lacey of North Beach, W. Australia, Cristina Baena of Pereira, Colombia and Kristy McPherson of Conway, S.C. That pack of players tied at 1-under-par 215.
But Kenyon, an only child and daughter of a golf course greenskeeper, bested the field of 144 players this week. With a list of Australian amateur accolades, she came to America this year with the goal of making every tournament cut and finishing among the Tour's top five money winners by season's end to earn her exempt LPGA Tour status for 2006. Three years ago, when she sustained a badly broken left hand in a car crash, the talented Aussie wondered if any of her golf dreams would come true.
Today, one of them did. Still with three metal screws securing the bones in her left hand, Kenyon played fearless, youthful golf with a calm sense of belonging. Her only regret was that her parents could not be in Florida to see her win.
'It's Monday morning at home,' she said. 'They probably know by now.'
Kenyon showed her first sign of queasiness as she sat in a golf cart talking to media following her win. She held on to her giant check with one hand and patted her face with the other.
'I feel crook -- you know, sick,' she said, accepting a bottle of water. 'I don't know what's wrong with me.'
To be sure, this time, it wasn't the Aussie burger.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.