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.
Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana
While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.
The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.
"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."
Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.
According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."
"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."
Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.
Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.
"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."
Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.
Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth
AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.
Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.
“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”
Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.
“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”
U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters
Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.
Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.
According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.
"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."
Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.
Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client
AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.
In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.
“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”
Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.
Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.