Pooley Prevails in Open Playoff

By Golf Channel NewsroomJune 30, 2002, 4:00 pm
Don Pooley outlasted Tom Watson in a sterling five-hole playoff to capture the U.S. Senior Open.
The 50-year-old Pooley birdied the 77th hole of the championship to become the sixth player to win the event in his maiden appearance. He also became the first qualifier to win the tournament.
The two finished regulation at 10-under-par 274 to enter a three-hole cumulative playoff ' the first such playoff in Open history.
Both men parred each of the three extra holes to force sudden death. They then matched birdies on the fourth extra hole. Pooley ended the suspense with his second straight birdie one hole later.

The victory was Pooley's first in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event since his triumph in the 1987 Memorial Tournament.
'This is my first win on the Senior Tour, and to win the best tournament on the tour, it's just huge,' said Pooley. 'I mean, it's amazing.'
Pooley talks more about his win.
Pooley won twice on the PGA Tour, creating a David vs. Goliath scenario Sunday against the eight-time major champion Watson.
The two combatants started the additional session with 4s on the par-4 16th. Both men missed the fairway and the green. Watson rolled home his eight-footer for par, while Pooley did the same from six feet.
They again posted pars at the par-4 17th, with Watson two-putting after playing his tee ball into a fairway bunker, and Pooley getting up and down from 40 yards.
Pooley finally hit a fairway at the par-4 18th, and took advantage of his accuracy by knocking his approach shot to seven feet. Watson, however, found another fairway bunker and was forced to try and save par from 50-plus feet.
Watson lagged his first putt 12 feet short of the hole, but made the save to force Pooley to putt out to win.
He missed on the low side.
For the third time Sunday, the two played the uphill, 455-yard 18th. Pooley hit his second shot 15 feet left of the hole; Watson stuck his to 12 feet on the opposite side.
Pooley made his birdie effort - his first birdie in 18 holes, returning the pressure to Watson's shoulders.
He responded, drilling his putt dead-center.
Again they played the 18th. Watson's approach flew the green and landed in the deep rough. He pitched out to seven feet, but it proved irrelevant, as Pooley, after backing away once, made his 12-footer to earn the $450,000 first-place prize.
'I thought I was having a heart attack out there,' he joked.
Watson earned his fourth runner-up finish in his last 10 starts.
'I'm finishing second way too many times,' he said. 'I feel like Phil Mickelson to Tiger Woods. It's not a lot of fun to finish second.'
The playoff was the fifth in Senior Open history, and the first since Jack Nicklaus defeated Chi Chi Rodriguez in an 18-hole Monday endeavor in 1991.
Pooley almost didn't make this week's field. He was one of 116 players vying for five qualifying spots. He birdied the final hole to enter a playoff, and then birdied the first playoff hole to punch his ticket.
Pooley, who shot a tournament-record 63 in round 3, began the day with a three-stroke lead and birdied the first and third holes. Watson matched the birdie at 3, but still found his deficit increasing as the remaining holes were decreasing.
Pooley maintained a four-shot advantage entering the back nine, with Watson, Tom Kite (68) and Ed Dougherty (70) all tied for second.
The latter two were unable to challenge coming home, but Watson was a different story.
He stuffed his approach shot at the 10th inside of three feet. And despite a putting stroke that would have made Billy Mayfair cringe, he sliced in the birdie to move within three of the lead.
Throughout the week, only Watsons flatstick had kept him from running away with the title. He led the field in greens hit in regulation and was tied for second in driving accuracy. However, he was tied for 30th in putting.
Nonetheless, the putter proved to be his biggest asset en route to forcing the extra session.
Watson rolled in a seven-footer at the 13th to get within one, and then holed a 20-foot curler at 15 to tie Pooley at 10-under.
While Watson continued to split fairways, hit greens and make putts, Pooleys nerves started to show.
He pulled a metal wood on the 227-yard, par-3 15th, but got a reprieve when his ball caromed off the embankment onto the green. He two-putted for par, only to find the right rough off the tee at 16.
With the ball well above his feet, Pooley slapped his second shot out of the weeds, through the fairway and onto the green.
Watson was only 119 yards out, but missed the green with his pitching wedge. His pitch third shot then checked up 15 feet short of the hole, from where he failed to get down.
Pooley, on the other hand, two-putted for par to reclaim sole possession of the lead, and then scrambled for another save at 17.
Watson continued to apply the pressure, sticking his approach shot at the penultimate hole to 10 feet, and coaxing in the delicate downhiller.
Tied at 10-under, both men were neck and neck off the tee at 18. Pooley hit first, pushing his approach into the right bunker. Watson followed suit by hitting his second shot 35 feet beyond the hole.
Pooley blasted out to 2 feet, the same distance to where Watson lagged his birdie effort.
Both made their putts to force the three-hole playoff.
Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Open

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.