Sunny Oh Wins FUTURES Tour Lid-Lifter
Oh edged rookie Chella Choi (70) of Seoul, South Korea and Kim Welch (71) of Sacramento with a birdie on the last hole at Cleveland Heights Golf Course. In regulation, the former University of Nevada-Las Vegas star saved par from 10 feet on the 16th hole, rolled in a birdie putt from three feet on the 17th, and then chipped in from 20 yards on the 18th hole to grab the lead.
But she had company on the leaderboard. Choi also birdied the 18th with a 25-foot birdie, followed by second-round leader Welch, whose 'thin miss' with a 56-degree wedge landed three feet from the hole to set up her birdie to join the three-way playoff.
When the three players returned to the 18th tee for an extra hole, Choi's approach rolled through the green to the back rough. Her chip skidded six feet past the hole and she made par. Oh's approach was short of the green and landed in the short front fringe. Just as she had done in regulation, the resident of Manhattan Beach, Calif., drained her birdie attempt to put the pressure on Welch, whose approach rested seven feet away from the hole. Welch's birdie chance seemed destined to drop. Instead, it rolled past the hole to give Oh the victory.
'Everything finally came together,' said Oh, a native of Seoul, South Korea. 'It has been hard for me and I've struggled a lot for four years, so this means so much.'
To trace her path, Oh, who turns 25 next week, was a rising star on the fast track at UNLV. She was the 2003 Mountain West Conference (MWC) Freshman of the Year, a two-time All-American, the 2003 NCAA West Regional Championship winner, the 2004 MWC Conference Player of the Year and a five-time collegiate winner, including the 2004 MWC Championship. After two seasons at UNLV, Oh turned pro and left college in 2004.
By all indications, she was a young woman with a bright future. That is, until a truck rear-ended her in Las Vegas that same year and left her with a lower-back injury and a right-ankle injury that required surgery. After that, Oh limped through her pro start and nursed an aching back that finally sent her home last May for the entire season. She made three cuts in seven events and packed it in.
'When I turned pro, everything was good, but after the accident, I was in pain and I didn't have the distance,' she said. 'It was like I quit golf.'
In four mostly partial seasons on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Oh never posted a top-10 finish before today, recording a career-best tie for 13th in 2006. But after spending the second half of last year strengthening and resting her back, she returned to the Tour this year full of hope. She had finally spent the time she needed to heal. She married Clifton Lin six months ago and settled down in Southern California. She also gave herself a deadline to play better this year or figure out something new to do with her life.
'This is big because I have been waiting for so long and just trying to get stronger with my back,' said Oh.
While she says her back is still sore, Oh played like a woman on a mission this weekend. With two chip-ins from 20 yards on both the 11th and 18th holes in today's final round, she needed only 26 putts. Oh held off both long-hitting Welch and Choi, a 17-year-old rising rookie star, with the same poise that she used to have as a fearless college player. Welch and Choi rallied in their own attempt to win a first professional title, but this time, Oh came out on top.
'I'm happy with my performance and I'm going to work really hard for my next chance to win,' said Choi, the former Korean National Team member who finished 14th last year in a Korean LPGA Tour event.
'I'm getting closer,' said Welch, whose tie for second with Choi is her career-best finish. 'My goal this year is to be consistent and start the year out strong, so I feel great about this.'
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
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.
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.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''
He's making his first start in the event.
''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.
The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.
''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''
Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.
''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.