Crook's strong finish delivers flight win at the Golf Channel Am Tour senior nationals

By Jason DeeganSeptember 28, 2015, 10:32 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Joey Crook walked off the ninth green of the Stadium course at PGA West deflated after carding a nine.

His Monday final round of the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championship was trending in the wrong direction. He was sure his front-nine 52 had squandered his one-shot overnight lead in the Senior Snead flight (for handicaps 20.0 and above).

“At the turn, I had the self-talk,” said Crook, a golfer from Minter, Ala., playing in his second Am Tour national championship. “I said, ‘You are fixing to lose this thing. You have to turn it around’.”

That little chat brought back his focus and his game. A back-nine 40 – including 1-under-par over the difficult final four holes – was enough to hold off a hard-charging Curtis Wright by a single shot. Crook’s final-round 92 finished at 363 over the four-day, 72-hole tournament, just enough to edge the 364 posted by Wright, who tied for the flight’s low round of the day with an 87. Neither player knew who had won until the scores were totaled after the round.  

“I knew it was close,” Crook said. “I thought for sure Curtis had won.”

Funny thing was Crook told his wife, Deborah, a month ago that he was going to win the tournament. Crook, who only picked up the game about six years ago, spent a lot of time practicing and preparing.

“He put a lot into it,” Deborah said. “I was like really? (every time he went to play more golf) I’m so proud of him.”

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM IN THE SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT

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Winning the Senior Championship flight (for handicaps 3.9 and below) was sweet redemption for David Ortego. It helped ease the disappointment for failing to qualify by a shot for his other two national-level tournaments this season, the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Amateur.

Ortego, a resident of Spring, Texas, shot a final-round 73 on the Palmer Private Course at PGA West to finish at 294 for the four-day tournament, six shots clear of Mark Palmer.

“This is the first national event I’ve won. I’ve won some local and state events, but this is a big thrill,” he said.

While out to dinner one night, Ortego said a bunch of strangers thought he was former PGA TOUR player Peter Jacobsen, who works as an announcer for Golf Channel/NBC. He channeled his best Jacobsen impression to win.

Three competitive rounds at the Texas Senior Amateur got his game ready. Ortego, playing in his first Am Tour nationals, said the turning point came in the second round. After starting 3-over-par through seven holes, he finished the last 11 holes in 5-under-par for a 2-under 70, his only round under par for the tournament.

“I was solid (in the final round). Nothing special,” he said. 

HOLE IN ONES

Three golfers landed aces early on the final day of the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships. Jack Welch, a resident of Burke, Va., made his first career hole-in-one with a 125-yard pitching wedge on the 17th hole of the Palmer Private Course. Welch, competing in the Senior Palmer flight, didn’t start playing golf until his 40s. The shot slam-dunked into the hole. “It was a nice way to finish the tournament,” he said. “It was special to do it in a tournament not just a casual round.”

Doug Lanier, of Winter Springs, Fla., sank a 141-yard shot on the 15th hole of the Palmer Private Course in the Senior Palmer. Tommy Templin, a Senior Jones competitor from Hurst, Texas, knocked in a 120-yard shot on the most famous hole at PGA West, the par-3 17th hole on the Stadium Course, known as ‘Alcatraz’. 

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.