Qualifier Wakefield Earns Victory in Sun City

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
Sunshine TourSUN CITY -- Simon Wakefield, who earned his place at the Dimension Data Pro-Am via Mondays pre-qualifier, held on to win the championship by four shots from Nic Henning at Sun City on Sunday.
Wakefield continued his mastery of the Gary Player Country Club with a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday, finishing on 9-under-par 279 to become the first qualifier to go on to win in the events 10 years of existence.
Henning, paid the price for a poor start to his round and could do no better than a 71, three too many to force a playoff with Wakefield but enough to win him the consolation of finishing alone in second.
Tjaart van der Walt closed with a turbulent 71 that featured only seven pars to finish at 2 under, which made him the third of only four players to complete 72 holes in red figures.
The other was 21-year-old Louis Oosthuizen, in at 1 under with a birdie on the 18th hole for a 2-over-74.
Wakefield, who will join Oosthuizen on the European Tour having earned his card at Qualifying School Finals last November, might have known it was his day as early as the first hole, when a female spectator, a photographer and a rules official conspired to hand him a stroke of luck.
Wakefields second shot struck the spectator on the shoulder on its way into the trees, the photographer rode over his ball with his golf cart and the rules official granted him a free drop. From an improved lie he went up and down for a birdie four.
While on the surface it seemed he had escaped scot-free, Wakefield did pay a price for his errant shot.
I played with Jarrod Moseley at Woburn last year and saw how he was messed up by hitting someone on the head, so it was still with me on the next hole where I made double drop.
As a peace offering to the tearful woman, Wakefield signed the word sorry on his ball and gave it to her when he walked off the second green.
To be fair, Wakefield would probably have won comfortably without that stroke of luck, or indeed without the lucky bounce from the cart-path that catapulted his ball back onto the 17th fairway.
After all, he did only make one bogey and one double bogey in 54 holes at a punitive Gary Player CC layout.
When those things start to happen, you just know its your day, said Wakefield. But I drove it well today and knew that if I hit it straight and found the greens, Nic would have to make birdies.
Henning did manage to make five birdies, but surrounded them with four bogeys that repeatedly cut his momentum and prevented him from mounting a charge.
Henning is likely to be comforted by the fact that there was nothing stopping Wakefield at the Green Monster today.
Indeed, only 12 of the 69 members of the field went under par on Sunday, and Henning was one of them.
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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted special exemption for U.S. Women's Open

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

8/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

50/1: Alex Noren

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner