Gleason Claims Back-to-Back Win on Futures Tour
'The little kid strikes again,' laughed the pint-sized Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., who carded a 6-under-par 66 to force a playoff at 207 (-9) against Dana Lacey of North Beach , W. Australia , who carded a 2-under-par 70 in the final round.
Lacey appeared poised to earn her first professional win, playing strong down the stretch with birdies on holes 14 and 15. But then along came Gleason, who birdied five straight holes on the back nine. Gleason's putter was so hot, she coaxed in eight one-putts and carded one two-putt green for a total of 10 putts on her back nine. When she drained a 5-foot birdie on the 18th hole to tie Lacey for the lead, the second-year pro promptly went to the practice green and waited for Lacey to finish.
But playing three groups behind Gleason, the Aussie, also in her second Futures Tour season, was unable to convert her 20-footer for birdie. Her putt fell a foot short and a stroke shy of finishing off the tournament in regulation. Returning to the 18th tee to start the playoff, both found the fairway easily. Lacey's approach landed on the front of the green, leaving a 35-foot uphill tester. Gleason hit her approach to 12 feet below the hole on nearly the same line she'd had in regulation. The Floridian ended it there when her birdie putt found the heart of the cup. Lacey took par and settled for runner-up honors.
And while Gleason's win was worth a $9,800 payday, both players walked away with more than just a jingle in their pocket. Lacey fought back tears of satisfaction in spite of coming up short in the playoff.
'I'm ecstatic at the moment because this has been a long time coming,' said Lacey, 22, one of Australia's top amateurs two years ago before turning pro. 'This feels like a turning point for me.'
The turning point was about more than just making it to a playoff. Lacey got her feelings hurt during the previous week's tournament when her mother, visiting from Australia, told the pro that her 'attitude stunk' on the golf course. Lacey missed the 36-hole cut at that event in Lima, Ohio. The words stung the pro for several days. But the more she thought about it, the more she was forced to look at herself and see how her negative approach fed her poor performance on the course. She could see how her final rounds were her worst rounds. And she could see the parallel between her attitude and missing tournament cuts.
So Lacey tried a new approach this week. She listened to the rock band, Coldplay, on her earphones while she practiced and tried to put a smile on her face while she played. She e-mailed happy golf stories to her boyfriend in West Virginia. The result was that she turned around her attitude and turned in her career-best Futures Tour performance.
'She's been freaking headless about her final-round finishes, so today is really important,' said Melanie Holmes-Smith of Melbourne, Australia, Lacey's travel partner on the Futures Tour. 'Dana was unbeatable on the amateur ranks. She won just about everything she could win, so when she turned pro, she was ready for it to happen on this level. Of course, this is a game of patience.'
It also was a game of patience for Gleason, 24, who described her front nine on the 6,456-yard Hickory Point Golf Course as 'nothing special' with only one bogey and one birdie. Her back nine, however, was the epitome of why Gleason -- all 5-foot-4, 112 pounds of her -- has become so feared on Sunday afternoons.
'She can get up and down from the trash can,' said Futures Tour member Janell Howland of Boise, Idaho, who missed the cut and caddied for Gleason in the final round. 'Four of six birdies were inside four feet.'
'If you watch her play, it's nothing fancy, but when she starts making 20 and 30-footers four or five times a round, watch out,' said Kristy McPherson of Conway, S.C., who played in Gleason's final-round pairing and tied for eighth. 'Her putter is just ridiculously hot and she has confidence. That's what it takes -- the confidence to get the ball in the hole.'
And now that she has cracked the top-five on the Futures Tour's money list, moving to No. 4, Gleason admits that the agonizing decision she made last Monday to pull out of an LPGA Tour event was the best choice she could have made. A non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour, Gleason was second alternate at the Wegman's Rochester LPGA tournament last week in Rochester, N.Y., but she had to make a decision.
She had driven all the way up to Rochester from Ohio for the U.S. Women's Open qualifying tournament, but when she missed making the Open field, Gleason wrestled with the decision to withdraw her name from the LPGA event and hustle back down to Illinois. Gleason finally withdrew her name and drove 750 miles to Decatur in an attempt to improve her No. 8 ranking. How could she have known that she would win again and rocket to No. 4 on the money list?
'I really believe whatever happens, happens for a reason,' said Gleason, who played golf collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 'If I would have qualified for the Open, I would have stayed in Rochester for the LPGA tournament. If I had done that, this wouldn't have happened here this week.'
And Gleason wouldn't be poised to earn her full LPGA Tour status at the end of the year by finishing in the top five on the money list. Certainly, she'll have more decisions to make about her tournament schedules on the two tours in the coming weeks, but one thing is obvious about her performance today: when her putter is hot, there's no messing around.
Oh sure, Gleason might be the mischievous 'little kid' who keeps a rubber snake in her golf bag for practice range gags. And she's the player who sometimes rolls those trick wobbly balls onto the practice green to make her peers think they've been in the sun too long.
But make no mistake about that twinkle in her eye. It's just the sign of a winner who's enjoying the ride.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.
Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1
SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.
After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.
With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.
“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.