Youth - and a Little Luck - Win Out
Aaron Baddeley won the Verizon Heritage Classic on the PGA TOUR ' hes young (25) but certainly not inexperienced (going on four years on tour.) And Lorena Ochoa is young (24) but certainly not inexperienced (also in her fourth year with four LPGA wins.) Ochoa won the Takefuji Classic.
Just one tournament ago ' a major, the Kraft Nabisco classic ' Ochoa suffered a terrible defeat that may well have scuttled the career of a lesser young woman. After a white-hot 62 in the first round, she led the field by six strokes late in the second round. And she still led by three going into the final round.
But Ochoa had her problems on the final day, losing the lead, then coming back to make eagle on the 72nd hole and force a playoff. But she eventually lost it when Karrie Webb made a birdie on the playoff hole.
Actually, that was the second playoff loss for Ochoa this young season. She lost the LPGA opener, the SBS Open, when she failed to make a birdie putt from eight feet. And who can ever forget the U.S. Womens Open last year, when she plunked her ball into the water on the 72nd hole while tied for the lead ' or the Safeway International last year when she self-detonated after leading Annika Sorenstam by four with only three holes remaining.
Ochoa has been burned so often that she has scorch marks up and down her spine. But the win last weekend proved that she hasnt wavered ' she finished this one by shooting a 66 in the final round, this after leading by two shots after Saturday. Frustration definitely hasnt set in yet.
See, it's not frustration, she said in her delightful Mexican accent.
I will say sometimes they (the close losses) really hit you, and you kind of get down a little bit. But I always told myself, just don't be too hard on yourself, you are starting to win tournaments, and get the lead or to win a tournament, a playoff.
And I always say that to myself - don't be too hard on yourself. Just learn from what happened and keep it going. And we play so many weeks out here that it's nice just to say, I'm going to get them next week. It's good.
Her troubles in finishing off tournaments have made her stronger, she says. And though she now stands 0-3 in playoffs ' including the big one in the Kraft Nabisco ' she says the extra-hole losses have made her stronger, not weaker.
I think those playoffs really teach me when you are under pressure, how to just focus, and how to just really be aggressive whenever you need to be aggressive, she said. You know, at the end, they help you for the experience and get better for your golf, and I think that's what they did.
What happened a couple of weeks ago just made me a better player, and also makes me want to win so bad that I just came really strong this week. And I tried to take everything as being positive. And I'm going to keep doing that.
Proof of her resolve came on the final hole. Ahead by two strokes and facing a par-5 over water, she went for the green on the second shot, ignoring the layup.
Well, I'm trying to get better and better, Ochoa simply explained, and it was a good situation. I knew I had a two-shot lead, and if you lay up on that hole, it's almost harder that third shot into the wind uphill, the pin in the front. I told myself, Make sure you hit it long in the middle of the green long, and it will be easier to make birdie coming from behind.' So it was really a hundred percent sure just to go for it.
Baddeley hasnt had nearly the excitement of Ochoa, but he has been out on tour just as long after three early wins in his native Australia while he was still a teen-ager.
I feel like I've been out here forever, said a relieved Baddeley after his first tour win.
I mean that's what it feels like, and I'm only 25 - playing PGA TOUR events since I was 18. And it's been like six years, seven years since I've been playing out here. It does feel like a long time, but it's definitely worth the wait.
For Ochoa and for Baddeley, it must have seemed like it would never happen - for Ochoa it probably seemed like it would never happen again. But it happened on the same weekend, and it undoubtedly will be a little easier the next time around.
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry