Tight Race in Futures Tour

By Futures Tour MediaMay 28, 2004, 4:00 pm
Futures TourMERRILLVILE, Ind. -- Three first-tournament rookie pros fresh out of last weeks NCAAs and the Big Ten Conference Championship will show up on the first tee tomorrow for bragging rights once again. Only this time, theyll all take home a paycheck and the knowledge that the college-to-pros transition is complete.
And while Ohio States Allison Hanna leads the $70,000 New Innsbrook Country Club Futures Golf Classic four days after registering as a new professional and two rounds into her professional career, she will be bird-dogged by old Big Ten rivals Malinda Johnson of the University of Wisconsin and Allison Fouch of Michigan State. Hanna, of Portland, Ore., posted a 2-under-par 70 today to take a one-shot lead of 137 (-7) over Johnson of Eau Claire, Wis. Johnson fired a 68 for a two-round total of 138 (-6) for a one-stroke advantage over Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich. Fouch also carded a 4-under 68 today for a 139 total.
Its going to be the Big Ten Championship all over again, said Fouch, 23, who played the No. 1 position for the Spartans and faced Hanna all season. Allison Hanna has waxed me time and time again this season, but I think its great to show this week that the Big Ten produces some good golfers.
Indeed it has. All three of the players were named to the 2004 All Big Ten Conference Team. Fouch and Johnson faced off for a two-hole playoff last fall in college golf and Fouch won. Hanna, the 2004 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, typically beat everybody and finished 12th individually at NCAAs. Fouch finished 16th.
Weve played a lot of golf together and this has made the transition out here a lot easier seeing these guys, said Johnson, 22, a lefty who played in the top spot for the Badgers.
But with their college days now behind them, the trio will launch a new rivalry on the Futures Tour, each with a chance to win their debut tournament in the same region where they have spent the last four years. Innsbrook Country Club, playing at par 72 and 6,067 yards with an interesting combination of six par-5s, six par-4s and six par-3 holes, will be the newest venue.
But a course with so many par-5s is ripe for the picking and the three new pros will not only have to pay attention to each other, but to those lurking just behind. Futures Tour rookie Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea, and Tour veteran Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., each posted 3-under-par scores of 69 today to share fourth place at 140. Second-round leader Aram Cho of Seoul, Korea, is one shot back at 141.
Its anybodys ball game out here, said Cox, still looking for her first Futures Tour title in her fourth season.
How can three raw rookies still sporting college colors with no professional experience charge to the front of the 144-player field? And if one of them wins on Saturday, it will be the second straight year in which a collegiate player made her debut professional tournament her first Futures Tour victory. Pepperdine University grad Katherine Hull of Australia did it last season in Wisconsin and repeated with a second win the next week in Ohio.
They are probably so pumped, said Tour veteran Teresa Ishiguro of Ione, Calif. When you first come out here, your focus is so much sharper. The longer you stay, the more you have to find something to keep your candle burning.
They just played in the NCAA Championship last week and theyve been playing college golf all season, added veteran Lori Atsedes of Rochester, N.Y. Theyre ready to play out here and this is just a different place to do it.
Six players turned professional heading into this weeks event, presented by Horseshoe Casino. But with five different players winning each of the five tournaments this year ' all international pros ' the rookies still like their chances.
We all believe we can do this, said Hanna, 22. Yeah, there will be some nerves tomorrow, but this is what I play for. I want to win the tournament. I want to do my best. And I know the three of us are going to have some fun.
Seventy-six players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 152 (+8).
Saturdays final round will begin at 8 a.m. from the first tee only, with the leaders going off the first tee at 11:45 a.m.
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    Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

    Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

    The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

    They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

    It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

    “I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

    The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.