Day holds off Dubuisson to win epic Match Play

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2014, 12:41 am

Jason Day has long been viewed as one of the PGA Tour’s supremely talented players – a powerful, driven 20-something who had forged a solid start to his career, and tantalized peers and observers with his potential, but ultimately had few big-time titles to show for it. 

Five days in the desert changed that narrative – barely.

The 26-year-old Australian captured his first World Golf Championship event Sunday at Dove Mountain, where he squandered a late 2-up lead, withstood a few all-world short-game shots from Victor Dubuisson and held on to win an epic Match Play Championship final in 23 holes. It was the first time that the Match Play final has gone into overtime since the inaugural event in 1999, and the longest-ever final match.

“Obviously I didn’t want it to go this long, but Vic, man, he has a lot of guts,” said Day, who earned $1.53 million for winning the five-day, six-round event.

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WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket

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This one sure didn’t start out like an instant classic, with Day winning Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to take a 3-up lead into the back nine. And it sure seemed like it would be Day’s week when he nearly holed his third shot (from 269 yards) on the par-5 11th. But he watched as Dubuisson began chipping away at the advantage, first by winning the 13th with birdie, then by sinking a must-make 10-footer on 17.

Then came the dramatics.

Day three-putted the final green for bogey, while Dubuisson made a dazzling up-and-down from the greenside bunker to push the match into overtime. 

On the first extra hole – the par-4 first – Dubuisson launched his approach into the desert behind the green, his ball settling near a jumping cactus and behind a TV cable. Somehow, he slashed out to 5 feet for the halve. 

It seemed like the match would end on the next hole, only Dubuisson had other ideas. Just like in regulation, his approach into the par-4 ninth tumbled into the desert left of the green. This time, he straddled a cactus and hacked out to 7 feet. Watching from behind the green, Day could only shake his head and laugh. Of course Dubuisson buried the putt to extend the match. 

After halving the next two holes, the players headed to the drivable 15th. After sending his drive right of the green, Dubuisson couldn’t get his flop shot anywhere near the hole, sending it to the back of the green, about 30 feet away. With a slightly better angle, and from the intermediate rough, Day was able to chip to 3 feet and make birdie – his first won hole since No. 9.  

Dubuisson, vying to become the first player to win in his WGC debut, was a relative unknown to many in the U.S., but he showed his match-play chops by knocking off Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Els en route to the finals.

The 23-year-old Frenchman pocketed $906,000 for runner-up honors and should move inside the top 25 in the world rankings. What’s more, his star-making finals appearance here would seem to make European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley’s decision that much easier.

“You’re going to see a lot of him for years to come,” Day said of the former No. 1-ranked amateur. 

As for Day, it has been 45 months since he broke through at the 2010 Nelson. Just 22 at the time, he seemed poised to add to his victory haul in a hurry. It didn’t quite pan out that way, however, as Day battled a nagging wrist injury and started a family with wife Ellie.

Though winless on Tour since 2010, Day recorded a victory last December at the World Cup – not an official Tour event – and in recent years has become one of the most consistent performers in the majors. Since 2011, he has five top 10s in golf’s biggest events, including a pair of top 3s in 2013 (led Masters with four holes to play).

Now, the former wunderkind – in 2007, at age 19, he won on the Tour – is expected to move to No. 4 in the world rankings. He finally has another title to go with all that promise, and a hard-fought WGC at that.  

“The biggest thing was how much do I want it,” Day said. “I kept saying that to myself last night. I’m glad I could finish it off, but it was a close one.”

Meanwhile, in the consolation match, Rickie Fowler birdied the first extra hole to defeat Ernie Els and grab solo third, netting him $630,000. Els took home $510,000.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''