No Cop-Out for Greg Owen
Hes upset. But hes still in the lead ' Rod Pampling, his closest pursuer, has bogeyed the hole. The ball has settled a little more that 2 feet on the other side. Owen comes around to the ball, settles in over it, strokes ' and misses!
So, the two are tied, now playing the final hole. Pampling is on the green with his second shot. Owen takes three to reach the putting surface. And then comes the final dagger ' Owens 13-foot effort actually catches a large part of the hole. But no ' here comes the ball spinning out of the cup. Moments later, Pampling has two-putted his way to the victory ceremony.
Owen, naturally, is devastated. Wouldnt you be if you just blew about $400,000 and an exemption for tour events for the next two years?
The point of this sermon, though, is to point out something else that is a little unusual. You could perhaps understand if Greg pulled a no-show and promptly went off to suffer in silence. The shock on his face as he putted out to end it told the story of the torture he had just been though. You couldnt blame him if politely turned down the interviews.
But he didnt. With millions of people watching and wondering just what happened, Owen answered a couple of questions on national television about the breakdown. And then, he did the same with the media. When a lot of other players would ' perhaps understandably ' choose to deal with this crushing blow in private, Owen didnt look for the easy way out. He stoically answered inquiries ' 10 of them ' about the bizarre turn of events.
Well, I couldn't play better than that, said the Englishman. I played really well.
I did real great until 17. I hit a good shot on 17, and, I don't know, just lack of concentration and threw away a tournament.
He answered the queries politely, giving the public a glimpse into the final two holes
You know, you can accept missing the first putt, but just to throw away a shot like that after the hard work you've done all week is just stupid. That's what I've done, said Owen.
Question: Was it a question of just getting up there too quick for that second one?
OWEN: I have no idea. I can't even remember.
Question: How do you deal with that this now?
OWEN: I don't know. I'll find out tonight, but it's not going to be easy. You know, you don't get many chances to win on the PGA TOUR and on a great golf course like this. I had it in my pocket. It was there and I threw it away. So we'll find out. Play again next week and see what happens there.
And so it went, Owen being a straight-up guy to the end.
Was it hard to settle yourself for the 18th hole after the disaster that was 17?
OWEN: I was OK. I was pretty focused. Just the heart was just racing a bit quick, tempo sort of got up a little bit. I just got handsy on the tee ball and second shot, I wasn't comfortable with the yardage, thought it might float a little into the wind and just get a little extra and turn it as well. But I had a good putt for a playoff and missed it.
It wasnt brave, it wasnt courageous ' it was just RIGHT. Owen would have had a thousand words to say if he had won. And he had those same words when he lost.
You know the golfers that would have been rushing off the course if something similar had happened to them ' I dont need to name names here. But Greg Owen for sure showed me something Sunday. To a public which was deeply interested in just what had happened to him, he had answers.
And because he did, a lot of people know today just what goes through a world-class golfers mind when such events invariably happen. Greg Owen didnt win the tournament. But he became a winner in a lot of eyes.
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.