Big Breaks Tucker Nets FUTURES Tour Win
Tucker finished the Duramed FUTURES Tour's fifth event of the year at 11-under-par with a three-round total of 205 to earn the $11,900 winner's prize.
She beat out Leah Wigger (73) of Louisville, Ky., Sophia Sheridan (68) of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Stella Lee (68) of Seoul, South Korea, all at 8-under-par 208, by three shots for top honors.
Tucker was doused with water bottles by fellow players Briana Vega of Andover, Mass., and Danah Ford of Indianapolis, Ind., after she tapped in her final putt for birdie on the 18th green. The nimble-footed Swede danced out of the way and avoided getting soaked, embracing her counterparts instead and celebrating her long overdue and first professional win stateside. Her only previous professional win came on the Swedish Telia Tour.
With today's win, Tucker became the third Swede to win a Duramed FUTURES Tour title, following up Sofie Andersson's win in 2007 at the Aurora Health Care Championship in Lake Geneva, Wis.
'It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to represent my country', Tucker said after posing for pictures by the Swedish flag. 'It's my fifth year out here and I finally got it together. My heart was pounding coming up the last green.'
It was a long time coming for the Duramed FUTURES Tour veteran whose previous career-best finish was a second-place showing at the 2007 Hunters Oak Golf Classic in Queenstown, Md. Even though Tucker said she felt the pressure on her last hole, that pressure was alleviated when she planted a 190-yard, 5-iron approach shot to within two feet of the cup.
'I've never hit a 5-iron that long before,' Tucker marveled. 'I usually only hit it about 165 yards. It was the shot of my life.'
The former standout at Duke University was overjoyed with her win and was on the phone with her husband, Paul Tucker, a former professional player on the NGA Hooters Tour, just moments after the awards ceremony.
'I went to bed really nervous last night,' said Tucker, who was a contestant on The Golf Channel's 'Big Break>Hawaii' in 2006.'I talked to my husband (Paul) and he just said to 'calm down and go get them''.
Strangely enough, the El Paso Golf Classic tournament director, Bob Peterson, was also Tucker's playing partner during the week's pro-am event, sponsored by Bank of the West.
'He was able to tell me where to hit the ball in the fairways,' Tucker said with a grin.
Known as a putting extraordinaire, Tucker had unusual struggles throughout the day on the greens. She carved out three birdies on the back nine, overcoming a pair of bogeys on the front nine.
'I really wasn't happy with the way I putted after nine holes,' Tucker said. 'I learned that I don't have to hit perfect shots all of the time. It's aboutminimizing mistakes, and today I was able to do that.'
Tucker and Wigger were knotted at 8-under par before a birdie and bogey on the 11th hole created some cushion for Tucker. They both admitted that putting wasn't their strength on Sunday. Already a 2008 tournament winner from the event in Daytona Beach, Fla., Wigger was hanging with Tucker step for step through the front nine before her own putting troubles proved costly.
'I had plenty of opportunities to make birdies today,' said Wigger, now in her second professional season out of the University of Virginia. 'I hit the ball well, but I knew it'd be tough. It got to the point where I couldn't trust my lines.'
Wigger still earned $6,290 and is closing in on current money leader Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., in a hurry. Hurst, who skipped the El Paso tournament to play as a sponsor's exemption on the LPGA Tour last week, has made $22,277 through four events --a slim $158 difference to Wigger's earnings through the same number of tries.
For Sheridan, a member of the LPGA Tour in 2007, she felt like the pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together. The Mexican player posted a career-best finish on Sunday and gave Tucker a run for her money with her best round of the tournament at 4-under-par 68.
'I haven't been chasing the lead this close in quite a while,' said Sheridan, a third-year pro who played collegiately at the University of California-Berkeley. 'I had a lot of fun today. I can't remember the last time I had a bogey-free round, but I like it.'
Sheridan had an extra spring in her step as she leaped over the scoring tent rope and was greeted by a gallery of Mexican fans that had been following her throughout the round.
Lee, a fourth-year Duramed FUTURES Tour pro, also registered a career-best finish with her tie for second and tied Sheridan's final-round scoreof 4-under-par 68. She made the Texas swing a memorable one, placing in a tie for 23rd a week ago in McAllen, Texas.
'I really like McAllen because I've done so well there,' said Lee, referencing her previous career-best finish there in 2006. 'I missed the cuts the last two years in El Paso, so I told myself this year, 'I'm going to make the cut.''
The Duramed FUTURES Tour is idle next week before resuming play May 16-18, in Leawood, Kan., for the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.